Do you want to build muscle or lose some fat? Or do you want to maintain your physique? What you eat is critical to achieving your goal. Craft your ideal macronutrient ratio with these tips!
It would be easy if we could recommend a typical ‘ideal ratio’ of carbohydrate, fat and protein. However, the reality is much more complicated than this. Requirements for dietary macronutrient intake significantly depend on the individual and his / her goals. Here’s everything you need to know to determine the macronutrient breakdown that is right for you!
CALCULATE YOUR BASAL METABOLIC RATE
The very first number you need to determine when planning your diet is the number of calories that your body needs or your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the rate at which your body uses energy to stay alive.
There are a number of calculators online that you can use or follow the equation below:
The calculation will give you a daily calories target. You then break down your macros so you know how many calories you should spend on each macronutrient.
- A gram of protein contain 4 calories
- A gram of carbohydrates contain 4 calories
- A gram of fat contain 9 calories
CRAFTING YOUR MACRONUTRIENT RATIO
The next step is to craft your macronutrient ratio. Sadly it’s not that simple. There’s no such thing as a single ideal or “golden” macronutrient ratio. People have different goals, and so they have to take a different road in order to reach their ideal body.
FACTOR 1: FITNESS GOAL
Firstly you need to decide what is more important to you: building muscle or losing fat. A lot of us want both at the same time and lean mass gains can occur alongside fat loss, as it is the case in carb-cycling or intermittent fasting. However you will achieve better results by tackling one goal at a time. That is because higher carbohydrate ratio augment muscle gains whereas lower carbohydrate ration tend to accelerate fat loss.
As you can see from the pie charts above, fat never goes below 15% of total calories. Although widely demonized, fat is absolutely essential for the proper functioning of our bodies. Since hormones are constructed from cholesterol and other fat molecules, consuming too little fat can actually suppress the normal hormone levels. This also has a negative effect on bodily functions that depend on those hormones. This includes growth, metabolism, reproduction and more. Fat is also necessary for vitamin and mineral absorption.
However not all fat is created equal. Not all fat has the same nutritional value to your body so it’s important you prioritize healthy fat sources like monosaturated fats ( these include egg yolks, nuts, olive oil), medium-chain triglycerides (coconut oil), and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, chia seeds, tofu, beans, wild rice). As long as you choose the right kind of fat, you can feel comfortable with adding it to your diet!
FACTOR 2: BODY TYPE
As well as your fitness goal, it is also important to consider your body type. This will help you determine how well your body tolerates carbs.
There are three general body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Very few people fall perfectly into one of the three categories and many of us fall somewhere in between. Even if you find yourself to be somewhere in the middle, these body categories are helpful for establishing a nutritional benchmark. Start with the body type that you most resemble and make adjustments if necessary.
ECTOMORPHS are thin or slender individuals. This profile is linked to a fast metabolic rate and a high carbohydrate tolerance. They find it hard to gain weight and put on mass but it’s easy for them to get lean. They tend to require a greater percentage of carbohydrates to prevent muscle catabolism, as well as a higher calorie intake overall.
Diet recommendations: Higher carbs and lower fat. A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 55% carbs, 25% protein, and 20% fat.
MESOMORPHS is someone who trends toward being muscular. Mesomorphs tend to be testosterone and growth hormone dominant. This profile leads to a predisposition for muscle gain and the maintenance of a lower body fat. They can handle a moderate level of carbs due to their ample capacity to store muscle glycogen. Weight gain will happen, however, if carbs and calories are overly high.
Diet recommendations: Mesomorphs typically do best on a mixed diet, consisting of balanced carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A macronutrient split of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat can work well.
ENDOMORPHS have a larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass. They typically have a round or pear-shaped body and a slower metabolism. This profile leads to a greater propensity for energy storage, including both lean mass and fat mass. This can also mean a lower carbohydrate tolerance.
Diet Recommendations: More fat and protein, less carbohydrate. Endomorphs typically do best on a higher fat and protein intake with carbohydrate intake being controlled and properly timed (e.g., after exercise). A nutrient distribution for this body type might be around 25% carbs, 35% protein, and 40% fat.
FACTOR 3: GENDER
Gender, although a less pronounced factor than goals or overall body type, it is still important to consider when calculating your macros.
In general, women are more efficient at burning fat and less efficient at burning the glycogen stored in muscle. As such, they may be able to operate on lower carbohydrate intake than men.
This however doesn’t necessarily mean that women should always have a lower carb intake. An ectomorphic woman, for example, training at high intensity would need more carbohydrates than an endomorphic man who is sedentary. On the other hand, a mesomorphic male who is trying to maintain weight is likely to require a higher percentage of carbohydrate, perhaps in the range of 40 percent, while a woman of the same body type with the same goal may wish to start at around 30 percent.
As mentioned in the beginning, one crucial factor to consider is the total calories you take in. No macro mix can save you if you eat way too many calories or way too few!
Now that you calculated your BMR and know your macronutrient ratios, you can now break down your macros so you know how many calories you should spend on each macronutrient.
To give you an example, on a 2,000 calorie diet to gain the most muscle with the least amount of fat, I choose my calorie breakdown of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.
- 800 calories / 4 calories per gram = 200g of carbs
- 600 calories / 4 calories per gram = 150g of protein
- 600 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 70g of fat (rounded up)
Do not forget to track your snacks! It is normal to give into cravings, however, many people decide not to track their snacks as they feel the calorific intake was not high enough to justify this. Calories from small snacks can easily add up, make sure you track them. Learn to understand your cravings and how to prevent them to keep yourself on track.
A VISUAL GUIDE
Figuring out your macros can be a pain, especially if you’re just starting to learn about nutrition. Not everyone has a food scale, and nobody wants to look up every meal ingredient for the rest of their lives. So we created a visual guide using various common sources so that you can easily measure your macro needs.
OUR ENERGY NEEDS CHANGE AS WE DIET
Metabolism is adaptive. Calorie needs increase over time when bulking, and decrease over time when cutting.
For example, you followed a weight loss diet and got thinner. As you get lighter, you require less energy and your base metabolic rate (BMR) drops. You’re eating less food, so the calories required to consume that food (TEF) are fewer. And because you are lighter your exercise program (TEE) burns fewer calories. Because of these changes a single calculation made initially will not continue to work in the vast majority of cases.
Don’t be afraid to experiment for better results! If you’re hungry all the time, increase your protein. If you find your energy lagging, you may want to increase your fats. Get to know your body!
BE SMART WITH TRACKING
Determining your ideal nutritional strategy will take time. Along the way, don’t go crazy about the calculations. Obsessing over “perfect” numbers will just kill your motivation for eating well. Instead try to get as close as you can to your macros but don’t freak out if your protein is a little too low one day or your carbs are a little too high. Eating closely to your macro goals is better than not knowing at all what you’re eating.
You have now learned exactly how to calculate your individual needs for total daily calories, protein, fat and carbohydrates. Implement these dietary strategies into your plan and you’ll be well on your way to the strong, healthy body you’re after!