Ok so you are ready to hop aboard the IIFYM train but what are the best macros for you? Calculating your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and even calculating macros by hand is easy enough. But what if you have no clue how much of each macro you need? Even with the same calorie intake, there are an unlimited number of way to divide up your macros. Where to begin?
Identify Your Goals
Obviously, if you want to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you eat. But, did you know that certain macro levels can better set you up for success than others? For instance, even if you are only eating 1200 calories a day, you probably don’t want to get 50% of those calories from fat (600 calories or about 67g!!)
Ok thanks captain obvious! So what do I do? First decide your overall goal: do you want to lose weight, maintain, or gain?
The best macros for those who want to lose weight is a high protein, low carb, moderate fat approach. Getting enough protein is especially important for people who want to lose weight because protein will help you retain your muscle mass while losing fat. If you don’t get enough protein when cutting calories, you are going to lose muscle in addition to fat which isn’t good. Also, protein will help you feel full and satisfied. I recommend about 40% of your calories come from protein.
But, carbs are important too. Your body needs good sources of carbs to help you fuel your workouts. Having productive workouts is an important part of the weight loss equations so you don’t want to be fatigued and sluggish because you aren’t getting enough carbohydrates. I recommend getting at least 100g or 30% of your total calories from carbs whichever number is bigger.
Finally, although I recommend keeping fat intake low for weight loss, essential fats are still critical to your success. Your body needs fat because fats help your body absorb certain nutrients (like fat soluble vitamins) and to produce some types of hormones. Fat also helps give you energy and promotes cell growth. But for losing weight keeping your fat down will be ideal. I stick with about 30% calories from fat.
In summary, the best macros for your weight loss goals are about 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat.
Best Macros to Maintain
The best macros for the goal of maintaining your body weight are very balanced ratios of protein, carbs, and fat. For clients who are happy where they are at and who are more interested in improving performance rather than making the scale move, I recommend about 35% protein, 40% carbs, and 25% fat.
To put on muscle, carbs are your friend. Try setting your carb intake at 45%, protein at 35%, and fat at 20%. You still need plenty of protein to help you build muscle and carbs are going to help with that too. Keep you fat intake low, but not too low for the reasons we talked about above.
How Do You Train?
When deciding on the best macros for your goals, the above ratios are great starting points but how you train plays a big role as well. Are you a runner, yogi or powerlifter?
If you are an endurance athlete or runner, then the relatively low carb prescription for fat loss is not going to work for you. In general, athletes and especially those who participate in endurance sports will need higher levels of carbs. Of course when it comes to calculating macros, everything is a give and take so if you add to your carbs you will need to adjust your protein and fat. If you are a runner trying to lose weight, increase your carbs and decrease your fat. If you are trying to gain weight well….stop running! 😛
If your favorite type of exercise is on the calmer side like yoga or pilates, or you don’t get much exercise, you can reach your goals with a lower carb approach. These types of activities aren’t as demanding for energy so you don’t need as much carbs as your runner friends. You can play around trading more of your carbs for protein.
What if you are throwing around barbells, you ask? As this is my favorite form of exercise, I am glad you asked!! From personal experience, I find a moderate approach like I outlined for maintenance mode above will help you lose fa while following a weight lifting program. If you are trying to bulk then stick with the muscle gain formula of high carb, moderate protein and low fat.
What Do You Like?
One final consideration to take into account when determining the best macros for your goals is what you like best! Are you a carboholic? Do you love fat? Well you can’t go overboard but you can adjust your macro ratios to reflect your preferences! Start with the basic percentages for your goal (weight loss, maintenance or muscle gain) and then make small adjustments. Start with 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass and then use my tips in my post on macro calculations to figure out the remaining carbs and fat to meet your daily calorie goals.