Whether your goal is changing your body composition, losing fat or building muscle, your calories and macros play a key role in your success. Plan it right and you reap the rewards of your hard training in the gym. Pay no attention to your nutrition and you likely end up with nothing to show for those long hours in the gym. Like the old saying goes "If you fail to plan, plan to fail."
Instead of going at it blindly, here is your guide to reaching your goals!
Step 1 - Calculate your calories and macros
Do yourself a favor and download a calorie tracking app like MyFitnessPal.
Apps like this make it so easy and take out all the guess work, especially for beginners. All you need to do is enter your info and set your goals, whether it is losing or gaining weight. This will give you an excellent foundation on where to start.
Step 2 - Calculate your protein needs
This is crucial! You can read more detail on protein and it's importance here.
Protein itself is a building macro, it is responsible for many functions in the body and is an essential part to reaching your goals.
Consuming enough protein is vital when it comes to building new muscle, and even more important when your goal is to lose weight. It is also important for post workout recovery, helping to repair damaged muscle while supporting your existing muscle mass.
It is also the least likely to be stored as fat!
The amount of protein you need will ultimately be determined by your current fitness level and your existing muscle mass. The more muscle you have and the more you use it (training frequency) - the more protein you will need.
So where to start?
Unfortunately apps like MyFitnessPal will only calculate a minimum daily recommended amount of protein, so you'll have to do this yourself and adjust your requirements in the app.
- The minimum recommended amount of protein is one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So start there, and increase as you progress.
- According to research, a high protein diet (anywhere from 2 to 3 grams of protein a day, per kilo of body weight) is suggested to support more muscle growth and less body fat gain in a bulking diet. But this can be quite hard for a beginner.
Of course, the exact amount that works for you can depend on various factors. It is not always necessary to eat hundreds of grams of protein daily to see muscle gain. So the take-away here is:
Aim to get at least 1-1.5 grams per kilo of body weight and increase as needed.
Step 3 - Determine how many carbs you need
While protein is essential to building muscle, so are carbs. Especially if your goal is bulking to gain more weight.
Carbohydrates supply energy for your muscle building workouts as well as supporting muscle growth in other ways, such as supporting exercise recovery and prevention of muscle breakdown.
A higher carb level might also be ideal for weight gain, with some studies suggesting that high carb intake is less likely to promote fat storage compared to high fat intake when calorie needs are exceeded.
Of course, this always depends on the person and how well/often your body uses carbs for energy.
The easiest way to go about this is to figure out your protein and fat requirements first. Then it is easy to figure out just how much carbs should make up your calories. (1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories).
For example: A 60kg woman who needs 1500 calories, 40 grams of fat and 90 grams of protein would need
- 1500 calories - (40g of fat x 9) - (90g of protein x 4) = 780 carb calories /4 = 195 grams of carbs per day
- 1500 calories - 360 - 360 = 780 /4 = 195 grams of carbs
Counting macros to meet your goals
Calculating your macros and calorie needs is only half the battle.
To get optimal results you'll need to track your calories and macros daily!
As I mentioned earlier, downloading an app like MyFitnessPal can make this fairly easy, but it will take some discipline to log everything you eat and drink throughout the day. But if you don't you will just be guessing when it comes to your nutrition.
Tracking macros is the best way to ensure your daily macro split is on point and that you are sticking to your diet consistently - which ultimately leads to results.
Of course you can always go one step further....
If you want the easiest way to stay on top of your calories and macros, save time on cooking, cleaning and shopping for groceries. Take a look at our meal boxes and choose one that's right for you.
Our meals are already uploaded to the MyFitnessPal database, making it even easier for you to stay on track.
Get started today!
This article is authored by James McMillan, Co-Founder of the Only Natural brand. James served in the US armed forces and spent 14 years as a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach within the US and Vietnam.
He currently overseas sales, and brand management for PFV and is a member of several committees for F&B, Agriculture and Sports & Wellness.