So you want to go from good shape to GREAT shape?
Well you’re going to need to learn a few things about nutrition first. Unfortunately the majority of nutrition information out there is just absolute bullshit to sell you on some book or diet program.
First we were supposed to eat low fat, then it was low carb, and then they created “gluten intolerance” and an entire gluten-free industry was launched.
The truth is, to function optimally, we need protein, fat and yes carbs. The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice an entire macronutrient to get a six pack. (Not even alcohol, which is the 4th macronutrient technically. Although I personally don’t drink much anymore)
As you progress in your fitness journey you will notice a paradigm shift in how you think of food.
First we tend to think of foods as healthy and unhealthy.
Then we start counting our calories and make sure we get enough protein and/or not too many carbs.
To have full control over your body composition, you will need to advance to where you think in terms of grams of macronutrients, instead of just calories in vs calories out.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients, or macros, are our primary fuel sources: protein, fat and carbohydrates.
As opposed to micronutrients, which are vitamins and minerals.
Besides fueling our bodies with energy, each nutrient is important for specific functions in the body.
Protein is the building block of the body.
Protein is responsible for repair and maintenance of our tissues such as hair, eyes, skin, muscles, and organs. It is also a great energy source that is more satiating (keeps you full longer) than fat or carbs. Protein is responsible for other functions as well, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
Protein sources include:
- Protein Powder
I recommend consuming between 0.5-2 grams per pound of bodyweight with 0.5 grams being the bare minimum.
Typically most people will get MORE than enough protein to build muscle by just consuming 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. I only suggest going over that if you are losing weight and want to replace some of your carbs with protein.
The only time someone would need to eat more protein while in a caloric surplus would be an enhanced lifter who is getting increased protein synthesis from PED’s. Otherwise, this whole idea of needing tons of protein to build muscle was created by supplement companies to keep you buying their products.
Fat has been given a very bad reputation, although I think people are starting to wise up now.
Fat is vital for hormone regulation, brain function and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Fellas, listen up, if you don’t get enough quality fat in your diet your testosterone levels will plummet – along with your energy and sex drive.
Good fat sources include:
- Fatty fish
- Real butter
For myself and most people, I recommend 0.4-0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight. For the natural athlete, I never recommend less than 0.35 gram per pound. Enhanced lifters can get away with much lower fat in their diets because their testosterone levels are off the charts anyways, but still need fats for general health.
Carbohydrates are digested and converted into glucose to be used for energy or stored in our muscles or liver as glycogen.
Excess carbohydrates are converted to fat and stored for energy, this is why carbs get such a bad reputation. However, I have found (along with modern science) from my experience that carbs are the most useful tool for building muscle and overall energy.
This is why I would never suggest cutting carbs completely from your diet unless you’re instructed by your doctor for a medical reason.
Good carb sources include:
There’s not a good one-size-fits-all recommendation for carbohydrates. What works best for most people is to calculate your protein and fat intake and then fill in the rest of your calories with carbs.
How to Calculate Your Macronutrient Needs
If you don’t already know how many calories you consume then you need to use a calculator to figure out your caloric intake requirement. I’m a big fan of MyFitnessPal, but their calculator sucks. I’ve found that this calculator is more accurate for myself and most people.
Now is a good time to mention that all calories aren’t equal.
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
Ok, once you have that then you can go to the next step. I’ll use an example to explain.
Let’s say you have a 185 lb male who consumes 2800 calories a day. First I calculate his protein needs by multiplying 1 gram per pound. Then to figure out his fat needs I multiply 0.5 gram per pound and fill in the rest of the calories with carbs. Here’s how it looks:
- 185 lbs x 1 gram of protein = 185 grams x 4 calories = 740 calories
- 185 lbs x 0.5 gram of fat = 92.5 grams x 9 calories = 832.5 calories
Then you want to subtract those calories from the total caloric intake.
- 740 + 832.5 = 1572.5, so 2800 – 1572.5 = 1227.5
Then you need to figure the total grams in the remaining calories.
- 1227.5 calories / 4 calories per gram = 306.8 grams
So his macros would look like this:
- Protein – 185 grams
- Fat – 92 grams
- Carbs – 307 grams
Now this is a great starting point, but macros are very individualized and you’ll need to play around with the ratios to figure out what works best for you and your goals.
You can tinker with any of the three until you find what your body responds best to.
I personally don’t adjust the fat, but I adjust the carbs and protein amounts based on my current training goals. Some people do better with higher fat and lower carbs, while others need lots of carbs for adequate energy levels.
Don’t get overwhelmed, it might take several weeks to get it figured out. It’s well worth it in the end, trust me. If you drink then you should include those calories as part of your carb intake.
There you have it.
This is hands-down the best way to control your diet and optimize your results. It seems complicated at first, but before you know it you won’t even be thinking in terms of calories anymore.
When I look at food I don’t see calories – I see grams. This is why traditional bodybuilder diets are so boring like chicken and rice or eggs and oatmeal. These foods are a source of primarily one macronutrient. So when you see chicken and rice, they see protein and carbs measured in grams.
You can imagine it becomes difficult to track your macros when you eat fast food because the macros aren’t balanced. This is why most people use an app or website like MyFitnessPal to track their food. You can just look at the macros and ignore the calories.
I hope that helps you guys out. Although this is probably old news to most, there are lots of people who still don’t know about this method.
For those that already count their macros, please share with us in the comments the experience you’ve had.
Until next time,
BONUS: Check out this presentation by Alan Aragon (highly respected authority on nutrition) where he refutes many common diet myths here.
Also, a critical analysis on the literary source behind the gluten-free market by Julie Jones, PhD, of St. Catherine University. Here’s an excerpt from the summary:
While these diets have been shown to promote rapid weight loss in the medium term (6 months) and may be advantageous for individuals with metabolic syndrome and abnormal glucose tolerance, they have not been shown to be long-term solutions to obesity for most people. In fact the diets with the greatest long-term success rates are those that include all the food groups, only in smaller amounts; recommend exercise four times per week; and offer solutions that are sustainable over the long term (114). A much larger proportion of people who keep weight off do so with diets that are high in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean meats and whole grains than those who follow other types of diets (115).
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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