Question: Could counting MACROS be the key to maximizing your fat loss or weight lifting efforts??
Answer: Very likely, yes 🙂
Why: All of us consume macronutrients because the food we eat consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fat. Obvious, right? Well the difference between someone burning fat or building muscle or getting fitter more efficiently than you is – they are optimising their macronutrient ratios! This is because not all calories are created equal. Calories from fat will be utilized a whole different way to calories from protein or calories from fat. This is because these three macronutrient follow different metabolic pathways in the body and have different functions. Primarily, carbohydrates provide energy; protein builds and repairs muscle; and fats provide essential fatty acids, store fat soluble vitamins and provides an alternative energy source. Therefore, it is important to dial into your specific needs in order to determine your optimal macronutrient ratio.
Follow these steps as a starting point:
Step 1: Determine your Daily Amount of Calories
This is important because if you eat way too many calories, your macronutrient ratios won’t be of any help to lose fat mass. And if you’re looking to build muscle, eating too few calories could also be extremely counterproductive. Therefore, you need to calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate = amount of calories you need if you slept all day and performed no tasks or exercises). Second, you need to add an activity factor based on how active you are. This will then leave you with a number that equals the number of a calories you need per day to maintain your weight. If you are wanting to lose weight, subtract around 500 calories from that to lose 0.5kg per week (healthy weight loss).
Your daily amount of calories = BMR x activity factor
* multiply by 4.2 for kilojoules instead of calories
If you want to lose weight: Daily amount of calories – 500
It is important to note, that for the purpose of losing weight, you need to cut calories. However, if you desire to build muscle it would be beneficial to consume a little more calories than you burn. This is basically because muscle building is an anabolic reaction: you need enough energy/glucose in order to complete the reaction and encourage muscle growth.
Now you’re wondering: well I want to do BOTH!! Lose fat and build muscle at the same time!
Unfortunatly, it might be more successful to focus on one objective at a time. Most bodybuilders usually encorporate 2 phases in their regime: a building phase, where they eat a high carb diet and eat calories above maintenance in order to build lean muscle; followed by a cutting phase, where they cut calories and usually carbs in order to burn fat (usually right before competition time). These phases typically last around 3 months each – but can vary depending on the athlete or training.
That said, carbohydrate/calorie cycling has been suggested as a way to do both: cut fat and build lean muscle. This is done by alternating days of heavy lifting and high carbohydrate/high calorie days to build muscle with low carbohydrate/calorie days to burn fat.
Step 2: Determine your Fitness Goals
This is the second important factor because, depending on the frequency and type of exercise you are engaging in each week, YOU WILL HAVE DIFFERENT MACRONUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS. For example, if you are doing large amounts of cardio every day, you will need more carbohydrates than someone wanting to lose weight and only exercising 3 times a week. It makes sense that the more active/stenuous your workout – the more energy you need = higher carbohydrate requirement. Alternatively, if you’re eating too many carbohydrates and not doing enough exercise – the excess will be stored as fat!
Here is an indication of what you should be aiming for:
1) You want to get fit/ increase endurance
You are doing endurance training everyday – at least 60 minutes.
Ratio: 45-50% carbohydrates ; 15-20% protein ; 20-30% fat
2) You want to build muscle
You are doing heavy lifting workouts, or any kind of resistance training – around 60 minutes per day.
Ratio: 40-60% carbohydrates ; 25-35% protein ; 15-25% fat
3) You want to lose fat
You are doing around 60 minutes of moderate exercise 3-5 times a week.
Ratio: 10-30% carbohydrates ; 40-50% protein ; 20-30% fat
4) You want to maintain your muscle mass and current weight
Ratio: 30-50% carbohydrates ; 25-35% protein ; 25-35% fat
Calories per day = 1670
Fitness goal = want to lose fat mass
Macronutrient ratio = 30% carbs/45% protein/ 25% fat
Carb factor = (0.3)
Protein factor = (0.45)
Fat factor = (0.25)
* needs to add up to 1
Required grams of carbohydrates = daily amount of calories x (carb factor/number of calories in 1g of carbs)
= 1670 x (0.3/4)
Required grams of protein = daily amount of calories x (protein factor/number of calories in 1g of protein)
= 1670 x (0.45/4)
Required grams of fat = daily amount of calories x (fat factor/number of calories in 1g of fat)
= 1670 x (0.25/9)
And there you have your starting point! Although, remember that as you lose weight or gain weight you’ll have to recalculate because the lighter you are, the fewer calories you require.
Step 3: Take your Body Type into Account
It is important to consider your body type. This will be an indication of how your body is able to tolerate carbohydrates. This also means that we’re not all the same! Some of us struggle to lose fat a lot more than others, where some struggle to build muscle a lot more than others. Life isn’t fair, I know – I myself have a sluggish metabolism and struggle to shift weight from my lower half.
There are three main body types:
1) Ectomorph: They are very skinny, have a fast metabolism and struggle to gain weight or muscle mass.
2) Mesomorphs: They are built very muscular, usually have broad shoulders, and gain muscle very easily.
3) Endomorphs: They easily gain weight, struggle to lose weight, have a sluggish metabolism and tend to be pair-shaped (usually carrying their weight on their abdomen or upper thighs).
These are the three main body types, but it is possible to fall inbetween them as well. Therefore, the recommendations below serve as a rough guide. Tweak the ratios until the most favourable one is found.
1) Ectomorph macronutrient ratio: They have a fast metabolism and can metabolise carbohydrates easily.
For muscle gains, increase carbohydrate ratio up to 60%.
They are usually able to lose fat mass easily without going lower than 45% carbs.
At least 25% protein, and the rest from fat.
2) Mesomorph macronutrient ratio: They are able to gain muscle easily and tend to lose fat quite easily as well. Therefore, they have an adequate carbohydrate tolerance, and may consume a moderate amount of carbs because it is easily stored as muscle glycogen.
For muscle gains, increase carbohydrates up to 50%.
For fat loss, try a carbohydrate ratio of around 20%.
For maintenance, try a carbohydrate ratio of around 40%.
Fat ratio should not go higher than 30%.
3) Endomorph macronutrient ratio: They tend to carry more adipose tissue, have a sluggish metabolim and struggle to lose weight. Therefore, they might benefit from a lower carbohydrate ratio.
For muscle gains, increase carbohydrates up to 40%.
For fat loss, try a carbohydrate ratio of 10% (and up to20%).
For mainenance, try a carbohydrate ratio between 20% and 30%.
With a higher protein ratio, and fat never going over 30%.
Okay so now I’ve covered the biggest influencers when it comes to MACROS. It is indeed a very valuable tool, but don’t think of it as a MAGIC WAND…! And by that I mean: don’t think you can eat junk and think it’s okay because it fits into your ratios and calories. You need wholesome, nutritious food that will provide your body with the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) it needs to perform essential functions – including FAT LOSS and MUSCLE GROWTH!! Buuut that said, you also have the freedom to indulge every now and then if it suits your macros. As a rule, try sticking to 80% healthy calories, and only 20% calories coming from treats.
🙂 And that’s my final word 🙂
!! NOW GO FORTH AND EAT EFFICIENTLY !!