Do Protein, Carbohydrates, or Fats Have the Most Calories Per Gram?

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A breakfast with a variety of foods. (Image: whatwolf/iStock/Getty Images)

Protein, carbohydrates and fats are the three macronutrients that make up all foods consist. Many foods are combinations of two or three different macronutrients. Some macronutrients contain more calories per gram than others, and should be used in moderation. Combining the right amounts of carbohydrates, protein and fats in your diet can help you meet nutrients requirements while maintaining a healthy body weight.


Protein is a nutrient found in foods such as meat, fish, seafood, chicken, milk, eggs, soy products, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds and legumes. Protein provides 4 calories per gram. The Institute of Medicine’s Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range for protein for adults is 10 to 35 percent, meaning if you’re an adult, 10 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from proteins. Because protein provides 4 calories per gram, this means the Institute of Medicine’s protein recommendations for a 2,000-calorie diet are between 50 g and 175 g of protein per day.


Carbohydrates are nutrients present in starchy foods such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, potatoes, legumes, corn and peas, and are present in milk and milk products, table sugar, desserts and baked goods. Fiber is also a form of carbohydrates. Just like protein, carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. However, the Institute of Medicine’s AMDR for carbohydrates for adults is 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake. This means if you’re an adult consuming a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume between 225 g and 325 g of carbohydrates per day.


Fats provide more calories per gram — 9 — than protein or carbohydrates. The Institute of Medicine’s AMDR for total fat consumption for adults is 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake. Therefore, if you’re an adult who consumes 2,000 calories per day, your fat intake should be between 44 g and 78 g per day. Saturated fat is a type of fat that when consumed in excess can increase your risk for heart disease. Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends limiting your saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake. This means if you’re consuming a 2,000-calorie diet you should limit your saturated fat intake to less than 23 g per day.

Recommended Dietary Allowances

The Institute of Medicine has also established recommended dietary allowances for carbohydrates and protein. RDAs are considered minimum amounts of nutrients required to meet the needs of 97 to 98 percent of people in each age and gender group. The Institute of Medicine’s RDA for carbohydrates is 130 g per day for adult men and women, 175 g per day for pregnant women and 210 g per day for breastfeeding women. Protein RDAs for adults are 71 g per day for pregnant and nursing women, 56 g per day for adult men and 46 g per day for adult women.

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