Have you been struggling with your daily food intake?
Unsure of what ratios to follow to meet your goals?
Confused on how many grams of fat you need per day to lose weight or gain muscle?
The Internet can provide information overload, and when looking to determine the best ratios of fat to protein to carbs, it can get real confusing real fast.
Following the wrong advice can not only derail your goals, it can sabotage them. If you’re hoping to lose weight but aren’t eating the right types of foods to reach that goal, you might gain weight and then give up because you didn’t get the results you felt you should.
If you want to gain muscle, the wrong ratios of protein to fat to carbs per day can slow down your progress or cause you to plateau. Not seeing the results in the mirror is a sure way to lower your resolve and cause you to not meet your goals.
The Golden Era Method
In the Golden Era, bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger were all about huge amounts of beef and whole milk to gain massive amounts of muscle. They reasoned that the calories and protein provided were to help fuel their grueling workouts and rebuild muscle. They were expending so much energy while working out that eating the huge amounts didn’t affect them negatively as it would someone without a muscle gaining workout plan.
Nowadays, people can choose to replace large food intake with shakes made from powders like Vintage Brawn, which offers 24 grams of protein and just 0.5 grams of saturated fat per serving.
Let’s take a look at how fat affects the body, the types of fat you should be consuming, and how many grams of fat you should be consuming per day.
How Does Fat Affect the Body?
Fats have a long list of ways that they help the body:
- Create energy
- Support cell growth
- Keep us warm
- Protect our organs
- Absorb certain nutrients
- Produce hormones
When you are eating the right fats, they do great things for your body. But when you are eating the wrong fats, they can cause havoc in the body including weight gain, heart disease, and increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol which can clog your arteries and lead to other health issues.
So, what are the good and bad fats?
Good fats = polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
Bad fats = saturated and trans fat
If you take a look at nutrition labels and notice the types of products that include saturated fats or trans fats, they will likely be full of sugar and empty carbohydrates. Think baked goods, breads, and candies. Most processed foods are full of products including bad fats that can sabotage your goals and damage your health.
If you are having trouble remembering which fats are good and which are bad, think about it this way:
- Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, so imagine them gliding through your arteries and through your system to be eliminated
- Saturated fats are typically more solid at room temperature, so picture them getting stuck and clogging your arteries as it solidifies in your body and isn’t able to pass through your system for elimination
While visualizing this can be gross, it can be a great way for you to remember which fats you should eat more of and which you should steer clear of.
FDA Fact Sheet
This fact sheet provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides some great tips on how to find trans fat lurking in nutrition labels. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about saturated fats on nutrition labels with tips on how to avoid them. You can also review this fact sheet that talks about total fat, what it’s derived of, and tips on what to look for and what to avoid.
Types of Fats in Food
This is not an exhaustive list of fats in each category, but shows products in each category that you should be eating more or less of, depending on the type of fat in the food. Remember, you want to eat more of the good fats which are unsaturated fats, and less of the saturated and trans fats.
This can be hard for some people, and almost impossible for others. Why? Studies have shown a newly discovered lipid receptor in our taste buds. These studies show that not only can our taste buds detect sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and now umami flavors (largely due to monosodium glutamate or MSG), but they can also taste the fat in foods.
With this revelation, it isn’t so surprising then why we have a continued epidemic of obesity in our country. It also make sense why some people have such a hard time quitting the foods that are unhealthy and why so many struggle with food addiction.
Different Fat Types
Now, let’s take a look at the types of fat found in our food:
- Unsaturated fats – healthy fats that help control HDL (good) cholesterol including: nut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, salmon, tuna, mackerel
- Monounsaturated fats – healthy unsaturated fats including: sesame oil, canola oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, avocado, peanut butter, nuts, seeds
- Polyunsaturated fats – healthy unsaturated fats rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, including: soybean oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, tofu, walnuts, flaxseeds
- Saturated fats – unhealthy fats that can cause increases in LDL (bad) cholesterol including: whole milk, cheese, cream, butter, full fat ice cream, lard, palm oil, shortening, meat skin and fat
- Trans fats – unhealthy fats causing increases in LDL cholesterol including: partially hydrogenated oils, baked goods like doughnuts, most fried foods, frozen pizzas, crackers, cookies, margarine, oil spreads (butter substitute)
How Much Fat per Day Should I Eat?
If you are wondering how much saturated and unsaturated fat per day should be consumed, we’ve got the answer.
Historically, the United States Dietary Guidelines has advised to consume a low-fat diet, but changed their stance when they updated their Guidelines in 2015. They now say that total calories can include up to 35% of fat each day. More importantly, eating styles should focus on unsaturated fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats and reduce intake of saturated and trans fats.
The Dietary Guidelines conclude that you should limit your saturated fat to no more than 10% of your daily fat intake, with the rest making up healthier unsaturated fats with a focus on polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Research has shown that increasing unsaturated fat intake while reducing saturated fat consumption can help prevent cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association takes their recommendation a step further, saying that unhealthy saturated fats should be limited to no more than 5 – 6% of your daily fat intake.
But What if I’m Building Muscle?
While these guidelines are generally on point for people who lead “normal” lives and exercise 120 minutes or less a week, it’s probably not the best way to go about building and maintaining muscle.
According to a study conducted by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the best way to maximize muscle retention is with a diet consisting of 2.3 – 3.1 grams of lean body mass of protein, 15 – 30% fat calories, and the rest carbohydrates. The study also recommends eating three to six meals per day with 0.4 – 0.5 grams of bodyweight protein and to eat prior to each workout to maximize nutrient timing and provide positive results.
Lean Body Mass
Lean body mass? To determine your lean body mass, subtract your body fat from your total body weight.
So, in order to calculate how much fat per day, you need to know what your body fat is and then recalculate when your total body weight and/or body fat changes. You can get an idea of what your body fat percentage is based on height, weight, and sex here. Determine your lean body mass – this calculator gives you three different formulas used. Then, calculate your protein amount.
Studies have shown that saturated fats can help raise natural testosterone levels so you could include more saturated fats in your daily diet if your goal is to add more muscle mass. Foods like whole eggs and moderate amounts of red meat can help to build more muscle by adding iron, B vitamins and increasing your natural testosterone.
Reassessing as You Go Can Help You Meet Your Goals
Start out with whatever number you get and then tweak it as you need to. Opt for higher protein at first and lower the amount per day if needed. Listen to your body while you are working out and afterward, to make sure you are getting the right amount of foods needed to fuel your workouts and recovery.
Keeping track of the foods you eat, the times you eat them, and the workouts you do can help you determine the best ratios of protein, fat, and carbs you should be eating to meet your goals. If something isn’t working, then being able to review your past food and exercise routine can help. Then you can determine how to best alter your food choices to get the results you are looking for.
If you are trying to lose body fat, aim for a lower fat intake, but only if you keep your carbohydrates high while dieting. Body not responding well to a high carb diet? You can eat more moderate amounts of carbs and increase your total fat intake.
Calculating Grams of Fat per Day
Since every person is different, having a tried and true calculator to determine how much fat per day you should be consuming is essential. This is especially true when your daily calorie intake is anything other than the standard 2,000 calorie diet, as shown on almost all nutrition labels.
According to Registered Dietician Katherine Zeratsky, you should calculate your fat allowance by multiplying your calories per day by the percentage of fat you should be consuming each day. Then, take the fat calories figure and divide by nine to get the amount of fat grams per day.
Why nine? That’s how many calories are contained in a gram of fat. Let’s take a look at an example.
If you are trying to determine how much fat you should eat per day on a 1,200 calorie diet with a goal of 30% fat, here’s what your calculations should look like:
- 1200 calories x .30 = 360 calories per day
- 360 calories / 9 grams = 40 grams of fat per day
- 40 grams x .10 = 4 grams of saturated fat per day
So of your 1,200 calorie diet, your daily allotment is no more than 40 grams of fat per day, with 4 of those grams containing saturated fat.
Keep Track to Make Future Changes Easier
You can use this calculation every time your calorie count or fat ratio changes to be sure that you are keeping in line with your diet and goals. Use an app to input your food to help track your numbers, or take the fat grams from the nutrition label and add them up at the end of the day, to make sure you are staying on track.
Keeping track of your food intake and workout routine is easy once it becomes a habit, and it can help make changing your food ratios easier. Plus, you can notice patterns and be able to determine what isn’t working, and what you might need to change so that you can be sure to meet your goals.
How Many Grams of Fat per Day to Lose Weight
If your goal is to lose weight, you might find success by simply reducing your overall fat intake. You can also reduce or eliminate saturated fats from your diet and replace them with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Taking these steps alone will help you lose weight, but it will only work for a while until you start to notice that you have plateaued, or are no longer losing the weight.
If this happens, you will have to do other things if you want to continue your weight loss. Before you reduce your overall calories, try increasing your activity level first. You will burn more calories with the increased activity, so you’ll need those extra calories to maintain your energy levels.
Once you start becoming more active on a consistent basis, you will likely find that you have to increase your ratios and your calorie intake. This is because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn doing the same activities.
Make sure you are adding in any supplements that you are taking along with your food, especially if they include fats or sugars. Vintage Balance is a great way to get essential fatty acids along with Omega-3-6-9 and has 2.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat per serving.
How Many Grams of Fat Per Day on Keto
The Keto Diet is really popular right now for a variety of reasons. If you are interested in learning more about the specifics of the Keto Diet, make sure you check out this article.
When it comes to how much fat per day when eating keto, you should be working to eat high fat, mid level protein, and low carb. You should strive for as much as 70 – 80% of fat in the keto diet, with 20 – 25% protein, leaving 5 – 10% carb intake.
You won’t find many diets out there like the keto diet that strives for such high fat intake. But, be smart about your fat intake and limit it to nutritious polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats to protect your health.
As with any diet plan, make sure you do some research on the effects that the keto diet can have. It might work great for weight loss and certain health issues, but is usually not sustainable long-term due to how restrictive it is and can have other effects on your health. This is especially true for people who eat a lot of red meat to meet their high-fat daily intake.
How Many Grams of Fat Per Day For A Woman
Women should not feel that they need to eat any different than a man. Of course, your daily calorie allotment might be lower, but you can still use the same calculations provided above to determine your fat intake.
Studies have shown that women who choose poultry and fish over meat, along with polyunsaturated fats and low-fat dairy reduce their risk of coronary heart disease compared to women who eat more red meat, saturated and full-fat dairy.
When you are eating the right fats for your body, you don’t have to worry so much about weight gain. Especially when you are active and overall healthy. As we advised above, fats play a huge role in keeping our bodies protected and healthy and allow us to lead busy lifestyles.
How do you feel after you eat an avocado versus a cream filled doughnut? While your taste buds might enjoy the doughnut more than the avocado, your body will likely tell you a different story.
The right fats matter, and your body will tell you what it needs if you listen to it.
What Foods Should I Be Eating to Meet my Goals?
Depending on your goals, you daily intake will look different from one person to the next.
Until you start to understand what foods work best to meet your specific caloric intake, using a tracker, app or food journal to list your meals out each day can take out all the guesswork. Then, tweak the foods you eat based on where you were over or under in your calorie goals until you get it right.
Foods to Eat
- Butters (peanut, sunflower, almond – make sure they don’t have any added sugars)
- Nut and seed oils (avocado, sunflower, safflower, peanut, olive)
- Root vegetables
Foods to Avoid
- Processed foods
- Anything containing added sugars
- Fried foods
- Baked goods (unless you made them yourself with healthy ingredients)
- Fast food
- Red meat (okay in moderation)
- Whole milk products – cheese, milk, butter, ice cream (okay in moderation)
- Partially hydrogenated oils
- Trans fat
You’ll notice that some things on the Foods to Avoid list show that they are okay in moderation. And it’s true! Remember that you can allot up to seven percent of your daily intake to saturated fats. It’s okay to have some red meat and milk products as part of your diet, as long as you aren’t eating them everyday and are mostly sticking to unprocessed whole foods.
What to Look for When Food Shopping
And definitely shop for organic food whenever possible. For red meat, grass-fed and organic is the way to go. If you can’t find these types of meat, it’s best to avoid buying them until you can source grass-fed meats so you can get the most nutrients.
Check for local farmers markets, co-ops, and butchers to source your meats. Ask restaurants where they get their product from. Most of the time, you can find somewhere locally to source your meat for a fair price.
Remember, the fats you choose will also add to your protein and carb limits as well. If you aren’t sure how a meal will affect your daily caloric intake, enter it into your food tracker and check how it will affect you for the rest of the day. The worst thing you can do is be on track all day and then get ready for your evening workout and find out that you don’t have enough calories available to properly fuel yourself.
Did you find the calculators helpful when determining what you should eat to fuel your workouts? What do you find works best for you when it comes to eating fats? Let us know in the comments.