Between all of the different diet trends and conflicting research findings out there, it seems we’re more confused than ever about what and how much to eat, particularly when it comes to protein, carbohydrates and fat. While there’s no one combination that will make the pounds magically melt off you can optimize your diet for weight loss by adjusting the composition of your calories.
Carbs, Protein or Fat: What makes the most sense to adjust?
When it comes to choosing what to eat more of and what to cut back on for weight loss, consider first what you want to achieve. The goal of losing weight is to reduce fat stores while preserving, or even adding, lean tissue—what we refer to as muscle.
Carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for our muscles during exercise and are the only source of energy for our brain and red blood cells. Fat is equally important, playing major roles in everything from brain function to cell structure, but if you’re trying to lose weight, it may not hurt to trade some carbohydrates and/or fat calories for a boost in protein. Calorie for calorie, protein has the most metabolic benefits for weight loss: it increases satiety, stimulates energy expenditure and preserves muscle, which unfortunately is used for energy along with fat during weight loss.
What to adjust, and by how much?
For most, it is perfectly safe to adjust carbohydrate, protein and fat consumption to optimize the diet for weight loss. You may find it beneficial to trade a percentage of your calories from carbohydrates or even fat, for protein calories.
As a jumping off point, let’s review the current recommendations for carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as MyFitnessPal’s default goals for these nutrients:
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating within the following ranges:
- Carbohydrates: 45-65% of calories
- Fat: 20-35% of calories
- Protein: 10-35% of calories