ratios explained.

by Janetha on March 24, 2010

in meals,moves

I LOVED YOUR LISTS OF FIVE!!!! you guys are so clever and fun. it was super awesome reading you comments all day long.

i have had an unruly amount of emails asking me how i figure out my ratios for my macros (fat, carbs & protein) and how to calculate the number of grams needed in order to hit a certain ratio percentage.  i’ll be the first to admit that it can be confusing.  but i will also be the first to tell you that there is a simple method behind the madness.  i will get to all the juicy details after i tell you about my day!

first off.. the day started with some horrible news! remember the chickens that roam around near my office?? MY BOSS HIT ONE WITH HIS TRUCK THIS MORNING. poor chicken. he definitely did not get to cross the road :(


i will be showing you my calorie breakdown with each meal today so you can refer to them during my little tutorial at the end of this post :)


meal 1: wafflewich @ 8:30 AM


i combined 3 egg whites + 1 whole egg and sandwiched the eggs between two nature’s path flax toaster waffles.  i drizzled it all with some log cabin sugar free maple syrup! sometimes you just have to have some yolk in your life :)


drippy, syrupy goodness!

307 calories, 11g fat, 30g carbs, 23g protein, which is a carb/protein/fat ratio of 37/29/33


i had originally planned to have lauren’s favorite egg concoction but forgot to bring the main ingredient (dijon mustard) to work with me! tomorrow, for sure. there’s always tomorrow, right? right.

i was grateful that this meal was a tad higher in fat because it helped hold me over for longer than the usual 3 hours between meals.  i had a lunch date planned with the bestie for a little after noon and so i knew i wouldn’t be eating until about 12:45ish when all was said and done.

meal 2: whole foods salad bar! @ 12:45 PM


mmm. you know what i love the most about the WF salad bar? the sweet and sour tofu.  IT IS SO DANG GOOD!  i wish i knew how to re-create it at home, but i am sadly a failure when it comes to preparing tofu.  i think i need averie or miss gliding calm or caroline to come make it for me ;)


305 calories, 8g fat, 15g carbs, 31g protein, which is a carb/protein/fat ratio of 24/48/28


i loved that we were able to dine on the patio because of the glorious sunshine, but it actually was still a tad on the chilly side for al fresco lunches!  we didn’t finish lunch until about a quarter after 1 and i left with a smile on my face and a full belly.

after lunch my super sweet co-worker gave me the greatest gift… PURPLE BOOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  thanks, linds! you are such a babe.  i hope your chicken & white bean salsa soup is good tonight (she used my recipe for her crock pot dinner tonight, everyone.)

i came into work early today (shocking, i know!!) and so i was able to leave early.. which meant i had to have my meal 3 earlier than usual since i typically go straight to my workout from work..  well, the problem here was timing.  timing is everything, folks.  i wasn’t really that hungry yet because i had a LATE lunch and was having an EARLY meal 3~ but i knew that if i skipped meal 3 all together i would turn into an ornery, cranky beast and we can’t have that.. so i just kept meal 3 simple and liquidy.

meal 3: isopure plus protein drink + 1/2 of a chocolate peppermint luna bar @ 3:30 PM


these were on sale at GNC!  ten bucks for a six pack.  sure, it   is more expensive than a sixer of brews.. but it sure is a lot better for ya!!  but really.. 60 calories and 15 grams of protein in this tiny bottle? cannot be beat. and it really does taste good. take my word for it and go buy some!


had to pair a carb with the protein, so i went with half of a luna. body for life tells me to and i know the two somehow work together. i don’t question the system.. i know it works :)

150 calories, 2.5g fat, 13g carbs, 19.5g protein, a carb/protein/fat ratio of 51/34/15




i am not running.  i am being a smartie pants and staying off high impact exercises for the sake of my ankles.  i also get bored with the elliptical. sorry, i just can’t stand it. the treadmill is not so bad but the elliptical just bores me to death.. so, i opted for a different form of HIIT..


so i didn’t mention this, but i did the insanity fit test last night and holy guacamole it was amazing.  it was challenging.  it was fun.  it was everything i hoped for and more.  so, when i saw that the workout for the day after the fit test was the plyometric cardio circuit i decided it would be a perfect replacement for my usual HIIT.  however.. that disc did not work. what the funk? that is what i get for buying the DVDs from some dude for fifty bucks. BUT, i have contacted him, and he assured me he will replace any malfunctioning discs.

luckily, insanity is full of cardio workouts, so i opted for the pure cardio circuit and it was 40 minutes of, well, insanity!

sorry i can’t really show you guys all the details of the workout since it was a DVD, but i can tell you what it consisted of:

  • switch kicks
  • sprints
  • suicide sprints
  • power jacks
  • burpees
  • lunges
  • high knees

etc, etc, etc. just so you know i burned 100 calories in the first ten minutes. this workout was crazy. i am in love with it. 

and guess what? i have the worst DOMS in my legs already.. and i haven’t even done a lower body workout.. it is strictly from jumping around like a crazed lunatic in my living room. p.s.~ marshall did a sneak attack and filmed me on his iphone while doing insanity. geeeez.

after this workout i was a sweaty mess so i quickly showered so i could EAT.  meal 3 was measly because sure, i wasn’t hungry at the time i had it, but by the time i was done with my workout, 4 hours had gone by and i was HANGRY.  i don’t think the fact that i could smell the delicious aroma coming from the crock pot in the kitchen during my workout helped much ;)


meal 4: chicken & black bean soup (crock pot meal) @ 7:30 PM


313 calories, 3g fat, 38g carbs, 33g protein, a carb/protein/fat ratio of 42/48/10


HOORAY for the return of crock pot wednesday!!!!


in the pot:

  • 1 lb diced chicken (put it in raw)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can organic black beans
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can all natural diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup medium-heat organic salsa
  • 1 bag (12 oz) frozen corn
  • 1 can (4 oz) spicy diced green chiles
  • tons of cumin
  • tons of garlic
  • tons of black pepper
  • tons of dried onion
  • tons of chili powder
  • little bit of salt
  • splash of water

set it on low for about 8 hours and then i didn’t have to lift a finger come dinner time!


this came out spicy!! i think it was the green chiles. it was super tasty!!


here is the nutrition label that thedailyplate.com generated when i put in the ingredients~


as you can see, my ratios that i post are approximate.. but i am not a stickler for exact measurements. a ballpark number is fine by me.

i spent the evening hanging out with my 3 favorites.. marshall, penelope and randy pants!


and i iced my ankles.. burrrrr!


we watched “the invention of lying”.. SO, SO funny! oh my gosh. so funny!  if you haven’t seen it, go watch it. now.

i may or may not have nibble on some popcorn.

eventually it was time for dessssssert :)

meal 5: PB banana nut bread protein cake + chocolate almond milk @ 10:00 PM


officially addicted. just sayin’.


when i dip, you dip, we dip.


280 calories, 10g fat, 18g carbs, 30g protein, a carb/protein/fat ratio of 25/43/32 


and that, friends, was today in a nutshell. a pretty big, lengthy nutshell.. maybe something like an almond shell. those are kind of long when it comes to nuts. (TWSS) do almonds come in shells?


and now, the fun stuff!  well, if you are a numbers geek like me (i know deb is!)

lesson one: calories per gram.

  • there are 4 calories in one gram of carbs
  • there are 4 calories in one gram of protein
  • there are 9 calories in one gram of fat

lesson two: converting calories to grams within a 40/40/20 ratio.

for simplicity sake, let’s say my daily calorie intake is 1500. 

i picked this number because it is easy to work with, not because that is how many calories i suggest you eat.  just wanted to make that clear.  ALSO.. i don’t figure my meals out this way, i do it the opposite of this description, since i am not a calorie counter.. i am a ratio counter :) but i will get to that after showing you just how to figure ratios out when it comes to calories.

SO.. you want to get 40% of your calories from carbs, 40% from protein and 20% from fat? here is how to figure:

  • 1500 calories X 40% = 600 calories need to come from carbs and 600 calories need to come from protein
  • that leaves 300 calories coming from fat, and, not so surprising.. 1500 calories x 20% = 300

now that we know how many calories are coming from each macro, we can convert it to grams:

  • 600 calories of carbs divided by 4 calories per gram = 150 grams of carbs needed (40% of daily total calories)
  • 600 calories of protein divided by 4 calories per gram = 150 grams of protein needed (40% of daily total calories)
  • 300 calories of fat divided by 9 calories per gram = 33.3333333333 (okay, let’s just call it 34) grams of fat needed (20% of daily total calories)

lesson three: finding an average gram count to aim for at each meal.

to take this one step further, you can divide the number of grams by the number of meals you eat.  i eat five meals a day, three hours apart. some people who do BFL eat six meals a day. i think that whatever works best for you is the “right” way.

  • 150 grams divided into 5 meals = 30 grams of each protein and carbs per meal
  • 34 grams divided into 5 meals = 6.8 grams of fat per meal

obviously i don’t hit these numbers exactly every time i eat. but at least i know a ballpark of where i want to be.  some meals are carb heavy, others are protein heavy and some are even fat heavy~ such as meal 1 for me today.

i know that some people like to eat larger breakfasts, lunches and dinners that are higher in calories and then do smaller midmeals/snacks.  this is a great way to eat, but i prefer to keep my meals all about the same size and eat every three hours.  this is what works for me, but something else might work for you.

lesson four: doing it without the math.

body for life suggests you create your meals using the palm/fist method.  what is that, you ask?

  • pick a protein source and eyeball the portion, making it roughly the size of you clenched fist or open palm
  • pick a carb source and do the same thing
  • add a dash of healthy fat

sounds too easy to be true, right?  well it works.  this is the way i did the measuring for my entire first BFL challenge and any time i got down to calculating the numbers, they always ended up around 40/40/20 ratios.

here are some examples of what portion sizes are for me and my hand size:


  • 1 medium apple / orange / other fruit
  • 1 small baked potato
  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice / cooked wheat pasta / couscous / other grain
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread (or two if they are small, like the bread i eat!)
  • 1 whole wheat roll
  • 3/4 cup beans


  • 4 oz chicken breast / fish / lean beef / etc
  • 3/4 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 3/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup egg whites

i hope that makes sense.  i have spent a long time reading labels and knowing roughly how many grams of each macro come with each serving of certain foods.  but, this is real life. you can’t always read a label.  for example.. my whole foods salad today… there was no label. there was no scale. i have no idea if the amount of chicken i ate was actually equal to 4 ounces. but i just eyeballed the amount that was roughly the size of my fist and called it good!

lesson five: determining what ratios the meal you just ate calculates to.

sooo.. you just ate a meal and you want to know the carb/protein/fat ratios?  here is how.  let’s do it with my meal 3, for simplicity sake, shall we? yes, we shall.


okay, so i had 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs and 19.5 grams of protein. let’s see what the carb/protein/fat ratio is.

  • 13 grams of carbs x 4 calories per gram = 52 calories from carbs
  • 19.5 grams of protein x 4 calories per gram = 78 calories from protein
  • 2.5 grams of fat x 9 calories per gram = 22.5 calories from fat

okay, this adds up to 152.5 calories.. i am totally aware.. and i am not quite sure why it doesn’t add up to 150 (might have something to do with the fiber grams? or the website has the calories/grams wrong for the specific foods) but.. since it is only 2.5 calories off, i am not too worried. i can still figure my ratio from this number.

  • 52 carb calories divided by 152.5 total calories = 34%
  • 78 protein calories divided by 152.5 total calories = 51%
  • 22.5 fat calories divided by 152.5 total calories = 15%

which leaves us with a carb/protein/fat ratio of 34/51/15!

did that make sense? sure hope so.

lesson six: use technology!

do you guys think i do the equation from lesson five up there, for every meal i eat??? no way.  i use thedailyplate.com and it conveniently has a HUGE database full of almost all of the foods i eat.  when i make up a recipe, it allows me to enter the recipe’s ingredients into the system, punch in the number of servings that come from the recipe, and it then generates all the nutrition information for the recipe and i can add that to my plate.  this is how i came up with the nutrition information for my chicken & black bean soup in meal 4 above.

not only is this website nice for calories and gram counts.. it also breaks down the exact ratios for you in a handy dandy pie chart!  here are a few examples:

(not sure why it is cutting off the first part of the word “protein”, sorry)

sunday, 3/21/10:


monday, 3/22/10:


tuesday, 3/23/10:


as you can see, the website calculates my ratios out for me very nicely!  i don’t mind doing the math, but when i eat as many times a day as i do.. it is nice to rely on technology :)

another nice thing is thedailyplate.com lets you break you meals out into categories and i have shown you that in my meals above.  i like that i can see the totals for each individual meal and then look at my pie chart for the day overall. 

while i don’t hit 40/40/20 ratios for each and every meal (as you can plainly see), i try to make up for certain areas i am lacking in so it will all balance out at the end of the day.  my first meal was carb and fat heavy, my second was protein and fat heavy, my third meal was higher in protein, my fourth meal was carb heavy and my fifth meal was protein heavy. 

but in the end, check out my pie chart for the day:


fabulous! a little fat heavy.. i blame it on that egg yolk ;) but i am not complaining, i think these ratios are pretty stellar.

i want you all to know that i didn’t track my ratios anywhere when i did body for life the first time.  it is not necessary to be meticulous in order to have success.  i am just tracking things this time around for fun. and to show you guys. you can really just follow the eating guidelines (pick a protein, pick a carb, add a little fat) and you will have success. 

and i just rambled about this because a lot of you asked.. and it is something that i am glad i know. it’s fun to learn more about food!

hope this little tutorial clarified ratios and macros for everyone. and even if you don’t use the 40/40/20 plan like i do, hopefully you learned a little something when it comes to calculating grams and all that jazz.  i know it was not until i started body for life that i learned about fat grams having more than double the calories of protein or carb grams. it is pretty interesting stuff!

okay, before i go, a few bloggie items of business:

  • if you wrote me about not receiving your secret bloggie valentine gift and i never wrote you back about it, it is because the person who was assigned to you never got back to me. i am not going to lie, i am pretty appalled at the number of people who did not get their valentines in the mail.  i know that there were some of you with some mailing issues who got back to me regarding the problems.. but there were at least a dozen people who i never heard back from when trying to see what went on with their package asking if and when they mailed it.  it makes me sad because i arranged the whole thing with high hopes it would be a fun exchange and i feel bad that so many people ended up with no valentine love. i am so sorry :( i wish i could send each and every one of you a package to make up for it. sigh.
  • i am still looking for guest posts from anyone and everyone! you can talk about any subject under the sun.  just email me or leave a comment letting me know you are interested. i’d love to feature your ramblings :) also, you don’t have to have a blog, i would love a guest post from a reader!
  • i am still working on putting together my FAQ page full of the questions you guys asked me awhile back. don’t worry, i haven’t forgotten.. i am just a major procrastination station!!
  • WOW there are a lot of new people commenting lately! just wanted to say HELLO FRIENDS! and thanks for reading, thanks for de-lurking, thanks for being so rad.  warms my little heart right up!
  • since i didn’t really have any time for blog reading today or tonight, so i will have to catch up with you all tomorrow! sure do love you guys :)


1. do you aim for a certain ratio of carbs and/or protein and/or fat? or do you just wing it? do you eat more carbs, more protein, or do you balance the two? how about timing.. do you eat at specific times every day? how do you space your meals out? i would love it if you shared your own personal style of eating in the comments section. this is a food blog, after all!

2.  do you like workout DVDs? which ones do you use? i used to be one of those people who thought you could not get a good workout from a DVD. insanity has served me up a slice of humble pie!! mmm.. pie…

xo. janetha b.

P.S.!!!  don’t forget that THURSDAY, MARCH 25TH IS NATIONAL WAFFLE DAY! yeeeah!!

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