Putting Calories, Protein, Fat and Carbs Together

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The last four posts have involved determining how many calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates you need each day. This post will describe how to pull all of this information together into a plan for you.

First, determine how many calories you need. Sandy, our marathoner, has an estimated Resting Metabolic Rate of 1337 calories. We multiplied this by 1.35 for her non-workout activities giving us 1805 calories per day to maintain her weight. On the days she does not work out, Sandy should eat 1805 calories. On the days she workouts, she should add calories for those workouts. On her short run days, she needs about 2200 calories. On her longer run days she needs about 3000 calories. If you want the details on how to figure all of this out, check out this blog post.

Next, we determined Sandy’s protein needs. We found that she needs between 76 and 102 grams of protein each day. This translates into 304 and 408 calories (multiply the number of grams by 4 since each gram of protein has 4 calories). This comes out to 17 – 23% of her total calories. To determine your protein needs, check out this blog post.

Then, we determined Sandy’s fat needs. We found she needs between 51 and 64 grams of protein which is between 459 and 576 calories (multiply the number of grams by 9 since each gram of fat has 9 calories). This comes out to 25 – 32% of her total calories. To determine your fat needs, check out this blog post.

Finally, we determined Sandy’s carbohydrate needs. We will say that Sandy is doing moderate duration/low intensity training which means she needs 338 and 445 grams of carbohydrates. This translates to 1542 to 1789 calories (multiply the number of grams by 4 since there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate). This comes out to 85 to 99% of her total calories. To determine your carbohydrate needs, check out this blog post.

Now that we have all of this information, how do we make sense of it? I start by looking at protein and fat. I use the calories for her off-days to develop the plan. I’ll explain this more in a minute. Since Sandy isn’t trying to change her body composition, just maintain her weight, I would go with the lower end of the protein recommendation (1.2 g/kg). I make a chart and fill in the values.

Grams Calories % Total Calories
Protein 76 304 17%

Next, we look at fat. Again, since she isn’t trying to change her body composition, I would go on the higher end of the recommendation. Now, the table looks like this:

 

Grams Calories % Total Calories
Protein 76 304 17%
Fat 64 576 32%

Then, I add the calories together for protein and fat. This gives us 880 calories. To determine the calories for carbohydrates, we subtract 880 from her off-day calories (1805). That leaves 925 calories for carbohydrates (1805 – 880). To determine the number of grams of carbohydrates this leaves, we divide 925 by 4 (remember, there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate). This gives us about 231 grams of carbohydrate. The next thing I do is divide the grams by her weight in kilograms to determine how many grams per kg of body weight this will be. This calculation gives us about 3.6 g/kg (231/63.5). This is below the recommendation of 5 g/kg, but is still workable. We can double-check it by calculating the % total daily calories. To do this calculation, we take 925 calories from carbs, divide it by her total calories (1805 calories) and multiply by 100. This calculation gives percent total daily calories of 51%. This is an acceptable number; I generally like to have carbohydrates between 50 and 65% of the total daily calories. Now, we can finish our chart:

Grams Calories % Total Calories
Protein 76 304 17%
Fat 64 576 32%
Carbohydrates 231 925 51%

Why did I use the calories for her days off to calculate the plan? I know that in the prior posts I used an average of 2000 calories a day. Honestly, that was to make the calculations more straight forward. When I’m working with an athlete, I determine their needs based on their day off calories then have them add the calories for their workouts primarily as carbohydrates. This allows me to be sure that their base protein and fat needs are being met. Endurance athletes use primarily carbohydrates and fat as energy sources during exercise. Therefore, the additional calories should come from carbohydrates.

Sandy could now take this information and enter it as her goals into her food tracking application.

Now, you have the information you need to determine how many calories, protein, fat, and carbohydrates to include in your diet if you want to maintain your weight. Next time I’ll talk about how to adjust the calculations if you want to lose weight.

As always, if you have questions let me know!

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