Nutrition Articles

Healthy Carb, Fat and Protein Ranges

The Numbers You Need to Know

"Help, I am way over in protein!"
"I’m not meeting my fat goal. Is this a problem?"
"How many carbohydrates should I be eating?"

Based on years of research that examined the relationship between nutrient intake and disease prevention, generally-accepted ranges have been established for carbohydrates, fat and protein intake. These healthy ranges also help to ensure that a person is getting a sufficient intake of other essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. The recommendations are:
  • 45% to 65% of calories eaten should come from carbohydrates.
  • 20% to 35% of calories eaten should come from fat.
  • 10% to 35% of calories eaten should come from protein*.
The SparkDiet takes a middle-of-the-road approach with these ranges. Our specific breakdown is approximately 50% carbohydrates, 30% fat and 20% protein, all of which fall into the healthy ranges above. *Because our members are striving to meet weight loss goals through calorie restriction, we also recommend a minimum level of protein—at least 60 grams daily for females and 75 grams daily for males. This requirement will help prevent muscle loss and promote feelings of fullness among dieters. Both your Nutrition Tracker and the chart below reflect this recommendation.

Your intake of carbohydrates, fat and protein may be somewhat higher or lower than the SparkDiet recommendations, due to your taste preferences, cooking style, culture, fitness routine, health conditions and day-to-day changes in diet. Does that mean that your intake is bad or dangerous? No!
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • I have to eat low carb. Almost no sugar, flour, any starchy foods. High protein, low carb, normal fat. All healthy fats. Lost 200 lbs on this plan, maintained 180 lbs lost for 4 years.
    No fake foods, natural, regular food.
    I think the reason women have trouble losing and keeping weight off is they are recommended to eat more food, especially carbs,'
    But that's my and my Doctors thought.
    Whatever works for a person.
    - 11/10/2015 5:56:37 PM
    I see afew comments about low fat ,well depending on where you are ,I do agree that low fat intake tend to push you toward more carbs,but I have recently been toldI have CAD ,and from what I gather its due to fat that comes from animal protiens,and milk meat fish chicken etc etc, so if you are doing a high protien diet and those proties are coming from meat fish cheken etc etc animal protiens,dont forget the fat comes with it that clogs artieries - 10/12/2015 3:41:45 AM
  • Carbs not good for us diabetics--I am very sensitive to carbs, so must keep them down; 60% sends my sugars soaring, 50% is much better. 8-) - 10/8/2015 1:49:23 PM
  • I hate that carbs get such a bad rap. Eating a plant based diet means eating a carb rich diet. Carbs are not the enemy. Eating highly refined is a recipe for weight gain but protein rich carbs like beans are nutritionally dense and should be incorporated in menu planning. - 9/29/2015 6:05:58 AM
  • "Based on years of research..." --- Please consider listing the sources you are referring to. - 9/22/2015 8:00:07 AM
  • Low carb works for this carb addict (me) - I lost 130 pounds between 2006 and 2009. I've maintained 120 pounds of that since 2009 (so about 6 years). Low carb was and is the easiest way for me. It's not for everyone, I understand, but for me it's what keeps me feeling good (fewer blood sugar swings and fewer issues with craving).

    Note: If you think you want to try low carb (or want motivation to keep going on low carb), a great book is 'Living Low Carb...' by Jonny Bowden. It's a good (though long) book about why the high carb diet was mistakenly pushed on the American public and includes much information about various diets. It doesn't say 'one diet fits all' the way this article does. It talks about individual differences and groups of differences.

    - 9/22/2015 7:55:46 AM
    20 - 35% carbs from fat is certainly ideal, but most people could not maintain this kind of discipline. I have found that supplements help in this case which gives me a much higher nutrient to calories ratio.
    supplementsvi is my choice for the lowest prices with shipping included, as I they only require a 2 item minimum to qualify for free shipping. - 3/16/2015 5:20:24 AM
  • I eat approx. 70% fat / 15% carbs / 15% protein and it works really well for me.

    AND I have an extremely active lifestyle doing both sprint type exercise and long distance events. - 12/24/2014 8:08:13 AM
    The idea that the lowfat craze actually changed the majority of Americans diets is doubtful, pointing to that as proof of it's ineffectiveness is unrealistic. Even with using lowfat products, my fat % runs around 40. Actually eating a lowfat diet like the one touted to reverse heart disease, 10% fat, is virtually impossible for most people. Most people would rather die than live like that. The same could be said for an extremely lowcarb diet. I know there are people who do it, but it's few and far between. The reality is most people are not happy with major restrictions, and if you're not happy what's the point. - 10/11/2014 9:31:49 AM
  • For me the ranges worked so I have no problem with the article. 3 years in maintenance!
    There may have been a "low fat craze" but I never had any problem packing in the fat. It's all around me. It's not like those foods went away.
    I am trying to reduce my carbs to 50% from 60% and up my protein accordingly since I've increased my strength training, but fat? Fat is very easy sometimes too easy for me to get - even "healthy" fat. It's everywhere. - 1/30/2013 6:22:06 AM
  • I lived by this for years, worked my butt off and hardly saw a loss. I read the book by Gary Taubes and HELLO! it makes SO much sense. I have cut out the carbs... cut out the flour, grains, legumes, sugar and fake sugars. i indulge from time to time, but in general I just don't crave them. Meat, freggies, nuts and healthy fats with a bit of dairy and I feel a MILLION times better than when I was following the "recommended" plan. Oh, and I have no trouble staying in my calorie range! Obesity has run rampid since the "low fat" fad hit this country. Since we've adopted this low fat-highcarb-medi
    um protein way of eating, which has been disproven time and time again, the country has gotten fatter and fatter. It is difficult to forget everything you were taught about nutrition... because it is all BS. Take a look at Gary Taubes' book "Why we are fat" it will change your life! - 9/18/2012 11:41:19 AM
  • I agree with the person who recommended to read Gary Taubes book. For weight loss I would eat about 65-70% fat, 20 % protein and 5-10% carbs. Some people can get away with eating more carbs but most people who are obese can not. Carbs cause the body to produce more insulin. Higher insulin levels mean that your body will store calories as fat, lower insulin levels means that calories are used for energy. I don't understand why Spark recommendations are not changed to reflect current research.
    Birgit - 4/1/2012 1:18:43 PM
  • @ Shellc31

    The Zone diet, which is really popular, is 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat -- not too different from what you described. I've had days where I'm up to 60% fat, 20% protein, and 20% carbs (although those are rare). I just eat whole, unprocessed foods, and my health markers are all excellent. Personally, I think the SP recommendations for carbohydrates are a little high. If you feel good with your plan and it's something you can maintain, then by all means stick with it.

    If you want an interesting alternative view to carbohydrates, check out Mark's Daily Apple at marksdailyapple.c
    om and click on the link for the carbohydrate curve. It's all very well researched and offers a different view on the whole nutrition thing.

    Hope that helps! - 10/4/2011 8:33:01 AM
  • SHELLC31
    I am soo confused. I just spent the last hour reading all these posts.. doing my ratios. I want to lose 20 pounds at some point. I want to eat 1500 day, tend to gain the most weight around my middle so thought I should keep the carb intake cal less than the protein. So that would put me at 40% protein, 30%carb, and 30% fat. Any thoughts? - 10/3/2011 4:43:06 PM

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