Nutrition

Ask our expert: What’s the best balance of protein, fats, and carbs?

A balanced diet will support your training and better recovery. Here, expert Bryan Haycock tells you how to balance protein, fats, and carbs.

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The three primary food categories, protein, carbs, and fat, are known as macros. There are three ways to balance these: Drop the fat and increase the carbs; distribute them by percentage (40/30/30); or drop the carbs and increase the protein and fat. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Low fat/high carb: If you’re trying to get rid of body fat, you have to reduce calories; the most efficient way to do that is to lower fat, since it has the highest caloric density. One gram of fat has nine calories, whereas one gram of protein or carbs has only four calories. This plan allows for a lot of carbs, so it supports athletic performance at a higher level than would a lower-carb diet. The disadvantage: It can produce higher insulin levels, making fat loss from your hips and thighs difficult. How to keep insulin levels in check with this diet? Exercise—a lot.

40/30/30: Implementing a caloric breakdown of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat is another reasonable approach. You’ll still get plenty of carbs, and your protein intake will be higher, so your muscles will be better protected while you drop body fat. The downside is that both your fat and carb intake will be high; but as long as your total caloric intake doesn’t exceed what you burn off, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Low carb: This is probably the most effective approach to fat loss, since it keeps insulin levels low. When insulin is high, body fat stays put; when it’s low, fat gets moving. The difficulties with this diet, however, are keeping up your energy levels and the lack of variety. (Reduce carbs, and what’s left is mostly meat and vegetables.)

Your best bet: Try starting with a low-fat diet for three to four weeks, then use the 40/30/30 approach for another three to four weeks. If you can’t find your sweet spot, drop your daily carb intake to below 20 grams, and give that another three to four weeks. It should soon be clear which approach works for you. Good luck!

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