Woah! Woah!! You read that right. In this blog post I am going to teach you how to calculate your own macronutrient prescription. When it comes to nutrition, I've been fortunate enough to have worked with some of the best coaches in the industry: Mike Kesthely of Nova3 Labs, James Fitzgerald of OPEX Fitness, Mike Lee of Big Dawgs, and Jason Phillips of iN3, to name a few. I have found that each of those coaches, although similar beliefs, have their own way of prescribing macros to a client. In this post, I describe what seems to be the most agreed upon way to calculate your starting macros. This is also the way I go about figuring out where to start with my own clients. So get out your pen, paper, and calculator and let's begin!
Step #1: Calories
One of the three main equations I like to use to determine how much food a client should be eating is the Total Daily Energy Expenditure equation which is based on Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and your activity level. You can calculate your BMR by Googling a BMR calculating or using an inBody analysis which I have found to be way more accurate. Once you have found your BMR follow the equation below to determine how many calories you should be consuming per day to reach your goal.
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) Little to no exercise = BMR x1.2 Light Exercise, training 1-3x/wk = BMR x1.375 Mod Active, training 3-5x/wk = BMR x1.55 Very Active, training 6-7x/wk = BMR x1.725 Extreme Activity = BMR x1.9 Weight Gain = TDEE + (300-500) Weight Loss = TDEE - (300-500) Maintenance = TDEE *When not sure which activity level to use always pick the one that is going to bring you closer to your goal. For example, train 3x/wk and want to loose weight: I'd go with BMR x1.375 - 300. ** This does not include Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which I usually determine by getting to know the client through the assessment.
Step #2: Protein
The goal is to consume 0.8g to 1.2g protein per lean body mass per day. (Rant: A big mistake people make is by going off of current body weight which ends up wrecking the client's gut among other things like dampening the aerobic energy system.) The specific number within that range varies on your specific goals and how your nutrition is periodized. Getting enough protein is essential because... 1. Protein has a very high thermic effect. Foods with more protein burn more calories in digestion. 2. Protein is a very satiating macro nutrient. They leave you feeling full! 3. Protein repairs skeletal muscle tissue. Higher performance and helps build muscle! 4. Protein stimulates the release of glucagon. This allows for the release of stored energy which is ideal for body comp and aesthetics.
Always choose to get your protein from whole foods whenever possible. However, sometimes life gets in the way and that's completely alright! When that happens powders or bars can definitely fill the void just as long it isn't happening consistently. Due to the lack of regulations on supplements the labeling usually isn't accurate and the amount of additives and artificial sweeteners can make them far from healthy.
Step #3: Fat
First off, hopefully you know by now that fats do not make you fat. Too much of anything will make you fat but fats specifically do not make you fat. So ‘member fats are GOOD. The goal is to consume roughly 20%-60%+ in total cals. This is a massive range and is based on your goal and your individual essence.
20%: are for high level athletes or body builders who are in season and their sport requires an uptake in total carbs in order to restore glycogen. 30%: are for your standard "lean" individuals 40%: are for those who have more body fat and are trying to lose it 60%+ are for those who are trying to use ketone bodies as a fuel source and want to be in a state of ketosis
* I always start with higher fats than you think you should for a client. You can always titrate it down as needed.
Fats are essential because... 1️. Fats are essential for hormone regulation. Unlike carbs, fats are hormonally neutral to insulin. 2. Fats are a v satiating macro-nutritient. They are calorically dense at 9 kcal/g which leaves you feeling full! 3️. Fats play a big part in reducing inflammation. People should always be striving for a high ratio of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to omega-6 (inflammatory) but sadly this is usually reversed in the standard American diet.
Step #4: Putting it Together with Carbohydrates
Now that you know how many calories, proteins, and fats you should consume you can calculate the amount of carbs. Let's run through an example: 1. Say you already used the Total Daily Energy Expenditure equation and figured out you should be consuming 2000 cals/day.
2. You have a lean body mass of about 150 pounds so you plan on consuming 150g protein/day.
3. You have a little extra weight you'd like get rid of so you decided you wanted 45% of your cals to be fats, starting out. This puts your fats at 100g/day.
4. The remaining calories go towards carbs. Between protein and fats you have a total of 1,500 kcals. [ (150g x4 kcal/g) + (100 x9 kcal/g)= 1,500 ] This leaves 500 kcals left for carbs which equates to 125g/day carbs. [500kcal / 4 kcal/g = 125g]
Some important notes on Carbohydrates:
- Carbohydrates are NOT an essential nutrient. We DO NOT need them to live.
- Carbohydrates ARE essential for performance. Carbs are stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen. If this glycogen is not there when glycolytic training (high intensity training, CrossFit, etc.) takes place health problems can occur such as HPA axis dysfunction (adrenal fatigue).
- For performance, high molecular weight carbs are best for post workout carbs. The higher molecular weight allows you to digest them faster and help get you back into a parasympathetic state post training. My go to post workout carb source is highly branched cyclical dextrin (hbcd). -There are a lot of different carbs out there: glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, maltodextrins, dextrins, and even more. For the sake of tracking macros a carb is a carb. However, the types of carbs you put in your body DO matter.
- You do count fiber towards your carb total when track macros. In advanced protocols (sports that require weight cutting), you can play around more with daily fiber content to reach your goals.
This is great start to put together your starting macro prescription. However, you cannot keep the same macros forever- your metabolism would catch on and will not adapt. For that reason, I love periodizing my client's nutrition plan. This means I create "seasons" for different macro prescriptions to keep the body's metabolism from ever catching on and thus forcing it adapt. The result is better performance, better aesthetics, and happier clients. If you are interested in talking with me more about nutrition or are looking for a coach to help guide you through this process feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out the contact form on this site!