Hi, my name is Allison and I joined LA Fitness this summer. My very basic question is, what ARE the nutrient needs of a basic adult?  (I’m female, 5’4″, 135 lbs. and trying to shed 5 -10 lbs., work out 3-4x/ week and walk on off days). I just want to know what the basic categories of things are a person needs. I’ve heard about nutrients being macros (fat protein carb) and micro (vitamins and minerals) but I’ve also heard nutritionists online say to get fiber and leafy greens and antioxidants and others say lots of veggies and lean meat – and I know they’re all related and many of them overlap- so I guess I’m just confused about what to seek out in my diet. Thank you SO much.

– Allison T.


Allison, based on your anthropometrics and level of exercise your daily nutrient needs may fall into the following ranges (provided for a 30-year-old woman):

  •                 1,900-2,400 Calories
  •                 63-80 gms Fat (30% calories)
  •                 61-92 gms Protein (1.0-1.5 gram/kg)
  •                 240-300 gms Carbohydrate (50% calories) including 25 gms Fiber (standard daily value)

Please see the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intake tables for vitamins and minerals for your intake targets of 29 micronutrients. Antioxidant action is an important function of certain micronutrients and phytochemicals (beneficial compounds found in plants), so we call those antioxidants.

As far as basic nutrients, you just need to add one thing to your list of fat, protein, carbohydrate, vitamins, and minerals – water! It is a macronutrient since we need such large volumes of it. Since it doesn’t provide calories, water is not often regarded the same as the 3 energy-yielding macronutrients. Exact requirements are not specified by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, but the adequate intake of water is 3.7 liters per day for men and 2.7 liters per day for women, including beverages and water derived from solid food.

You can look at nutrient numbers specifically now and then, but to ease the confusion just focus on your dietary habits and overall consumption to obtain sources of those nutrients. What you should seek out in your diet are plant-based protein sources, raw produce of every color, the most wholesome grains, the leanest animal foods, and unsweetened beverages… in amounts that just satisfy you. Those recommendations can be suited to every culture and worldly food belief. Sounds a lot simpler to me!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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