“How much protein do I need?”
“How many carbs can I eat?”
“I heard about the new bulletproof diet. Should I be eating butter for breakfast?”
These are all questions we hear each and every day and the common theme linking them all is that they have something to do with what are called macronutrients. These are simply nutrients that we consume in large amounts that provide energy for growth, metabolism and other bodily functions. There are 3 main macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fat.
What people really need to ask with their diet plan is what ratio of macronutrients is right for them? Now that we have addressed the subject of calories (read here for more) and we know that calories are responsible for 50% of our results, getting our macronutrient balance can get us the next 30%. Lets learn a little more about each macronutrient and then identify what ratio works for each particular goal and how to modify.
For body composition purposes the most important macronutrient is protein. It is literally the building block of muscle tissue and will help us build new muscle and prevent breakdown. It is also the most thermogenic of the three macronutrients which means it has the highest impact on our our metabolic rate. Protein has 4 calories per gram.
Carbs come second after protein in terms of importance. For our particular set of goals, carbs provide the fuel that is responsible for getting us through hard training. They help us build and replenish glycogen, which is carbohydrate stored in the muscle for use during intense exercise. They are also the preferred fuel for the nervous system, which allows us to recruit muscles more effectively and train with more focus (this also explains why we reach for sugar when mentally exhausted when working, the brain actually uses 20% of all our available glucose). Carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram.
Fats make up the 3rd most important macronutrient for body composition and they can be some of the healthiest calories we can consume. For example, if we totally cut fats out we will see negative effects on our hormonal status, particularly a drop in our sex hormones.
Fats have a great impact on any mass gaining diet due to how easy they are to consume and how many calories you can consume. Fats contain 9 calories per gram.
Now that we know a little about about each macronutrient we now need to determine how much of each one we can consume. To do this effectively, you need to do this with your overall caloric needs in mind. This will limit you in each macronutrient because f you go over your caloric allotment, you will gain weight!
Remember the order of importance for macronutrients is protein, then carbs, then fats. We need to ensure we follow this order and develop our diet from here.
Protein: Our minimum daily protein intake for health (not body composition) is covered with 0.4 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. If you are 80 kilograms (176 pounds) you would need 70.4 grams of protein per day.
If we are looking at body composition needs, we need to up our protein to 0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight but this is at the very minimum we need to maintain and build. Ideally 0.8-1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight is ideal. We recommend that people start at 1 gram per pound of bodyweight for optimal results.
Carbohydrates: Carbs come second in our order of macronutrient priorities. It will provide the fuel we need for both our brains and bodies to perform optimally for periods of time. One thing to remember is that if we over consume carbohydrates for a long period of time, we will decrease the insulin sensitivity of our muscles which will lead to a high chance of fat gain while reducing muscle growth.
What we recommend is that we pair carbohydrate intake with training demands. This leads to the best results
Non-Training Days: Less than 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight
Light workouts (not many sets of recovery workouts): 1 gram per pound
Medium Workouts (strength workouts, majority of our clients programs) – 1.5 grams per pound
Hard Workouts (bodybuilding training) – 2.0 grams per pound
Fats: Fats need to be consumed in the minimal amounts for health and body composition but after this number has been met, fat becomes the least important of the three macronutrients. An approximation of the lowest safe amount seems to be 10% of an individuals bodyweight in pounds. There is no upper limit intake for fat consumption provided you are falling in your caloric allotment.
Now with all this information in mind, lets design a diet plan for a 65 kilogram female wanting to lose weight. We will use the caloric calculations from our calorie article.
65 kilograms = 143 Pounds
143 x 12 (lower end of starting fat loss calorie range) = 1716 calories per day
Protein Intake: 1.0 x 143 pounds – 143 grams of protein – 572 calories
Carb Intake – 1.5 x 143 Pounds (medium workouts) – 214.5 grams of carbs – 858 calories
Fat Intake: To calculate this, we just work out how many calories we have left and divide it by 9 to get grams of fat
1716 – 572 and 858 = 286 calories
286/9 = 32 grams of fat
143 grams of protein
214.5 grams of carbohydrate
32 grams of fat
If we want to calculate for a non-training day, we simply change the carbs and fats to get the ideal amounts. Protein will always stay consistent.
143 grams of protein
Carb Intake: 0.5 x 143 (non-training amount) = 71.5 grams of carbs – 286 calories
286 + 572 calories = 858
1716 – 858 = 858 calories remaining
This would equal 95 grams of fats.
As you can see, designing your diet requires a fair bit of work and some maths skills! In the next article in this series we will take you through how to time your meals to get the most out of your training and diet. We will also be covering food composition and supplements and their importance in the dietary hierarchy of success and then we will show you some ways to put this all together.
Any questions please ask in the comments, remember we are here to help.[hc-hmw snippet=”Book-an-Appointment”]