Truth be told, I don’t talk in detail about macro nutrition with most of the clients that I train. The reason why is because while macro breakdown matters there are many ways to break up your macro nutrition and still see results. That being said, I wanted to create a post for all of my people to have a detailed overview of my thoughts on macros and what I have found in the research I have done.
Fist off, let me start this post by saying that your macro breakdown can be on point, but if you aren’t eating in the proper calorie range then it will be impossible to reach your goals. Now that we have that out of the way we can talk about what different macronutrient groups exist, what they are for, and how they should be broken down in your diet. The first macronutrient we are going to cover is protein. Protein is all the buzz these days. I’m sure we have all run into someone in the gym saying “BRO, ARE YOU EATING 1 GRAM OF PROTEIN PER POUND OF BODYWEIGHT?, BECAUSE IF YOU AREN’T YOU SHOULD BE!” Yea we all know that guy. Now, while this might be a good recommendation for some it isn’t the be all end all of protein intake. Protein is used in our bodies to repair and build new muscle tissue. For the average adult the FDA recommends 50 grams of protein per day to maintain health and properly heal the body. What this means is that if a person is moderately active and is fine with their body composition 50 grams of protein per day is enough to maintain that. Extra protein becomes more imperative as activity increases. It is also important when someone is seeking a change in body composition. So as activity goes up so must protein. Now this is just a general recommendation. If you are someone that wants to be especially specific with protein intake we will talk about that as well. Most of the research that I have done on protein explains that protein intake should vary based on individual goals and calorie intake. When someone is in a calorie surplus (bulking up) the need for protein is actually lower than when in a calorie deficit. The normal recommendation for someone in a calorie surplus is .8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Now, I’m sure you are thinking that this is counterintuitive because when someone is trying to build muscle wouldn’t they want to intake more protein? The truth is your body only needs enough protein to grow. Eating just enough gives more calories for things like carbohydrates and fats that can be used to fuel the intense workouts needed to build muscle mass. The way that it actually works is, as calorie needs become lower protein requirements become higher. When a person is trying to maintain their bodyweight (Calorie Balance) the need for protein is usually about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. And, when a person is trying to lose weight (calorie deficit) the need for protein is the highest at 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight. There is a big reason for this. When your body is shedding lbs it is going to use whatever it can to make up for the lack of energy it is being fed. So, not only will it eat fat but it will also eat muscle mass. Allowing for extra protein in the diet will provide for “muscle sparing” when dieting. In my opinion protein intake is probably one of the most important things to consider in a diet. Fats and carbohydrates can be interchangeable in most cases, but protein is a macronutrient that cannot be replaced.
Now that we have covered protein let’s move on to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy. They are the macronutrient that requires the least amount of work to be turned into energy. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred method for gaining energy for movement. Now, carbohydrates get a lot of flack in today’s society with things like gluten intolerance, insulin sensitivity, etc. However, for the average human being carbohydrates are completely safe. Carbohydrates can come in many forms. Simple sugar, complex carbohydrates, fiber (which we will discuss ion a bit). And, all of these types of carbohydrates provide energy at different rates. A complex carbohydrate is something that the body has to work a little harder to digest so it will provide higher levels of satiation. These are most carbohydrates that you would find in a balanced diet. Oatmeal, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole grains, etc. Whereas simple sugars are things like fruit, candy, table sugar, etc. Simple sugars can be digested in the body quickly and provide quick bursts of energy because they can be easily digested. The biggest thing I want to convey when talking about types of carbohydrates is that no carbohydrate is bad if used in the right way. Simple carbohydrates are great if used around activity to provide replenishment after a hard workout. Complex carbohydrates are great if consumed with meals. No matter what everything has its place. Now, for most people carbohydrates will comprise the majority of daily calories. This is because as Americans we tend to prefer a diet high in carbohydrates. Personally, I prefer a high carbohydrate diet, but eating high carb is not for everyone and energy can also be provided by a higher fat diet as well. Before we move on I want to talk about the role of fiber in the diet. Fiber is also considered a carbohydrate. However, dietary fiber cannot be broken down by the body. The daily recommended fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 30-38 grams for men. Fiber does two main things in the body. One, it helps with digestion by thickening stool and also slowing the digestive process in the stomach. Two, it provides satiety. The satiating effects of fiber are the main reason many people prefer a higher carbohydrate diet especially if it is balanced properly. No matter what type of diet you prefer the most important thing to consume alongside protein is fiber. This is because it aids in regularity and also provides a feeling of “fullness” which can be especially helpful when trying to lose weight because less total calories are being consumed.
The last macronutrient we have to cover is fats. Fats, just like carbohydrates, have also been part of many smear campaigns over the years. Eating fat will make you fat, etc. Truth is fat is necessary in a healthy diet. Fats help with hormone production, especially testosterone and estrogen. They also aid in cell membrane production and have a host of other functions in the body. In studies, fats have also been shown to have satiating effects and many people prefer eating a higher fat diet because it can reduce the feelings of “extreme hunger” when one has gone a long time without eating. Fats can be used through the diet to provide the main source of energy for the body. Basically, fats can replace carbohydrates for energy purposes, but carbohydrates cannot replace fats for bodily processes like hormone production. Now, just like carbohydrates there are different types of fats. There are polyunsaturated fats, monounsaturated fats, and saturated fats. Now I’m not going to get into the scientific details of all of the types of fats because it isn’t necessary for the scope of this post. But, in general you want to limit the consumption of saturated fats and increase the consumption of unsaturated fats. Increased saturated fats have been linked to higher cholesterol levels and other complications. This leads me into my next point. The one drawback to eating a diet high in fats is it can cause certain people to have elevated cholesterol levels. Many clients that I have trained over the years have told me that they tried the ketogenic diet and ended up going to their doctor and being diagnosed with high cholesterol. That is why for most I recommend limiting fat intake and not using it as a main source of energy. But, everyone prefers different methods of dieting. Now, one other drawback to consider with a high fat diet is when the body has a higher content of fat through the diet it is more likely that some of that fat will be stored as adipose tissue (Body Fat). This is more likely to happen in a calorie surplus than in a maintenance or deficit. Regardless, the point I want to make is that fats can provide energy for the body and can be eaten at a higher amount if someone prefers fatty foods over higher carbohydrate foods.
So, to make sense of everything I just said. The two main things to consider with macronutrient breakdown are protein and fiber. These two things will usually make or break a diet. If someone is trying to build muscle and protein is too low the body will have a harder time creating new muscle mass. If someone is dieting and fiber intake is too low it is more likely that overconsumption will occur. Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy. However, the body can get all the energy it needs through a higher fat diet if that is the preferred method of the dieter. Fats are necessary in the diet for bodily processes and can make up the predominant amount of energy for the body if carbohydrate consumption is low. This is why as a coach I recommend one thing to all of my clients. Choose a diet that you will follow. Take into consideration how much protein and fiber intake you are getting. But, the rest can be broken down however you choose as long as you are eating in your calorie range. Macronutrient breakdown is simple, I hope this post provided some clarity to those of you who feel it is a cloudy subject. Good luck with whatever plan you choose and as always STAY STRONG.
My name is Patriel Dunford and as the owner of Infinite Fitness my main goal in life is to spread good advice in the health industry and help people live healthier, longer, more fulfilling lives.