Humans require three main macro-nutrients: carbohydrates (carbs), fats, and proteins. These provide energy in the form of calories.
Each of them have a value of calories per gram:
- Carbs = 4 calories per gram
- Proteins = 4 calories per gram
- Fats = 9 calories per gram
So for example; a food that has 10g of protein 10g of carbs and 0 fats, would have 80 calories. 40 from protein and 40 from carbohydrates.
Your macro-nutrient needs will vary greatly from other people’s, based largely on your activity levels and goals, for example; a sedentary 48 year-old female with a goal of weight maintenance would have a very different macro-nutrient profile to a 21 year-old male looking to add muscle, and training to do so five days a week. Let's instead look at some of the variables to consider when working out what your macro-nutrient amounts should be.
To begin with, it’s important to understand the relationship between carbohydrates and sport performance. Carbohydrates play a big role in any physical activity since they get broken down into glucose, which is the main source of energy for all anaerobic activity. So if you are training towards a competitive sporting goal, it's safe to say you will 100% require carbohydrates to fuel your performance in training and in competition. Does this mean that people who don't share these goals can't have carbohydrates? No, of course not. They will just need to consider the fact they may not need as many as someone who, through hard training, will have a higher demand. As a rough guide, you will be looking for approximately 1-3g of carbs per pound of bodyweight each day, depending on your training demands.
Next let's look at proteins. Proteins break down into amino acids which are the building blocks for the vast majority of our cells, muscles and tissue. So it stands to reason that if you are looking to maintain or increase your muscle mass, you are going to need to consume some protein - but how much? Approximately 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Protein is also great when cutting weight, due it being very satiating, which can help curb feeling of hunger.
Lastly, let's examine fats. These are broken into two sub-categories; saturated, and unsaturated. Due to the findings of a number of more recent scientific studies, it is still very uncertain if both sub categories are equally beneficial as fat sources, so I would recommend that you stick with what has worked great up till now, which is to keep the majority of your fat content made up of unsaturated fats. As for recommended daily intake, there is a lot of variance past the minimum amount, ranging from 10-25g per day.
That pretty much covers the basic outline of macro-nutrients, with some practical information to use in conjunction with the last two parts of this series. I hope this all helps. In the final part of this series, we'll put all of this info together in a practical guide with a full step-by-step breakdown. If you have any comments or questions please leave them below or find me on social media @ATSapproved.