How to Adjust Macronutrient Ratios

macronutrient ratios

Ginger’s Food Rules is my summary of the most important eating guidelines for good health.  Once you are doing most of these on a consistent basis, you might want to examine your macronutrient ratios to fit your personal nutrition and health needs. 

Can I let you in on a secret?  I don’t count calories nor do I generally advise my nutrition clients to count them either. Instead, I have developed a meal template that is focused on consuming a certain amount of servings of different types of food.  It also may be advisable to count grams of certain macronutrients, at least to begin with. 

What are macronutrients, you ask?  There are three macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) which foods contain. They are called macronutrients because they are the major components of foods.  This is in contrast to micronutrients, such as vitamins in minerals. Micronutrients are also very important components of food, but are contained in much smaller amounts than macronutrients.  

How to Determine your Macronutrient Ratios

If you look at general nutrition guidelines, there is a wide range of macronutrient ratios that can be a part of healthy diets. Protein can be between 10 and 35% of calories, 20-35% for fats, and 45-60% for carbohydrates.  

If your weight is normal (BMI between 19 and 25) and you do not have any major health problems, then you probably do not have to worry about your macronutrient ratios. Assuming you are following the other Ginger’s Food Rules, (eat whole real foods, very little sugar, mostly organic, etc.) then just keep eating as you are.  

Unfortunately a vast majority of adults do not have a normal BMI or have chronic health concerns. Almost 72% of adults now have BMIs greater than 25 and almost 40% are obese.  In addition, almost half are diabetic or pre-diabetic.  Being obese, diabetic or prediabetic greatly increases the odds of developing heart disease or cancer which are the two major causes of death in the US.  

1. Determine Your Ideal Grams of Protein

The minimum daily requirement for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.  Protein needs are greater for those who are very active, such as athletes, and for the elderly.  Then the requirement is increased to 1.0 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight.  I am over age 60 and usually exercise 5 to 6 days per week, so I should try and eat at least 1.0 grams per kilogram of weight.  

Take your weight in pounds and divide this by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.  Then multiply this by 0.8 to 1.4 to get your grams of protein.  Using this calculation method, my protein requirement is about 63 grams per day.  

Animal foods, such as red meats, chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs and dairy, contain large amounts of protein.  Protein is also found in lesser percentages in nuts, seeds, legumes (including beans and soy) and even vegetables.  To help you determine how much protein you are currently eating, log your meals for a few days including your portion sizes.  Then look up the foods in a calculator such as My Fitness Pal, and record what you ate. The program will calculate the grams and calories for you.  Then adjust what you are eating either up or down for protein depending on what you find out.  

In an average day I might eat two eggs for breakfast, a serving of 2 oz. of sardines on my salad for lunch, a 1 oz. snack of almonds in the afternoon, and 4 oz. of chicken for dinner. This would be about 64 grams of protein: perfect for me in a day!  To learn more about protein and how much you might need, check out this recent article on the Mind Body Green website.  

2. Determine Your Carbohydrate Needs

If you need to lose weight then you most likely should restrict the carbohydrates in your diet. You also need to restrict carbohydrates if you are prediabetic or diabetic.  Everyone should limit added sugars in the diet (see Ginger’s Food Rules number 2).  The standard American diet includes about 275 grams of carbohydrates, too much of which is often added sugar or white flour products.  These contain few, if any of the good nutrients we need. Carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains contain fiber and many of the micronutrients that we need, so these should not be overly restricted.  

If you do need to lose weight, then carbohydrates may need to be restricted.  For most weight loss clients, I generally advise that they start with about 100 grams of carbohydrates per day.  This primarily should come from non-starchy vegetables, with one or two servings of whole fruit, and a small amount of starchy vegetables, grains or legumes.  You can count your carbohydrates using a carb counter, or enter your meals into an app. 

If you have diabetes or prediabetes, even if you are normal weight, you need to determine your carbohydrate tolerance by the meal.  Ideally blood sugar should not go above 140 one hour after a meal on any regular basis. If you are diabetic you probably already have a blood sugar monitor, but if you are prediabetic, ask your doctor if he will prescribe one for you.  

3. Fill the Remainder with Good Fats

Fill in the remainder of your diet with healthy fats.  For weight loss, then either fats or carbohydrates will need to be limited. If you do not have blood sugar issues, then a low-fat diet may work equally as well as a low carbohydrate diet. If you are at a normal body weight, then you can use fats in your diet as needed.  I encourage using whole foods that are high in fats first (avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish) then adding small amount of oils or butter in cooking. 

Good fats include monosaturated fats such olives, olive oil, and avocados.  Good sources of polyunsaturated fats include raw nuts and seeds and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring. Saturated fat is okay in moderate amounts as long as it comes from good sources such as organic coconut oil, or organic/pastured butter, eggs, poultry and meat. Organic butter or ghee is also a good fat as long as you are not sensitive to dairy.  I sauté using butter, olive, avocado or coconut oils.  

Once you have completed these steps, you do not have to worry too much about macronutrient ratios unless you have a health problem come up.  

If you have problems setting your ratios or would like help in refining your diet requirements, contact me for a free, 20 minute phone consultation to see if my nutrition services could be of help to you.  

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