Macronutrient Recommendations

A diet that is balanced in macronutrients can reduce risk of disease and foster lasting weight loss.
Macronutrient Recommendations

A diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and foster lasting weight loss.

Essential nutrients are not limited to vitamins and minerals. The major macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat – are also essential to nutritional health and well-being. But who decides how much of any nutrient is needed to prevent a deficiency, reduce disease risk or create a healthy diet?

Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences has periodically gathered a large group of experts to review the latest science and make recommendations.

Until the late 1990s, the recommendations were called the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). With the latest update of these recommendations, the term Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) has been used.

The DRIs are a set of nutrient-based values that can be used to evaluate how "nutritious" a diet is.1 These include2:
  • Estimated Average Requirement
  • Recommended Dietary Allowance
  • Adequate Intake
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level
  • Estimated Energy Requirement
  • Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range

The latest DRIs for macronutrients were published in 2002. (View PDF.)

Acceptable Distribution
A key component of the recommendation for macronutrients is how they are distributed in the diet; in other words, the percent of calories coming from protein, carbohydrate and fat. The DRIs express this distribution as the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range or AMDR.

Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges for Adults (as a percentage of Calories) are as follows:
  • Protein: 10-35%
  • Fat: 20-35%
  • Carbohydrate: 45-65%

According to the NAS, the AMDR is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases, while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. People whose diet is outside the AMDR have the potential of increasing their risk of developing a disease of nutritional deficiency.

A diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution is recommended for lasting weight loss because unbalanced nutrient profiles may increase the risk of adverse health consequences.3

view footnotes

The Weight Watchers Approach:

The Weight Watchers food plans, in conjunction with the Good Health Guidelines, guide food choices to an eating pattern that is within the AMDR.


Other Science Library Topics:

1Dietary reference intakes. Nutr Rev. 1997 Sep;55(9):319-26.

2Barr SI, Murphy SP, Agurs-Collins TD, Poos MI. Planning diets for individuals using the dietary reference intakes. Nutr Rev. 2003 Oct;61(10):352-60.

3Wilkinson DL, McCargar L. Is there an optimal macronutrient mix for weight loss and weight maintenance? Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2004 Dec;18(6):1031-47.