Whether your goal is to gain muscle or lose fat, knowing how to figure out your macronutrients is crucial. The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Protein and carbohydrates each contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram. These three macronutrients make up your total caloric intake. In Part 1, we will go over how to figure out your macronutrients in order to maintain your weight.
Your personal caloric intake is highly individual. If you took two people with the same height, weight, and body fat percentage, their required calories could still vary by several hundred or even a thousand calories per day. This is because there are a countless number of factors which go into figuring out your required calories such as: age, gender, height, weight, body fat percentage, genetics, metabolism, activity level, and more. Someone who works a desk job will likely require fewer calories than someone who is on his feet all day.
When figuring out your own macronutrients, it is important to realize that there is no perfect starting point. However, there are plenty of wrong starting points. The below guidelines are a good way to get started.
First, it is necessary to determine your maintenance amount of calories. This is the amount of calories that if you consumed every day, your body weight would remain the same. This is important because if you don’t know how much to eat in order to maintain your weight, you certainly can’t know how many calories to eat in order to gain or lose weight.
To determine your maintenance amount of calories, multiply your body weight in pounds by 16. This number is not going to be completely accurate for everyone, but it’s a good starting point and you will be fine-tuning this number over time.
Once you have a total amount of calories to work with, start with protein. Protein should be set between .8 and 1 gram per pound of body weight. If you’re lean, you can eat closer to the higher end of this range and if you’re at a higher level of body fat, you can eat toward the lower end.
Next, you should figure out fat. Fat should be set between .4 and .7 grams per pound of body weight. Generally, there is a minimum amount of fat you should eat, but beyond a certain point it becomes personal preference as to whether you want to fill the rest of your calories with additional fat or carbs. For example, you may find that you feel fine on low fat and benefit from the higher carbohydrates. Conversely, you may find that you function more optimally on fewer carbohydrates and higher fat. This is where personal preference and experimentation come into play.
Lastly, since there is only one macronutrient left, you would fill the remaining calories with carbohydrates. The amount of carbohydrates you eat will depend on how much protein and fat you ultimately select.
Now that you have figured out your macronutrients, it’s time to fine-tune this number since this is just a starting point. Start by composing a diet with foods that hit your target macronutrients and track your body weight for a week. If you lost weight, then you need to add in a bit more carbohydrates in order to maintain. If you gained weight, then you would need to lower your carbohydrates a bit and continue monitoring your weight. Once your weight stays the same for a week, you have found your maintenance amount of calories and macronutrients.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss how to adjust these numbers if your goal is to gain muscle or lose fat.