I got a question a few days ago from our site members regarding “nutritional balance”. This is the question and I am glad she asked it:
“Just a question regarding diets. Do you think the nutritional balanace makes any difference in a any diet given that the claoric intake remains the same?
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Nutritional Balance is a diet that consists of all healthy food groups (Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins), Minerals, Vitamins, Water and Fibre.
“Any given diet” to me has a purpose and the purpose of that diet for 99.9% of us is improving body composition, health and performance. Your short term and long term goal will dictate the nutritional balance of your diet. However, a balance that improves ONE factor (body composition, performance, health) at the cost of another is predisposed to fail. In other words, you won’t be able to sustain it for long without destroying one or few markers of health (energy level, nutrient deficiency, muscle loss, brain function, etc...). True, calories are still calories, but nutritional balance does matter cause you have to improve all three factors not just one.
Most popular diets will improve one (make you lose weight, for example) at the cost of another (feeling drained and lethargic all day and poor sleep quality). Sounds familiar? Next time you want to go on weird called diet remember nutritional balance.
What percentage of the diet has to be carbohydrates, fats, proteins or fibre really depends on the individual’s lifestyle, bodyweight, muscle mass, age.
As a general rule,
You need minimum about 0.8 grams of protein per Kg body weight. This translates into 55 grams of protein per day for a 150 pound individual. However, this is the minimum daily protein requirement. If you engage in intense physical activities you will need something from 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per Kg of body mass. Optimal protein intake is essential for immune system function, metabolism, performance and weight management so I wouldn’t have anyone below 1 gram per Kg body mass.
130 grams of carbohydrate is the minimum I would suggest per day. If you want to lose fat aggressively you could go as low as 50 grams of carbs per day (note that overall calorie intake should not go too low or you are going to reduce your base metabolic rate in the long run). The intake of dietary carbohydrates should be inversely proportional to dietary fat intake. The more fat in the diet, the less carbohydrate. The more carbohydrate, the less fat. However, you don’t need to take it so far. Most people would even look better if they stay about 200 grams of carbs per day. The more active you are the more you will need above the (130 grams per Kg body mass) baseline.
Dietary fat is also an important energy source. In fact, it’s the most energy dense macronutrient – I guess this is where the idea of nuts are fattening is coming from in Pakistan. But in no sense they are bad for you. They are extremely essential for manufacture and balance of hormones, in the formation of our cell membranes, in the formation of our brain and nervous system (if you have studied in Pakistan you must have heard your teachers telling you to have almonds right? They knew almond is good for you but didn’t know why. Yes, it provides your brain with essential nutreints), and in the transport of the fat solube vitamins A, D, E, and K. Moreover, dietary fat provides two essential fatty acids that the body can’t make – Omega 6 fatty acids (plenty in nuts, eggs) and Omega 3 fatty acids (found in Fish Oil, Flaxseed, Chia Seeds and Sesame seeds). The healthiest dietary fats are coconut oil, olive oil, palm oil, fish oil, fats found in nuts, and also to some extend the fat in beef and other protein sources. The worse fat and the ones you should avoid at all costs is transfats and vegetable oil (the hydrogenated fats that is used in restaurants). Transfats not only raise the bad cholesterol they also lower the good cholesterol and are related to a host of diseases.
Minimum fibre intake per day is 25 grams. Average American diet has about 10 grams per day. The average Pakistani diet is no better as far as fibre is concerned. Moreover, the Pakistani diet has the highest amount of unhealthy oils. Optimal amount should be 35 grams for women and 48 grams per day for men. Fibre increases satiety, lowers blood fat and cholesterol, reduces risk of colon cancer, regulates intestinal motility, and boosts overall gut health. That’s why I am such a big fan of green leafy vegies. Note: process foods and fast foods have ZERO carbs in them.
However, you don’t need to obsess over weighing your macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fat) right now. Keep your diet free of fast foods and processed foods, don’t eat foods that have a shelf life, consume the good fats (fish oil, olive oil, and nuts), have lots of vegetables, consume fresh fruits (keep this reasonable not too much), have lean proteins (meat, fish, organic poultry etc) and consume mostly low glycemic carbohyrates (whole wheat, brown rice etc) and you will be well on your way to wellness and health.