Today’s post is going to to be a little series to take you through the basics of how to set up a customized nutrition plan for your current goals. Now, how we’re going to do this is by breaking down the ins and outs of how your diet should be set up, some things you should consider as you begin the plan and track progress, and how to keep freedom in the equation so that you can have more of a flexible approach – which sets you up for success down the line. In today’s blog, let’s take a look at macronutrients (macros), what they are, and the role they play in your diet.
Macros: Putting Together The Puzzle Pieces and Foundation of Your Diet
Macros are the key components of your diet that provide calories for energy. These macros can be set up and manipulated in many ways to help transform your body, increase performance, and better your overall health. There are 3 basic macros and they are: protein carbohydrates, and fats. Let’s take a closer role in how this trifecta works together.
Protein: The Building Blocks of Your Diet
The base of your diet, and foundation to help either keep muscle, or build it, is protein. For meat eaters, the obvious is that it should come from lean sources. For vegetarians and vegans, your options can come from meatless “meat” products (which are typically soy based), tofu, beans, quinoa, tempeh, and seitan as great options.
The general recommendation for protein is about .8 x bodyweight in kilograms PER DAY! This is directly the recommendation from the USDA. So what that means is that the average adult weighing let’s say 150 pounds would need only 54 grams per day!
150 Pounds/2.2 = 68.2 KG68.2 x.8 = Approx. 55 Grams of Protein Per Day
Clearly for most of us who know even just a little bit about nutrition, this amount is fairly low. The recommendation from the USDA is a baseline for those who may not workout daily. So keep in mind that this is a simple starting point. For those who train, the recommendation adjusts to the following:
For endurance athletes, protein intake of 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram per day is recommended, while strength athletes may need 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram per day.
So coming up more in protein is a more realistic, and smarter approach for those of us who do in fact train. In a fat loss plan, increasing protein can also aid in blunting hunger, so the higher the number, the better you may be able to control appetite.
Over the years, there seems to be an overabundance on emphasizing the role of protein in the diet. The truth of the mater is that you don’t need to go too crazy with the amount you put on your plan. With our online coaching clients, we tend to keep protein between 1-1.5 x bodyweight (in pounds) for most clients. And although it’s a bit higher than the USDA recommended amount, it covers the needs of our trainees as they live busy lives, and stay consistent on their path of body transformation. Our RoxStar Fitness Inner Circle members can use the Macros and Daily Calories Calculator to come the same kind of conclusion we do when we set up plans.
As far as your sources for proteins, you can choose whatever you wish! Dietary freedom and variety is a major part of seeing success down the line. It is important to ensure that whatever you do choose meets your total macro requirements. But any source be it protein powder, beef/steak, eggs (whole and whites), chicken, turkey, fish (salmon, tilapia, halibut, cod, tuna, shrimp, scallops, or any variety you wish, bison, pork, and the list can go on and on. You can choose from leaner cuts, and occasionally allow for fattier cuts or meats. We tend to use a combination of all of these on client plans. So whether their goal is fat loss or lean building, if they are not allergic to (and also like) varieties of beef, chicken, turkey, and all kinds of fish, these options are all included. So don’t be afraid of stepping outside of the box to make your diet work for you.
Carbohydrates: A Source For Energy And More
Carbs get a very bad wrap. It seems like many people are almost deathly afraid of them. What they don’t realize is that carbs play an important role in many of the body’s functions. The brain in fact has a preference for glycogen (broken down carbohydrates) as a main source of energy (when the diet is balanced – it can also run on ketones, but this is in a state of very low carbs). Carbs play a role in the regulation of metabolism by having an affect on leptin (the master hormone of the metabolism which influences fat loss), gives you the explosive energy you need to train, and can help to keep your muscles pumped and full.
How much carbs you should include on your diet is a matter of how you wish to set things up. So let’s break it down by overall goals.
Carbohydrates and Fat Loss
There are a few things you can consider when it comes to your fat loss goals and how many carbs you wish to play with. If you’re the type of person who has great insulin sensitivity, and carbs leave you feeling energized and focused, then choosing a more moderate approach is great. So keeping carbodydrates between 30-50% of your total calories is a good start. You can always adjust this as you go along, taking more away or adding some into the diet. You would simply from here modify your protein and fats to complete the diet and reach the amount of calories you wish to have on your plan.
For those that have a more difficult time with higher carbs (they make you super bloated, you get sluggish and tired after a carb based meal, or having them in your diet in a high amount blunts fat loss), then lowering the amount to 5%-25% of your diet may be a better idea. There is a major caveat to this though… IF YOU LOWER YOUR CARBS FATS MUST COME UP TO MAKE UP THE REMAINDER OF THE DIET. You can choose to keep your protein a little higher in this case (1.5xBW for instance), take the carbs to a lower percentage of total calories as mentioned above, but the remaining amount of calories should come from your fats – so that will make your meal plan a more moderate to higher fat type of plan. And don’t worry, it won’t make you fat by eating more fat.
Carbohydrates and fats are the primary energy source for the human body. They are usually set conversely of each other, so as one goes down, the other must go up to meet your caloric requirements. So always keep this in mind as you set up your own plan.
Carbohydrates and Lean Building (Gaining Muscle)
For those focusing on putting on some size, and increasing strength, raising your carbs is an important aspect in the equation. For our online coaching clients, we tend to keep carbs a little higher in lean building phases. Training helps to increase insulin sensitivity, so even for those who have a harder time processing carbs during fat loss, they do indeed benefit from the increase in lean building. Of course, the amount on each client’s plan is set for the individual and their metabolism.
When it comes to amounts, you want to keep your carbs between about 30-50% of your diet. For those who have a little bit of a harder time with carbs, you can try to stay between 30-40%, for those who thrive on carbs, staying with a higher about will do well for you.
Carbs are an important building block when it comes to your lean build, and the results you subsequently see. One of the biggest mistakes I see with many people in their off season is that they are afraid to add carbs back in, so when they start to diet, they’re already at a point too low to do any kind of manipulation. Now again, how much YOU need on your plan is an individual thing, so try out different amounts and see what feels good for you. We have clients who are often well up to 200-350g of carbohydrates PER DAY off season, so anything is possible, and bio-feedback is most important.
Fats: The Skinny on A Vilified Macro
Alongside carbohydrates, fats get a terrible wrap when it comes to diet. Fats are essential to the function of the body. Fats help to regulate sex hormones in both men and women, fats compose the membranes around your sells, they are a part of neurons, and how much you have has a great impact on metabolism.
Dietary fats can help you to step up your game, so do NOT skimp out on them. For both fat loss and lean building, they can comprise between 20 to even 40% of your diet. If you were on a very low carb or ketogenic type of diet, where carbs are super low, then the higher end of hitting 40% fat is very realistic (even up to 45% in that case). For most diets, you’re going to want to play around with having fats around that 20-35%. Lower than 20% can start to cause some issues with hormonal function, so I don’t recommend going that low for most. But there are some people who thrive on lower fats, higher carbs, and moderate protein, and if you are on a fat loss plan, experimenting with taking carbs to 15-20%, while increasing carbs to make up for the calorie loss, may help you to see even greater progress.
What Are The Best Fat Sources?
Fats can come from many forms. I like to include avocados, nuts and nut butters of all kinds, olive oil, red palm oil, coconut oil, fish oil (usually as capsules), as well as fatty fish and cuts of beef to raise the fats on my own, and my clients’ plans. These are all amazing sources of fats that can do extremely well for keeping your diet where it needs to be, and help you get to your goals in a more intelligent way.
Cutting fats too low, or staying away from them out of fear is probably one of the worst things you can do when it comes to your nutrition set up. But if you follow the guidelines above, you’ll be able to put together a plan that is absolutely perfect for you.
In next part in this series, we’ll talk about how to best calculate calories to meet your fitness goals.
Talk to me, what are your favorite types of proteins, carbs, and fats to put onto your meal plan, and what kind of percentage set up has worked best for you with your macros? Leave comment below.