Mealtime Macros

Average daily macronutrients balance dietary equation

Mealtime Macros

Cutting carbs, say health and fitness experts, cuts out the majority of vital nutrients available to the human body.

Carbohydrates, in the big dietary picture, compose the largest percentage of humans’ ideal macronutrient distribution, which also includes protein and fat. That’s according to the dietary reference intakes developed by the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board. These categories of calories are the building blocks of nutrition — with carbohydrates at the foundation.

“That’s your main source of energy,” says Sean McManamon, assistant soccer coach at Southern Oregon University and trainer at Next Level in Medford. “You need energy.”

The average person’s energy needs call for carbohydrates to constitute about half of a day’s caloric intake — 45-65%. The remainder of calories are allocated to fat — 20-35% — and protein — 10-35%. Staying within these ranges can help almost anyone improve overall health and fitness and even build muscle and lose weight, given some fine-tuning of the formula to equal the correct number of calories.

“The reality is excess calories lead to weight gain,” says Annie Behrend, a registered dietitian in Medford who focuses on nutrition for athletic performance. “Really, the root of weight loss comes from calorie deficit.”

Deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, phytochemicals and other micronutrients, not to mention fiber, usually result from deviating too far from the average macronutrient range, says Behrend. The key is to choose more nutrient-dense, rather than refined foods and fresh ingredients, instead of processed and packaged.

“Not all macronutrients are created equal,” says Behrend. “Anything that’s plant-based kind of comes with a plethora of other nutrients.”

Produce, whole grains and legumes largely are composed of carbohydrates. Those whole foods should fill up most of the macronutrient category for carbs, not bread, bagels and pasta, says Behrend.

Similarly, fats aren’t all butter and bacon. Behrend recommends obtaining fat from plant sources, such as nuts, seeds and heart-healthy oils, like olive oil. Choose fish for its essential fatty acids over red meat. While many people are still skeptical of obtaining 20% of their calories from fat — about 55 grams in a 2,000-calorie diet — severe restriction of that macronutrient can impair absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D and E, and the body’s hormone production.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck,” says Behrend of fat.

That’s why a serving of fat, which provides double the calories of other nutrients, almost always looks small by comparison. Following recommended serving sizes and sticking to portions is critical when it comes to fat.

“Your eyes can be very deceiving,” says Josh Cline, head trainer at Next Level in Medford.

Because most people struggle with eyeballing appropriate portions, as well as overeating foods they find most appetizing, meal plans with specific food suggestions in measured amounts are a recipe for success, says Cline, adding that it’s the rare person who actually does the math. Behrend recommends the online tool, particularly for people who “geek out” on tracking daily activities and measuring progress.

The federal government’s MyPlate dietary guidelines, which has its own app, aligns with macronutrient distribution for the average person, says Behrend. The simplicity of that model also can be achieved by incorporating three different food groups at every meal, she says. Macronutrients, says Cline, is just a term to describe all the foods people already are eating, one reason why it’s more effective than such popular diets as “Paleo” and “keto.”

“It’s really hard to stick to those diets,” adds McManamon.

Long-term health goals and exercise preferences can help to pinpoint macronutrient ranges more precisely. Intense cardiovascular activity and endurance sports require more carbohydrates. Building muscle mass demands more protein, the macronutrient that most people overdo.

Getting 20-25% percent of calories from protein is “perfect,” says Behrend for toning muscle and getting fit. That pencils out to about 100 grams of protein in a 2,000-calorie diet. It’s best to obtain one-third of a day’s protein requirements before lunch because the body can only assimilate 30 to 35 grams of protein at a time for repairing muscle, she says. While protein makes people feel full, she adds, so do plant-based foods that contain fiber.

“Emphasize produce just as much as protein.”

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Adding it up

Adding It up

Sample daily meal plan = 1,920 calories

Breakfast = 52 grams carb, 10 grams fat, 24 grams protein

Rolled oats (1 cup cooked)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup berries
2 cups brewed coffee
1/4 cup reduced-fat milk

Midmorning snack = 31 grams carb, 2 grams fat, 17 grams protein

1 medium banana
1/2 cup reduced-fat cottage cheese

Lunch = 50 grams carb, 35 grams fat, 17 grams protein

3 cups mixed greens
1/2 medium tomato
1/2 medium avocado
1/2 cup cucumber
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
English muffin

Afternoon snack = 19 grams carb, 5 grams fat, 6 grams protein

Boiled egg
2 clementines

Dinner = 47 grams carb, 14 grams fat, 40 grams protein

1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli/cauliflower
3/4 cup cooked quinoa/rice
5 ounces cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 tablespoons sauce

Evening snack = 26 grams carb, 5 grams fat, 3 grams protein

Lightly flavored popcorn (3 to 4 cups popped)

Source: Annie Behrend, registered dietitian



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