The recent popularity of “Low Carb” diets has generated a lot of interest in manipulating the ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in the diet to make weight control easier.
Counting the calories you eat is useful, but tracking where those calories come from can give you another handle on your diet.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, or gain weight, the relative amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat can make a difference. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat are referred to as macronutrients. A nutrition software program can help calculate the macronutrient ratios in your diet.
A recent study at the University of Washington School of Medicine found that a high protein diet reduced hunger levels more than a lower protein diet and helped achieve weight loss in a group of 19 healthy adults. In this study, the carbohydrates intake was held the same at 50% of total calories in each diet, and protein was either 15% or 30% of total calories. The remainder of the total calories in each diet was supplied by fat.
So the macronutrient ratios of the diets were as follows:
- High protein diet: 30% of calories from protein, 50% from carbohydrates, and 20% from fat.
- Lower protein diet: 15% of calories from protein, 50% from carbohydrates, and 35% from fat.
Subjects were allowed to eat as much as they wanted of the high protein diet. They chose to eat about 400 fewer calories than they did on a 15% protein diet, and they lost an average of 11 pounds over 12 weeks.
Some people might like to try a similar diet. There is considerable debate among experts about what is the best ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. The nice thing is that you can try out diets of different macronutrient ratios for yourself. You can see if one diet or another helps you achieve your weight goals more easily. You can see if you feel better on one diet or the other.
Selecting the foods and doing the calorie calculations by hand can take quite a while. Nutrition software can make things easier. With a nutrition software program, you can select foods that you normally eat and adjust the portion sizes of foods in different food groups to arrive at meals with the desired macronutrient ratios.
Most nutrition software programs come with a database of thousands of foods. You can select the foods you eat with a mouse click and then adjust portion size. You can enter all the foods you would eat in a meal. The software will calculate the total calories as well as the amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals.
Food labels now report the Percent Daily Values of key nutrients contained in one serving. Daily Values guidelines are recommended by the FDA for most nutrients. Most Daily Values are based on the earlier “Recommended Daily Allowances” or RDA’s. Some nutrition software programs will also calculate the Percent Daily Values of nutrients in the meals you eat.
A good nutrition software program will allow you to record the meals you eat and then report on the nutritional value of those meals over any time period you choose.