Level – Intermediate
Words – ~1400
Reading Time – 5-7 minutes
Now you are familiar with what macros are and what each of them do as discussed in Part 1, it’s now time to get down into the nitty gritty and do some math, but don’t worry you don’t need a degree in quantum mechanics to give you a rough guide on the amounts you should be eating.
Which sets up a perfect reminder that these are simply guidelines and a rough idea as to what your calorie intake is and is by no means exact. There will always be outliers that need more or less but these at least give you a calculated starting point. At which point you can make changes depending on your progress which we’ll discuss in more detail in Part 3.
“How Many Calories Should I Eat Per Day?”
Our first answer to that question would be;
“As many as you can whilst still making progress towards your goal”
You don’t get any gold stars or brownie points (pun intended) for eating less than your body requires. You’ll simply set yourself up for poor recovery, poor performance and a massive rebound. For both weight loss and muscle gain, you should be eating the most amount of calories possible whilst losing or gaining weight at a respectable rate.
We’ll get off our high horse though and give you some rough numbers to go by, so here are some simple calculations you can use to determine a starting point.
Fat Loss – 10 – 12 calories per lb of body weight
Maintenance – 13 -15 calories per lb of body weight
Muscle Gain – 16 -18 calories per lb of body weight
To give an example of a 180lb male, their starting calorie intake might look something like this:
Fat loss – 1800 – 2160
Maintenance – 2340 – 2700
Muscle Gain – 2880 – 3240
We’ve had clients that need both more and less than these figures but find most people fall somewhere in these ranges.
If you find you are fairly sedentary, do little cardiovascular activity and have a low training volume then you’ll probably be on the lower end of these figures and vice versa if you are active and have a higher training volume.
Note: There are formulas out there that can potentially work out your calorie intake more accurately but it is all guess work and we have found this way is simple and accurate enough for a starting point.
The MOST ACCURATE Way To Determine Calorie Intake
The above figures are simply guesstimates based on research and experience. The best way in fact to determine calorie intake is to track your weight and your calorie intake over a period of time, 3-4 weeks is usually enough. Track both calories and weight every day and work out the weekly average for each.
Weight going down? You’re in a caloric deficit (fat loss)
Weight staying stable? You’re at caloric maintenance (maintenance)
Weight going up? You’re in a caloric surplus (muscle gain)
At which point you can then decide what changes you need to make dependent on your goal, which we’ll be going through later on in the series.
“How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day?”
We’re going to start with protein as we’re going to assume that if you’re reading this, you train regularly or are looking to getting into training regularly. Whether that be resistance based training, cardio based training or a bit of both, adequate protein intake is essential for the repair and recovery process.
The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for protein in the UK is 45g & 55g for women and men respectively. Studies have shown that, particularly during fat loss phases, this is inadequate for those participating in regular activity.
As activity increases, the demands for protein increases, which needs to be met through your diet or your body will begin to break down muscle.
Some research has shown levels of up to 1.4g per lb of bodyweight have been beneficial but this is more so for elite level bodybuilders with relatively high training volumes and extreme levels of leanness (i.e probably not you.)
With that being said, we like to fall somewhere in the middle at 0.8g – 1g per lb of bodyweight.
Using the same example as above, a 180lb person would aim for roughly 145-180g of protein per day.
As demands increase and body fat levels come down it may be worth increasing your intake to spare muscle tissue but for most, this range should be more than sufficient.
“How Much Fat Should I Eat Per Day?”
As discussed in Part 1, fat definitely doesn’t make you fat and is a vital component for health and performance. The low fat fad diets of the 90’s certainly worked when it came to weight loss, as they created a huge calorie deficit but low fat diets also have the ability to affect long term health. Fortunately, as with most diets, people weren’t able to sustain such low fat for any prolonged period of time without going a bit loopy.
As with protein, the best way to determine fat intake is proportionate to body weight and we recommend fat intake to be anywhere from 0.3g – 0.6g per lb of body weight.
This is quite a large range and will largely depend on dietary preference.
With calories determined and protein intake set, your level of fat intake will depend on how many carbohydrates you want to include in your diet.
Prefer carbs? Go for the lower end.
Prefer fats? Go for the higher end.
For those of you that participate in performance based sports, both resistance and cardio based it’s also worth considering which has more of an impact on performance. There is no right or wrong way, sometimes it takes some trial and error.
This means our 180lb person would be aiming for around 54g – 108g fat per day.
“How Many Carbs Should I Eat Per Day?”
Calorie intake = check
Protein intake = check
Fat intake = check
Carbohydrate intake = whatever is left
Once calories, protein and fat have been accounted for, you can then work out how many carbohydrates you can fit into your calorie intake and how many grams that will be.
“How many carbs should I eat per day?” is one of the most frustrating questions we get as carbohydrate intake alone doesn’t determine your weight loss or weight gain. Sure the quantity does matter but only in the context of all the other macronutrients. If you’re trying to lose weight but you’re over eating calories then you could be eating 20g of carbs and still not lose an ounce.
“How Much Fibre Should I Eat Per Day?”
The Institute of Medicine suggest getting a minimum of 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories which is a good target for those on higher calorie diets to make sure food is passing through the gut at a sensible rate but is a touch on the low side for those on lower calorie diets.
We would typically recommend a minimum of 25g of fibre, regardless of intake, anywhere up to 80g for very high calorie diets.
Too much fibre has the potential affect the absorption of nutrients so if you are on a higher calorie diet, it is definitely something to monitor.
How To Work Out Your Macros
Hint: This is where you may need to get your calculator out
Based on what we have discussed above, we are going to use a theoretical example to show you how to roughly work out your macronutrient targets.
Subject: Active 180lb male looking to lose fat and maintain muscle who prefers carbs over fats.
180 x 12 calories per lb = 2160 calories
180 x 1g per lb = 180g (720 calories)
180 x 0.3g per lb = 54g (486 calories)
Total calories – Protein calories – Fat calories = Carbohydrate calories
2160 – 720 – 486 = 954 calories
954 calories / 4 (4 calories per gram of carbohydrate) = 239g
Calories = 2160
Protein = 180g
Fat = 54g
Carbohydrates = 239g
You could always round up or round down to keep things a little neater but this would be a rough starting point for our subject. From here, you would then assess progress on a weekly or bi-weekly process and make any necessary adjustments.
As you can see from the example above, a nice healthy spread of all the macros to ensure maximum health, performance and body composition whilst also catering to that specific persons needs. If you’re less active you may need to eat less, if you prefer higher fats then you’ll need to go lower carb and so on. There is no one size fits all but these calculations at least give you some idea of what ranges to be within. No macronutrient should be completely discarded.
In the final part of our series we’re going to be going through how you can change your macros if you hit a plateau so stayed tuned!
Want to save the hassle and have one of the team work out your macros for you? Get In Touch
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