Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are the three main macronutrients. What amount of each do you need? Some people swear by low-carb diets, others think low-fat is the way to go, but how do you know who is telling the truth? Let’s look at what’s natural and what’s recommended and you can decide for yourself what is the correct ratio for you.

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Protein is a constant

When you read about macronutrient ratios online, you’ll see that people usually fight over fats and carbs. That’s because our protein needs are not very variable and protein can’t be replaced by anything else. A healthy protein intake should be somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 % of total calories consumed. If you don’t get enough of it, your body will remind you through an ever-increasing hunger. It’s unlikely anyone in the western world of abundance can be deficient in protein over the long term. Having too much protein doesn’t happen often either. Protein is very filling and foods that we usually overeat like cakes, sweets, chips, chocolate, or pizza don’t contain a lot of it.

Carbs are the main source of energy, right?

The current mainstream knowledge and the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) tell us that carbohydrates should be the main source of energy. This means they should make up about 40 to 60 % of total calories, which leaves fat with about 20 – 30 %. But why did we choose carbs to be the dominant macronutrient?

Not so fast, healthy fats can do the job too

theory, we require zero carbs in our diet. The body can manufacture all the carbohydrates it needs through gluconeogenesis. This process requires energy though, so it makes sense to supply some carbs (for brain and immune function) through diet. But the thing is, our muscles can rely solely on fat (in a form of ketones) in low, moderate, and even high intensities with proper adaptations.

What are natural macronutrient ratios?

If we look at human breast milk for example, it contains about 54 % of calories in fat, and about 39 % in carbs. Another interesting example is fasting, when there’s no external fuel, the body draws about 64 % of energy from fats and 13 % from carbs. In the animal kingdom, the average mammalian diet comes up to about 70 % of energy from fat and 10 % from carbs. Looking at our ancestors, from what we know, most of them got about 65 % of calories from fat and 20 % from carbs, though there were exceptions with over 50 % of carbs.

The choice is yours

Looking at traditionally living populations, current science, and our physiology, it seems the human body is comfortable with having fat as the major source of energy. So, as long as you choose real, wholesome foods, it’s up to you whether your main fuel will be carbs or fats. If you’re still unsure which way is right for you, don’t worry. This whole month will be dedicated to macronutrients. We will look at each more in depth and there will be some tasty recipes to go along with that too!

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