Calories from Fat,Protein and Carbs

Macronutrient Ratios

This article is about the calories from fat, protein and carbohydrates and the ratios of the macronutrients.

This information can come in handy when you are trying to track certain nutrition information.

It is also very useful when figuring out the Weight Watchers Points Plus values.

Often times you may find some nutritional information for a food item or restaurant menu item.

However, some of the pieces can be missing.  

For example, a restaurant may publish the total calories, fat grams and carb grams. 

Unfortunately they may be missing the protein grams.

If you are simply tracking calories, fat or carbohydrates, then this would not be a problem.

However, if you are trying to ensure you are getting the right mix of calories for the primary macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs), then the puzzle is not complete.

Additionally, with the new Weight Watchers points system, a primary factor (protein) would be missing to calculate the proper points value.

Finding The Missing Macrontrient 

One method of filling in the missing piece is to use the 4-9-4 equation. What's this you ask? Well, basically it means that the calories are made up of 4 cal. per gram of protein, 9 cal. per gram of fat and 4 cal. per gram of carbohydrates.



Protein 4
Fat 9
Carbohydrate 4

Let's take an example. If your food item contained 10 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat and 10 grams of carbs, then 40 calories would be from protein, 40 calories from carbs and there would be 90 calories from fat for a total of 170 calories.

Now in order to estimate one of the macronutrients you would have to work backwards from the total calories.

Let's say that a menu item has 500 total calories, 50 grams of carbs and 15 grams of fat.

Since we have 2 of the 3 macronutrients, plus we have total calories, we can derive the answer to the missing piece.

The calculation would look like this.

Protein calories = (total calories) - (carb grams * 4) - (fat grams * 9)
Protein (g) = Protein calories / 4

By taking the total calories minus the calories from carbs and fat, this leaves the calories from protein. If you take the number of protein calories divided by 4, this will give you an estimated grams of protein in that menu item.

Why is this divided by 4? Remember we are using the 4-9-4 equation, so 4 calories per gram of protein contributes to the total calories.

Another good example of when you might need to estimate one of the macronutrients is for total fat from calories. Often times you can find nutritional information for a menu item or food item. However, they list saturated fat as opposed to total fat.

While knowing the saturated fat is helpful, it still will not give you the overall picture of all the nutritional values.

Knowing the total fat becomes even more important with the new Weight Watchers points plus system. Since there is a heavier weighting on fat in foods to determine the total points value, having this as a missing piece means a poor estimation of the actual points value.

As another example, a food item has 200 total calories, 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs. The total calories from fat (and fat grams) is unknown.

Fat Calories = (total calories) - (carb grams * 4) - (protein grams * 4)
Fat grams = Fat calories / 9

For our example, the calculation would be this;

Fat calories = (200) - (10 * 4) - (10 * 4)

200 - 40 - 40 = 120 calories from fat.

The total fat grams would then be;

120 / 9 = 13 grams of fat.

Macronutrients-Doesn't Compute?

Sometimes using the 4-9-4 equation doesn't add up as expected. This is because sometimes the publisher of the nutritional values will take into account the insoluble fiber in the carbohydrate grams.

Insoluble fiber does not convert to usable energy but rather passes through our bodies. Therefore, some manufactureres will deduct the insoluble fiber calories from the calories from carbs.

Unfortunately there is generally no way of telling how much of the total dietary fiber is from insoluble fiber versus soluble fiber. Therefore there is no quick calculation for you to determine the proper calories from fat, protein and carbs for these cases.

The good news is that even if these calories have been removed from the carbs calories, the impact on your overall estimation of the missing puzzle piece will be neglible in most cases.

If you are unsure when an item may or may not display the proper carbs calories, check the ingredients for these common sources of insoluble fibers.

Sources of Insoluble Fibers; whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.

Alcohol and Calories from Fat, Protein and Carbohydrates

Another time when the 4-9-4 equation does not work is with aloholic beverages. This is due to the fact that the total calories includes the calories in alcohol. The calories from alcohol are not considered or addressed in the 4-9-4 equation.

Summing up Calories from Fat,Protein and Carbs

To "sum up" this topic, using the 4-9-4 equation to determine the missing macronutrient (the missing puzzle piece), will give you a close approximation of the values.

If you are tracking nutritional information, then using this equation can help you estimate your daily intake. 

If you are following the new Weight Watchers points plus system, then calculating the missing nutrient will allow you to closely estimate the total points value.

Just keep in mind that this method will give you a good approximation of the actual values, but may not be the exact values due to insoluble fiber and/or alcohol content.

In addition to understanding calories from fat, protein and carbs, learn more about the new Weight Watchers points plus and how these nutrients are used in the calculation

Additional Articles
Calories Definition
Learn more about what a calorie is with this article and it's definition.

Counting Carbs or Making Carbs Count
Many people have gone from counting calories to counting carbohydrates in order to lose weight. Others will try to cut out all (or most) carbs for a faster weight loss. Read this article to make sure you make the right carb choices.

Weight Loss Journal
Use this free download to track your weight loss. The journal allows you to write down foods you eat, how you were feeling and more. Then review your journal and make adjustments to your diet as needed.