Weight loss or weight maintenance can be a numbers game: You must eat the right amount of fats, proteins and carbohydrates for good health. Each person varies in metabolic rate and the way the body responds to various foods. Still, some general guidelines can apply concerning the roles carbohydrates and proteins should play in your daily diet.
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Carbohydrates are foods that are broken down into sugar, starch and fiber in the body. They are the body’s key energy source; your cells use sugars and starches in the form of glucose, which is associated with powering your cells. Proteins are broken down into amino acids in your body. Amino acids are the building blocks of many processes in your body and compose your body’s tissues, including skin, hair and muscles. Protein also can provide energy for your cells, although it typically is not as fast-acting as carbohydrates.
A 2003 study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the “Journal of Nutrition” measured the effects of certain dietary ratios on adult women’s health. The researchers assigned female participants to one of two dietary groups. The first group consumed a ratio of 3.5 grams of carbohydrates to every 1 gram of protein. These women consumed 68 grams of protein a day. The second group consumed a ratio of 1.4 grams of carbohydrates to every 1 gram of protein. These women ate 125 grams of protein a day. After 10 weeks, the higher-carbohydrate women lost slightly less weight -- about 0.57 lbs. less -- than those on the high-protein diet. Women eating a high-protein diet also reported greater feelings of fullness after eating. While this research shows promise in increasing the recommendations for protein compared to carbohydrates, the researchers noted that the effects of long-term high-protein intake are unknown.
MayoClinic.com recommends that carbohydrates comprise about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake. Because carbohydrates have about 4 calories per gram, a person on a 2,000-calorie diet would eat about 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates daily. Food sources could include grains, fruits and vegetables.
MayoClinic.com recommends that proteins comprise about 10 to 35 percent of your daily total calories. Like carbohydrates, protein also has 4 calories per gram. This means a person on a 2,000-calorie diet would eat between 50 and 175 grams of protein per day. Protein sources include meat products, beans, seafood, nuts, lentils and soybeans. Depending on your preferences, this ratio could be anywhere from 4:1 to 2:1 in favor of carbohydrates.