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Nutrition Primer- 103- Macronutrients

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In Nutrition Primer 102 we defined what these mysterious macronutrients and calories. And you’ve calculated how many CALORIES you need based on your energy level (the scale of 13-18). But what about the macros? If you calculate that you should be at 3000 calories a day, how many should come from protein? Fat? CARBS?! (We like carbohydrates… I’m sure you do, too.)

Before we go further, just a friendly reminder that you MUST consume enough calories at the end of the day if you want to see results. Yes, even if you want to lean out, you must START by EATING. If you calculate that you need to eat 2400 calories based on your weight and your energy level, that is your main goal. Think of yourself as a car- the 2400 calories are the engine, the macros are the body kit. If you don’t start with a good engine, doesn’t matter what the body kit looks like.

START

To accurately calculate how many macronutrients you need, we need to determine your approximate lean body mass. Take your body weight and subtract your body fat. This will give you your lean body mass. Our protein and carbohydrate calculations will come from your lean body mass.

To determine your body fat, use any number of methods. Three popular options are as follows:

  1. BodPod or DEXA Scan- most accurate but most costly
  2. Measurements- fairly objective but larger margin of error. The US Navy Calculator is the standard- you’ll need to measure your waist, neck, and hips (women only).
  3. Visual Chart- the most subjective, but quick!
    bodyfat chart

All of these measurements will give you a body fat percentage. Multiple this percentage by your body weight to get the pounds of body fat. Then plug into the formula: (Body Weight)-(Body Fat)=(Lean Body Mass).

PROTEIN

Protein comes first because it is by far the most important. Most people in the “meathead” category (aka everyday normal people) do not consume enough protein. This all important macronutrient provides essential amino acids needed to repair and build your muscles. It can also provide energy, similar to the way carbohydrates and fats provide energy, but this isn’t it’s main job. Along with being required for good muscular development, protein is very satiating, meaning you will stay fuller longer after eating.

Ideally, source your protein from clean, lean sources like egg whites, whole white meat chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, fish, shellfish, and lean dairy products (if you are unreactive). You can add powdered protein supplements, however they should be used as SUPPLEMENTS, not as meal replacements.

To calculate your requirements:

(Lean Body Mass)*(x)=grams of protein needed

What does “x” equal?

  • MEN- use a factor of 1-1.25
  • WOMEN- use a factor of .8-1

Where should you fall in the ranges above? It depends! If your goal is muscle gain and/or you’re a strength athlete (CrossFit, strongman, power lifter, weight lifter, body builder), err on the higher end. If you are simply looking for basic health, muscle maintenance, and/or your training is more on the long-slow-steady cardio side, err on the lower end. You may also find over time that you react better to more protein or vice versa. It’s not set in stone, but it is the number that you should base everything else off of.

As a general rule, space your protein intake out evenly throughout the day.

CARBOHYDRATES

You NEED carbohydrates. As an athlete, carbohydrates are you best friend. As a non-athlete, carbohydrates are like taxes, you need them, but not too much. Most people in the “paleo” category do not consume enough, while people in the “everyday normal human” category generally overeat carbohydrates (and of the wrong type!). As an athlete, carbohydrates provide you with energy to perform and insulin spikes to assist recovery/rebuilding. As a non-athlete, carbohydrates provide some energy, dietary fiber for digestion, and cell generation. Our goal is to help you eat the RIGHT AMOUNT for your lifestyle.

Ideally, your carbohydrates will be sourced from clean foods. There are two categories we will identify: starches and fibrous. Starchy carbohydrates should come from foods like potatoes (white and sweet), yams, rice, oats, yucca, and winter squashes. Fibrous vegetables (yes, vegetables ARE carbohydrates) should make up the bulk of your diet, like asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, celery, eggplant, and much more. Beans are also a good source of starchy carbohydrates and protein, only if you are unreactive. Lightly steam or sautee your vegetables, and bake or boil your starches.

To calculate your requirements:

(Lean Body Mass)*(x)=grams of carbohydrate needed

What is “x” equal?

  • Rest day (no more than light movement)= .5
  • Light day (light workout, burn up to 500 calories)= 1
  • Intense day (harder/longer workout, burn up to 1000 calories)= 1.5
  • Extreme day (very hard workout, competition, long race)= 2

Unlike protein, your carbohydrate intake will vary from day to day. The intake should be based on your energy expenditure, but the trick here is to use general “brackets” of intensity. One “light” day may be harder than another “light” day, but over the course of time everything should balance out. It is also very subjective- what you perceive to be intense might really be extreme, or what you think it light might really be intense. After tracking your weight and recovery over a few weeks you should be able to tell if you’re eating too much (i.e. gaining weight) or eating too little (not feeling recovered and no weight loss).

As a general rule, space your carbohydrates out evenly on rest days. On workout days concentrate your carbohydrate intake around your workouts- 30-40% before the workout and 60-70% after the workout.

FATS

Fat, like carbohydrates, are ESSENTIAL to human life. Your hormones are made from the dietary fat you take in. If you’re not eating enough fats you will likely develop hormonal and/or thyroid issues over the long run, leaving you feeling lethargic, unrecovered, and likely fighting weight GAIN even at low calories. On a maintenance diet, fats generally make up 40-60% of your caloric intake. When you decide to cut body fat in a caloric restricted diet (after you’ve already cleaned up your dietary choices AND maintained an isocaloric intake), fat will be the main macronutrient adjusted. However, because it is so essential to our health, we need to be careful not to decrease intake below 10% of caloric intake for longer than 3-4 weeks.

Ideally, you will source fats from clean foods like avocado, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, soaked nuts and seeds, coconut butter, and high quality animal fats. Fats from eggs and meat and full fat dairy (if tolerated) from grass feed beef and lamb are ideal sources. Stay away from vegetable oils (corn, soy, canola), especially when deep fried. Most processed foods have hydrogenated vegetable oils in them which can be highly carcinogenic!

To calculate your requirements:

(Lean Body Mass)*(Activity Level)=(Total Caloric Requirement)   Activity level can be found in Nutrition Primer 102

(Total Caloric Requirement)-((Protein Requirement*4)+(Carbohydrate Requirement Rest Day)*4))=grams of fat needs

While maintaining, you should plan to keep your fat intake level every day, even on workout days. Cutting fat calories too soon will make it difficult to sustain your diet and you’ll likely hit a plateau too early. You want to eat as much food as you can get away with! In our next post we will discuss when to start cutting fat calories.

As a general rule, spread fat intake out evenly on rest days. On workout days, keep your fat intake away from workouts and heavy carbohydrate meals.

The Takeaways

Calculate your Lean Body Mass (LBM) first by subtracting your body fat from your body weight.

PROTEIN: Multiply your LBM by a factor of .8-1.25 depending on gender and goals to get grams of protein needed daily
CARBOHYDRATE: Multiply your LBM by a factor of .5-2 depending on energy expenditure that day to get grams of carbohydrate need that day
FATS: Multiply your LBM by your Activity Level for your Daily Caloric Requirements (DCR). Add your protein and carbohydrate and subtract from the DCR to get grams of fat needed daily.

Eat clean, whole foods. On rest days, evenly spread macronutrients across all meals. On workout days spread protein out evenly, but concentrate carbohydrates close to workouts and fats far away from workouts.

Read Nutrition Primer 101 and Nutrition Primer 102 here!