Match Your Macronutrients to Your Fitness Goal
You can have the best muscle-building or weight-loss program in the world, but if you aren’t matching your macronutrients to your goals, you’re going to fall short. While there is a general recommendation of improving overall nutrition to see better results, I believe in taking this one step further and fine-tuning your macronutrient ratio.
There are three types of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. By adjusting your daily macronutrients to your specific goal, you might achieve success sooner and possibly with better results than expected. Here are the suggested macronutrient percentages for the most common fitness goals.
Low-carbohydrate diets began as a trendy diet fad, and now they have become one of the leading recommendations for successful weight loss. With recent studies and the success of the ketogenic diet, low-carb paleo diet, and the Atkins diet, the initial debate on the efficacy and safety of low-carb diets has been reduced from a raging boil to a simmer.
A study published in The BMJ suggests that low-carb diets provide a superior metabolic response, helping you to burn more calories while keeping insulin levels in check. Moreover, subjects using a low-carb diet were found to have lower levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone that can trigger cravings.
Given its satisfactory level of compliance, I would suggest a low-carbohydrate approach to weight loss. This means the bulk of your calories will be coming from fat and protein as opposed to carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates: 15%
- Protein: 30%
- Fat: 55%
For those interested in taking the low-carb lifestyle to the next level, there’s the popular keto diet. A therapeutic or low-activity keto diet has a much greater number of calories coming from fat, which may cause temporary stomach issues and mild symptoms of lethargy as your body adapts.
- Carbohydrates: 5%
- Protein: 15%
- Fat: 80%
Increasing the amount of lean muscle tissue on your body can promote the two other fitness goals on this list. Lean muscle tissue has been shown to burn more calories while at rest when compared to fat tissue, and it also helps you adapt to performance-focused training programs.
The amino acids found within dietary protein are the building blocks of muscle tissue; therefore, when you want to increase muscle size, you’ll need to increase how much protein you eat. Sounds easy enough, but exactly how much protein do you need to build muscle?
While the unwritten rule of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight has no scientific backing, I still recommend it. There are studies that suggest 0.7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight for muscle-building, and that 0.3-gram difference isn’t going to hurt your gains; in fact, it may do just the opposite.
- Carbohydrates: 40%
- Protein: 35%
- Fat: 25%
If you prefer a lower-carbohydrate diet, studies suggest that eating more fat—not more protein—can provide the fuel you need for energy during weightlifting. Keep in mind the emphasis on weightlifting here. As I’ll discuss below, a high-fat, low-carb diet may not be ideal for endurance-focused goals.
- Carbohydrates: 20%
- Protein: 35%
- Fat: 45%
High-fat diets are becoming more common for many types of athletes—except those involved in endurance or high-intensity activities. For the marathon runner, sprinter, or swimmer, the majority of studies and professionals are still in the carbohydrate camp. This is because many experts believe that fat cannot be utilized fast enough to provide the energy needed for optimal performance.
With that said, in order to fuel endurance-based performance, I recommend a higher intake of carbohydrates and protein. But don’t forget about your healthy fats!
- Carbohydrates: 50%
- Protein: 30%
- Fat: 20%
The foundation of any type of fitness success lies in having a comprehensive diet and fitness program. Once you decide what your goal is—gaining muscle, losing fat, or increasing performance—you can effectively tweak your day-to-day macronutrients to align with it.
It’s important to remember that these are recommendations, not prescriptions. The following macronutrient ratios are based on research and experience with clients. Even if these macronutrient percentages are ideal for your body type and fitness goal, I still highly recommend consulting with your doctor or nutritionist before altering your diet.