Getting the perfect balance to maintain a healthy well-being.
This will be part two, of a three piece article. Part one provides an outline of the steps to how to calculate your caloric intake based on your BMI, lifestyle, fitness activity and goals. While part three give athletes an insight into macronutrient ratio based on their body composition to help them achieve their objectives.
In this article however, you will find an overview of the macronutrient ratios required to maintain a healthy way of life. To be clear, I will sharing what both the World Health Organisation and the Food and Nutrition Board: Institute of Medicine, have deemed an average person should consume in terms of carbohydrates, protein and fats to live a long and healthy life while simultaneously minimising the onset of diseases.
The begin, let’s dig into the densest macronutrient of all three.
Fats – The Fatty Truth
Fats are a vital part of any diet, because without them, our body will cease to function. Not only is the brain, the organ that arguably makes every one of us different from every other animal primarily made from cholesterol and fat; which already makes a hefty case for the importance of fat. But fat itself is an extremely dense macronutrient that provides an abundance of energy that also plays pivotal role in countless mechanical systems in our body.
All in all, there are 4 types of fats: Polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans fat. Although, like everything, the key is moderation, but I’m just going to go ahead and state that out of the four, avoid the trans fats!
Why? Well, trans fats are a precursor to many health problems such as an increase in cholesterol, heart disease and obesity. And not only that, but they our primary found in fried and processed foods. Something of which, many of us are guilty of indulging too much of already; particularly those that live in Western Societies. As for saturated fats however, contrary to popular belief, are not “bad” fats which modern society has deemed so in the past. Instead, they are extremely necessary for the maintenance of bones and healthy nerve signally to say the least.
This leaves us with two others: Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated left. Although, they have been coined as the “healthy” fats, eating a balance in both is essential, particularly polyunsaturated fats.
Polyunsaturated fats are broken up into two categories, Omega-3 and Omega-6. The ideal amount to consume in both “healthy” fats should be a 1:1 ratio. However, in Western Societies alarming ratios such as 15:1 (in favour of Omega-6), has lead to countless life threatening and chronic diseases prevalent in recent times. So be wary of how much Omega-6 you eat!
The last but not least is polyunsaturated which, in general, is quite healthy. And considering how quite tough it is to consume an excess of them, there is no need to alarm you about any concerns.
So How Much Should We Eat?
The food and nutrition board of the Institute of Medicine concluded that the ideal range of total fat to be consumed every day should consist of 20-35% of your total calorie intake. This percentage has been shown to minimise the risk of obesity, chronic heart disease (CHD) and various cancers.
To break it down, the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggested that trans fatty acids should be consumed no more than 1% of the total energy. In combination of saturated fats, both of these fats should ideally accumulate to 8-10% of your totally daily intake. Studies have indicated that this amount is the most optimal to reduce the risk of heart disease. Leaving 10-25% of your fat intake to polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
Promoting Energy with Carbohydrates
When we walk, breathe, digest food, and especially when we perform prolonged continuous exercises, our body relies on carbohydrate (glucose) which is stored in both our liver and muscles.
Similar to fats, carbohydrates are categorised into two separate categories, complex carbs (Low GI) and simple carbs (High GI). For those that are unaware, GI, also known as Glycaemic Index is a measurement system of how quickly carbohydrate foods raise blood glucose levels. With High GI being rapidly absorbing while Low GI foods are slowly digesting, hence the gradual rise of glucose levels in the blood.
The Healthy Amount of Carbs
The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine have recommended that adults and children should only eat carbohydrates between 45-65% of their total daily intake. Studies indicate that individuals that eat above 65% of carbohydrates have an increased risk of Chronic Heart Disease. Moreover, those that eat below 45% have an elevated chance of being obese as a consequence of their high fat intake.
To go into more detail, the World Health Organisation has also stated that it is optimal to keep sugar intake (high GI foods) between 10-25% of total energy. In terms of when to eat carbs, the most optimal times are breakfast and after any form of physical activity. This is because during both these periods your body is likely to have low glycogen stores. And when your energy stores are low, our body instinctively becomes inclined to use carbohydrates as energy, opposed to becoming stored as fat.
As a result, this leaves the bulk of our daily carbohydrates left to complex carbs, such as whole grains, vegetables and legumes. As mentioned above, these type of carbohydrates are slow releasing, meaning that they take longer to digest, and therefore energy will gradually be released over time which will help contribute to minimising fat accumulation.
Protein – The Muscle Macronutrient
Equally important as other macronutrients, protein is a molecule that can be broken down into amino acids that are essential for the structural and functional roles of muscle cells, skin hair, connective tissues and many more.
Like carbs, this nutrient is broken into two main groups: the essential amino acids and the non- essential amino acids. Both of which need to be present in the body to cater for protein synthesis. The underlying factor that separates the two groups is that amino acids can be secreted by our body while essential amino acids must be consumed through diet.
How Much Protein?
According to the National Nutrition Survey, protein consumption should always be at least 15% of an individual’s daily intake to ensure that every core processor in our body is working sufficiently. With that said, there were also some studies that have suggested that an increased protein intake of 1-1.5g/kg (0.45-0.67g/lb) or roughly 20% have been the most beneficial for bone health.
Just to get it straight, there have been rumours that high protein intake such as 1-1.5g/kg or 20% of your daily calories have been associated with the promotion of cancer, coronary heart disease and osteoporosis. However until this day, there has yet to be any substantial evidence that suggest this rumour is true.
To reassure you the safety of high protein diets, in a document published by the Australian Government of National Health and Medical Research had illustrated that a study in Australia compromised with elite athletes who eaten 1.5g/kg each day showed no adverse effects to the body. In the next paragraph it mentions that another study in Belgian, that perform tests with bodybuilders and well trained athletes who ate 155-85g of protein for seven days, showed absolutely no stress on the kidneys either (another rumour suggested by eating an excessive amount of protein). Though it must be mentioned that this study is relatively short.
For the most part, studies have demonstrated that consuming 10% of protein from your daily caloric diet, can be adequate for maintaining body tissue. However, since protein is still such an unknown macronutrient due to its diversity, the average requirement has been set at 15% of daily intake to ensure all protein needs are met. And for those that are highly active, protein intake can even go up to 25% or more, but we’ll get to that in part three.
All in All
To maintain a healthy lifestyle, you require a balanced amount of all three macronutrients so that core processors in our body can function efficiently. Essentially what you need to consume are:
- 20-35% of total caloric intake in fats, with 8-10% of compiled of saturated and trans fats.
- Carbohydrates should be between 45-65% of total calorie expenditure
- Protein should be at least 15% at all times, and can be increased depending on the individual
This concludes part two. For athletes that want to gain insight to the amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats are needed to maintain muscle growth based on your body composition then move on to part three. Alternatively, if you need to work out your caloric intake, part one will break down a simple step process for you to calculate your needs catered around your lifestyle.