Determining the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is one of the essential things in nutrition.
Balancing the amount and proportion of macronutrients consumed helps achieve optimal health and a healthy weight.
This article describes the ideal percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to consume to stay healthy, lose weight and gain muscle mass.
The ideal percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
The WHO has determined that the perfect ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is (1):
- Carbohydrates 55%
- Proteins 15%
- Fat 30%
This percentage can be set to increase muscle mass and lose weight. The easiest way to reach this balance is to divide your plates correctly.
To understand where these numbers for the ideal carbohydrate-protein-fat ratio come from, let’s see what each one is for:
Carbohydrates are a significant fuel for the central nervous system and the muscles. They are stored in the liver and muscles. The liver stores between 80 and 110 grams of carbohydrates and the forces between 300 and 600 grams depending on the physique. Intense exercise will quickly deplete these reserves.
Simple carbohydrates (glucose and fructose) and complex (starch). These two types differ fundamentally in their glycemic index and how the body transforms them into energy.
With the number of carbohydrates to be eaten, confusion is frequent. To keep it simple, the idea is to consume about 250-300 g per day. (1) When it comes to quality, limiting simple carbohydrates and weighting complex carbohydrates is the most important.
The proteins are chains of building blocks called amino acids. Twenty amino acids are used as building blocks. They all have different functions, and nine of them are known as essential amino acids because the body cannot synthesize them.
An average person needs 1.2-1.5 g of protein for every kilogram per day (1). This is about 105 grams for a 70 kg person.
If you exercise vigorously, you can gain up to 2.0 grams per kilo per day. It is likely that a higher percentage of protein does not mean better results in increasing muscle mass but that it is stored as body fat.
Your muscles use the protein more efficiently if you consume it in small doses throughout the day, that is, when you have a snack, rather than taking the entire daily serving at once.
Fat is the second most important source of energy for the body. Fat tissue is found throughout the body: under the skin, where you can feel fat physically pinching itself (subcutaneous fat), in the abdomen (visceral fat), and the muscles ( intramuscular triglycerides ).
Body fat is made up of essential fat and stored fat. The accumulated fat is an energy reserve. Essentials are stored in nerve tissues, bone marrow, and organs and play a key role in inflammatory and blood clotting processes. They represent 3% of body weight in men and 12% in women.
As for fats, it is recommended to consume about 70 grams per day. In energy, it is 30 percent of calories. Whenever possible, choose fatty vegetable or fish fats, avoiding saturated and processed ones.
The proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to increase muscle mass
The ideal proportion of carbs, fat, and proteins to increase muscle mass should be carbohydrates 50%, proteins 20%, and overweight 30%.
This amount, combined with a muscle hypertrophy routine, is ideal for building muscle. It is the basis of a bulking diet to increase muscle mass.
Another factor to consider is consuming a high percentage of proteins of high biological value. These are complete proteins in their amino acid profile and can be digested quickly; some examples are egg and animal protein.
Regarding the proportion of carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates should provide less than 10% of total calories. (1) The rest (50% of total calories) should be complex carbohydrates. These are in vegetables, cereals, and pseudo-cereals such as amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat.
The proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for weight loss
To lose weight, the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats must be the same but with a lower percentage of calories.
A low carbohydrate diet is an effective and fast option for losing weight. However, they are not the healthiest. If they last for long periods, they can cause side effects.
Regarding health, the idea is to do a low-calorie diet where the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats remains at 55:15:30 but with a calorie reduction of 10-20%.
Losing weight with healthy eating rules is possible. The important thing is to stay consistent. Trying to burn fat in a week is not a fit and long-lasting strategy. Reducing your body fat percentage is a process that requires time and dedication.
An imbalance in the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can cause all kinds of changes in metabolism. For example, when carbohydrate restriction is highest, the body releases more cortisol, the stress hormone.
And the number of calories?
Maintaining the ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are essential to maintaining optimal health. However, when it comes to losing weight, not only this percentage must be taken into account.
To lose weight, calories must be reduced by 15-20%. While to increase muscle mass, you must do precisely the opposite.
Significant modifications in the number of calories will lead to intense feelings of hunger, leptin levels rise, and long-term results tend to be below.
To count the calories in a dish, the grams of each macronutrient (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) must be multiplied by each (4 or 9) caloric intake. Although counting calories should not be a daily habit, it is a good starting point to know what percentage of energy you are covering.
Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats – theory vs. reality
A healthy salmon can provide 50 g of carbohydrates and 30 g of fat with buckwheat or a donut accompanied by a soda.
Not only is the proportion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats essential, but their quality is the only way to cover the daily needs of micronutrients: vitamins and minerals.
Finally, including foods with fiber is essential. This type of carbohydrate does not provide calories, so it should not be counted in the amount of net or total carbohydrates. At least 20% of vegetable fiber must be added to the percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; in particular, it is essential for those who suffer from constipation.
According to the WHO, the ideal proportion or percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is 55% carbohydrates – 15% proteins and 30% fats.
Carbohydrates should be low on the glycemic index. These are those contained in cereals and pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. Limiting the proportion of simple carbohydrates to 5-10% of the total is a fundamental rule.
The recommended amount of protein is 1.0-1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. This can be increased if the goal is muscle mass.
Healthy plant-based fats should be the ones that should be in the highest proportion. Saturated fats should not contribute more than 10% of total calories, trans fats less than 2 percent.
The percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats can be modified according to gender, physical activity, and the state of health of each person; when in doubt, consult your nutritionist.
1. Healthy Eating. FAO. Source
2. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Source
3. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Source
- Weight Loss Nutrition – Amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats
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