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Healthy Carb, Fat and Protein Ranges

The Numbers You Need to Know

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
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"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 agree with SABLENESS. I GO BY MY NUTRITION TRACK AND GET MY DALIY REPORT. - 6/10/2013 9:45:30 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
  • The nutrition tracker and the end of day reports are really helpful. I've been able to pinpoint where I need to make adjustments and what my average is. I'm really glad I figured out how to change the meal plans and add the foods and amounts I'm actually eating. - 10/3/2011 1:13:31 PM
  • SLIMRO
    This is a great article ! It will be nice if these percentages are adjusted for someone who does vigourous workouts like I do. That may be why I never seem to loose much weight on these guidelines. I am still trying to figure out exactly what combination works for me. I am just 15 pounds overweight and east healthy most of the time. I have followed the Sparks recommendations and have not seen much progress. I believe it is because it not adjusted for calorie lost through exercise. - 10/3/2011 10:45:28 AM
  • My ranges are 30/65/5 protein, fat, carbs. I lose a minimum of 1 pound per week, have no more reflux, have a ton of energy, and feel great. Did I mention that my cravings are totally gone? If I feel hungry, I go eat, as long as it's on plan. My blood pressure is perfect, as is my blood sugar, and cholesterol. If you have any doubts, check out the weight trackers on any low carb Team here. o.O

    Google "Gary Taubes" or "Michael Eades." It's life-changing. And darn easy too! - 10/3/2011 9:09:51 AM
  • This article is SO out of wack for Gastric Bypass patients it should have a disclaimer attached to it! - 10/3/2011 7:35:07 AM
  • The SP meal plans are great and easy so it would be really helpful if the SP nutrition guidelines were more flexible based on an person's dietary requirements. I am a triathlete and I work out 15 - 20 hours per week when training for an Ironman. I need lots of carbs and less fat. You would like this can be a program adjustment? - 9/2/2011 3:26:22 PM
  • JOEL_LEONARDO
    Have you read this Menshealth.com article? you could find here that for this case (loss weight) they are counting on 33% protein, 29% Carbs, 38% Fat for a Target calories of 2160... what do you think about it?:


    Sure, you could just focus on calories. But by eating the right amounts of the right nutrients, you'll speed your results without feeling like you're on a diet.

    Protein
    You probably don't need to be sold on the virtues of protein, since it's the raw material for muscle growth. But it also helps extinguish your appetite and aids in fat loss.

    The formula: Eat 1 gram for every pound of your target body weight. If you want to weigh 180 pounds, you'll eat 180 grams of protein. One gram of protein is about 4 calories. So to calculate the calories you'll be eating from protein, multiply the number of grams by 4. In this case, that's 720 calories.

    Fat
    For years, this nutrient was considered a dietary demon. However, recent studies clearly show that it's not fat that inflates your belly, but too many calories, period. And, it turns out, fat may actually keep you from overeating because it makes you feel full. The end result: You stop eating sooner and stay satisfied longer.

    The formula: Eat half a gram for every pound of your target body weight. If your goal is to weigh 180 pounds, that'd be 90 grams. And since 1 gram of fat has about 9 calories, that's 810 calories from fat. This will be about 40 percent of your total calories.

    Carbohydrates
    Carb-containing foods not only taste good, but can also be rich in vitamins and minerals. So you don't need to eliminate them altogether; you just need to make sure you don't eat them in excess. And consuming the right amounts of protein and fat will make that goal far easier, since both keep hunger at bay. That's one key reason Aragon places a greater priority on protein and fat and leaves the remainder of your calories for carbs.

    The formula: Add your calories from protein and fat, and subtract that total from your allotted daily calories. Using the 180-pound example, t... - 1/11/2011 2:57:14 PM
  • Very useful info! Just what I needed. Thanks!!! :) - 12/19/2010 11:00:51 AM
  • MYTYMENOW
    Exactly what I needed. Having a range is better than an exact number. Thanks. - 12/8/2010 7:18:25 PM
  • VERY HELPFUL THANK U!! - 10/6/2010 11:41:06 AM