The carb-protein-fat ratio you consume on a daily basis can influence your weight. While most people try to maintain a balanced diet, weight loss is supported by altering the consumption of these macronutrients. High-carbohydrate, high-fat and high-protein diets can all help with weight loss.
FDA-Recommended Macronutrient Consumption
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most people who maintain a standard diet consume about 2,000 calories per day. There are three main macronutrients that make up a standard diet: carbohydrates, fat and protein. Most people following a standard diet will consume the FDA-recommended daily values, which are 65 grams of fat, 50 grams of protein and 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. Within some of these macronutrients are more specific nutrients.
Carbohydrates consist of sugars, sugar alcohols, starches, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. The DV for dietary fiber, which is made up of both soluble and insoluble fiber, is 25 grams. Fat consists of multiple types of fats, like monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat and trans fat.
There's no daily value (DV) for monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, but these are the healthy fats that should make up the majority of your diet. Unhealthy fats are saturated fat and trans fat. The DV for saturated fat is less than 20 grams per day, and there is no DV for trans fat — as it's recommended that you consume little or none.
The recommended daily intake of protein, fat and carbohydrates actually adds up to a total of 1,985 calories. This is because 200 calories come from protein, 585 calories come from fat and 1,200 calories come from carbohydrates. However, you don't have to follow a standard diet to eat 2,000 calories. You can also create a carb-protein-fat ratio of macronutrients that suits your own personal dietary needs.
Calories and Carb-Protein-Fat Ratios
In order to understand how to best distribute your macronutrient intake, you need to understand how many calories to consume each day. Although most people maintain a diet of about 2,000 calories per day, healthy diets can range between 1,600 and 3,200 calories. The exact amount you need varies based on your age, sex and how much physical activity you perform. You can use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans charts to find out the amount that's best suited to you and figure out your ideal carb-protein-fat from there.
If you want to lose weight, you're probably reducing your calorie intake. In some cases, you'll want to simultaneously alter your carb-protein-fat ratio and calorie intake simultaneously. According to the Harvard Medical School, just reducing your calorie consumption by anything from 500 to 1,000 calories per day can help you lose weight. However, people still need to eat a minimum number of calories, or they may suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Men should consume a minimum of about 1,500 calories each day, and women should consume a minimum of about 1,200 calories each day.
If you're struggling to determine the exact ratio of macronutrients you need on a daily basis, many apps can help and provide recommendations. Alternatively, if you have an idea of the carb-protein-fat ratio you need but want to assess different ratios, you can input potential macros for weight loss using calculators online and see which ratio suits your dietary needs best.
Increased Fat and Weight Loss
While it may seem counterintuitive to increase your fat consumption to lose weight, high-fat diets, also known as low-carb diets, are often successful in helping people lose weight. Low-carb diets and ketogenic diets don't eliminate carbohydrates entirely but reduce them significantly.
According to a December 2018 study in the Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and a September 2018 study in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, carbohydrate intake in ketogenic diets is typically between 20 and 50 grams per day. The carbohydrates being counted are net carbs, which are carbohydrates minus the fiber or sugar alcohol content. If you have been consuming a standard diet, this means that your carbohydrate intake will be around 10 to 20 percent of what it was.
In order to reduce carbohydrates by such a dramatic amount and not starve yourself, you have to increase your consumption of other macronutrients. Low-carb and ketogenic diets increase fat content. In ketogenic diets, fat makes up 70 percent of your diet, 20 percent of your diet is protein and the remaining 10 percent are carbohydrates.
Certain high-protein ketogenic diets may have ratios like 60 percent fat, 35 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates, though. If you aren't a fan of such a substantial carbohydrate reduction, you can also try low-carb diets that are a bit more flexible, like Atkins 100, a low-carb diet that allows people to consume 100 grams of net carbs per day.
More Carbohydrates for Weight Loss
Although carbohydrates have a bad reputation for contributing to weight gain, it's possible to consume a high-carbohydrate diet and also lose weight. These diets are essentially the opposite of the ketogenic diet, as they are rich in carbohydrates and low in fat. They tend to feature foods that are high in fiber, low in saturated fat, low in refined carbohydrates and reduced calories.
In addition to supporting weight loss, a 2016 study in the journal Age and Ageing states that consuming a healthy, high-carbohydrate diet low in calories, protein and fat may help increase your lifespan. People who consume high-carbohydrate, low-protein, low-fat diets may consume ratios like 5 percent fat, 9 percent protein and 86 percent carbohydrates. However, they may also have higher fat and protein contents, with ratios like 64 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein and 18 percent fat.
Increased Protein and Weight Loss
High-protein diets can also help to support weight loss. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, which averages out to about 56 grams per day for men and 46 grams per day for women. Increasing protein consumption modestly (no more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight) can be part of a healthy diet.
According to an April 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is the ideal amount of dietary protein for weight loss. Diets with increased protein consumption can help preserve muscle mass while promoting fat loss. They also have other benefits, like reduced triglyceride levels, improved blood pressure and elevated satiety hormones.
- FDA: "Total Fat"
- FDA: "Protein"
- FDA: "Total Carbohydrates"
- FDA: "Footnote With Daily Values"
- FDA: "Trans Fat"
- FDA: "Saturated Fat"
- FDA: "Dietary Fiber"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie Counting Made Easy"
- Journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada: "Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss"
- Indian Journal of Medical Research: "Ketogenic Diets: Boon or Bane?"
- Journal of Nutrition: "A High-Carbohydrate, High-Fiber, Low-Fat Diet Results in Weight Loss among Adults at High Risk of Type 2 Diabetes"
- Age and Ageing: "New Horizons: Dietary Protein, Ageing and the Okinawan Ratio"
- European Journal of Nutrition: "A Low-Fat High-Carbohydrate Diet Reduces Plasma Total Adiponectin Concentrations Compared to a Moderate-Fat Diet With No Impact on Biomarkers of Systemic Inflammation in a Randomized Controlled Feeding Study"
- Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies: "Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "When It Comes to Protein, How Much Is Too Much?"
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance"