Now that you know how to calculate your energy intake, the question is “How much of each macro should I eat?” Calculating your macros is rather easy and I think everybody should know how to do it by himself. Considering that there are services out there that “calculate your personalised macros”, I can help you save some money too. Read on and enjoy the Beary wisdom gains!
It you use a tracking app, it will most likely suggest macros for you when you set it up. Depending on the service you use, chances are relatively high that those recommendations are quite crappy. The main problem is that they often use the WHO recommendation for protein, which is recklessly low and should be seen as a lower limit for non-trainees to avoid deficiency. Combined with the antiquated belief that our body needs vast amounts of carbs to function properly, this results in terribly screwed macro recommendations. Let’s do it better!
Protein is the most important macro nutrient for muscle growth, as muscles are literally built out of the protein you consume. But not only muscles are built of proteins: every single body function relies on proteins: antibodies, enzymes and all the connective tissues building your organs are proteins! One gram of protein equals 4kcals. Animal protein is considered of higher quality than plant protein as it is “complete”, which means it contains all amino acids our body needs, especially the essential amino acids which our body can not make on their own. Plant protein usually is inferior, but if different sources are combined cleverly, it can step up to animal protein.
Protein intake is commonly calculated as a multiple of you bodyweight. Recommendations vary widly between 1,2g/kg bodyweight(bw) to 3+g/kg bw depending on who you ask. The lower end of the range is more appropriate for endurance athletes that need lots of carbs for performance, but even those athletes go for higher protein intakes nowadays. The upper end is popular with amateur and pro bodybuilders that want to make sure they do everything right to squeeze even the tiniest of muscle growth out of their training.
I like to start most people at 2g/kg bw. For beginners that are not used to a higher protein intake, this is often already challenging enough, but still rather easy to hit on day-to-day basis. It is also an easy to remember number and most likely “enough” for optimal muscle growth. Remember that you can always eat more protein if you like to, as there are virtually no downsides to a high protein consumption.
Dietary fat got a bad rep for being overly fattening and increasing risk for cardiovascular disease, but we now know that this isn’t true at all. Quite contrary, fat is of great importance for several processes in our body like hormonal health and cell membrane synthesis. Also remember that there are essential fats that need to be consumed because our bodies are unable to produce them. One gram of fat has 9kcals.
There are countless different kinds of fats and fitness media likes to occasionally pick one of them and demonifies it. There are no “bad” or “good” fats, only disbalances of fat intake! A low intake of trans fats seems to be beneficial, so avoid overly processed foods where those are commonly found. Saturated fats and cholesterol are considered “neutral” for health concerns and there is no reason to eliminate them from your diet. Eat the yolks! A high intake of omega3 fatty acids is likely very healthy, so make sure to include many sources in your diet. Eat more fish!
Calculating fat intake is not as straight forward as for protein. When dieting, at least 20-30% of your daily energy intake should come from fats. You also often find 0,6-08g fat per kg bodyweight and often both methods give the same end result. If fat loss has to be aggressive, a lower percentage may be necessary, but this should always be a short term intervention! Women tend to perform better with slightly higher fat intakes than men, but during a diet, calories have to come down anyways, so this information is more applicable for maintenance/bulking.
Carbohydrates are used to fuel any type of training that exceeds everyday tasks like walking (those tasks use fat as a fuel). While I don’t think that the average Joe needs to push his carb intake for maximum performance in the gym, many people feel better with an adequate carb intake. Also people just like to eat carbs and there is no reason to cut them from your diet, you just have to fit them into your energy budget.
There are many different kinds of carbs, but unlike to protein and fat, there are no essential carbs that are needed for survival. There are no “bad” carbs, but simple, highly processed carbs like sugar and flour are not very satiating and devoid of any micronutrients, making them generally not very useful for dieting.
Calculating carbs is quite easy, you just take the remaining calories and divide it by four, round it down, and boom, you are ready to go!
Let’s go over the key points using an example to make everything clearer. To keep calculations easy, let’s take a 100kg male. We do our energy intake calculation and set him to 2000kcal per day.
To calculate protein intake, we multiply his bodyweight by two, which is 200g of protein per day.
We set fat at 25% of his energy intake, which is 500kcal of fat. 500 divided by 9 is about 55g of fat per day.
Carbs take the rest: 200g of protein are 800kcals. Add the 500kcal from fat and you have 1300kcals used up. Subtract this from 2000kcals and you see that 700kcals are left for carbs. Divide those 700 through 4 and you have 175g of carbs. Easy 😉 !
To be completely honest with you, this level of detail is quite possibly too much for the average beginner. I like to give calorie and protein targets and let carbs and fats fall where they happen to be. This makes adherence much easier, which is the most important factor of a successful diet! Never underestimate it!
In addition, as well as for calories, it is not important where you start but how you adapt. Especially during dieting or contest prep you may want to shuffle some macros around, depending on your goals and needs.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and hopefully you are now able to calculate your macros on your own. No need to pay for some simple caculations! If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Have a nice day, stay strong, and eat well!