Whether you want to lose fat, to build big muscle or to have healthier meals… macronutrients and calories are just the pillars you need to understand to swap these dreams in your reality.
Already heard “You are what you eat”? We are diving deep into this one!
First thing first, you are already eating lots of macronutrients. Probably without knowing it. Everything getting in your belly contains macronutrients…
Most people have no clue about macronutrients and don’t get what’s on food’s label. Here’s your complete guide to understand this. So, nobody will ever be able to fool you again!
There are 3 different macronutrients.
- Carbohydrate – we’ll call them carbs anyway
Let’s see each one in details.
The building block of your body. Your body is made of proteins. Proteins are made of different amino-acid. Not all proteins contain the same amino-acid.
As a rule of thumb, vegetable protein – soy bean, humous… – contains fewer amino-acid than meat and co. Your body need all types of amino-acids and can’t make them. That’s why you must eat lots of different source of protein to meet your needs – pun intended.
Without protein your body will have trouble recovering from physical activity. You won’t be able to build muscle. Proteins help your body build bigger, and stronger muscle. If your goal is to get better looking, then you should eat lots of protein… At least some at each meal – even at breakfast!
Contrary to not-so popular belief, eating meat is not bad for you. In fact, it could help you get stronger. Here’s the truth. There’s a cap of protein. Once you go further, you stop receiving big benefits for eating lots of these magics macronutrients. What happens then? You are just eating more meat, eggs and co… Maybe pooping some more. Nothing bad happens.
If there’s one macro you can abuse, it’s protein.
One gram of proteins contains 4 calories. You’ll feel full fast eating proteins. When your meals are based on fat & proteins it’s super hard to overeat because you would have to eat a fracking lot of stuffing food.
Always vilified! People want you to believe eating fat is bad for your health. To be fair with you, not all fat is created equal. Some are great, and your body need them to survive. Others? They suck!
Contrary to popular belief, your body needs fat. If you stop eating fat completely, you’ll die. Just like that. And yes, even the leanest bodybuilder has fat on their body. Only vital fat. Reducing your bodyfat percentage below 10% is unhealthy for most people. Lean bodybuilders go down to 3-5%. They don’t do this for long amount of time. Otherwise it would impair their health.
Fat is essential. You need to consume fat so your body keeps working. Without fat, you die.
There is different type of fat. Basically, you should avoid vegetable oils: canola, corn…
And no, fat doesn’t make you fat. Carbohydrate makes you fat.
When consuming fat your body will use this energy without trying to stock it because fat doesn’t increase your glucose level. If the energy isn’t used, it’ll just go further. It won’t stick to your body.
One gram of fat contains 8 calories.
The worst nightmare of people who practice zero physical activity. While carbohydrates will help you build more muscle, it’s also the macronutrient that raise the most your glucose level, thus telling your body to store more energy as fat for later uses – article on glucose level coming soon!
As someone with an active lifestyle, you have no trouble eating carbohydrates. They won’t make you fat. But if you aren’t training… Carbs will make sure unused energy will be stored as fat. And you don’t want this to happen!
That’s why you shouldn’t consume too much carbohydrates outside of your exercising times. Basically, you eat your carbs before or after training, so it used by your muscle to restore glycogen levels – the fuel used by your muscle.
Unlike the two others, you won’t die skipping carbohydrates. The only consequence? You will quickly drop your weight and your fat. First as water weight – no carbohydrates mean water is less likely to be stored in your body. Then as fat. Remember, without carbohydrates your glucose levels are low. Your body decides not to store energy as fat because he thinks he’s got plenty.
Believe it or don’t, in ancient times carbohydrates were super rare – so rare most people only ate several fruits a year. Most ancient hunter-gatherer were stronger and bigger. They rarely ever touched carbohydrates. They had plenty of food from nuts and meat. No reason to eat cheap carbs.
One gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories. Unlike proteins and fat, you could eat a lot of carbohydrates without feeling full. Most carbs-rich food have nothing excepts carbs in them. It doesn’t make you feel full, so you eat a lot to compensate… Avoid, it’s a vicious circle!
How to count your macronutrients and calories
“What you measure, you can improve”
That’s exactly what we are doing from now on. Counting your calories and macro will help you find the right calorie-level you need to be in to achieve your body goals.
Now… How many calories do you eat every day? Good question.
Let’s find out HOW you can get this data.
First, understand that knowing this information is worth it’s weight in gold. You’ll be able to build muscle or lose fat whenever you want by tweaking food quantities. And you’ll know the exact outcome. If that’s something you care about, keep reading.
Behind all the food you buy there’s a label written in plain English. You’ll find a table with protein, fat and carbohydrates for 100 grams indications. If you can’t find this info on the label, no big deal. Ask your good friend Google “protein in eggs”. You’ll get the answer in no time!
*Roughly* define how much you are eating. And add what’s written on the table in your spreadsheet.
When eating 150 grams of steaks, you are eating:
- 45 grams of protein
- 15 grams of fat
- 0 grams of carbs
- 500 calories
Add in EVERYTHING you eat for a day. You know exactly how many calories you eat.
Pro tips: Use a spreadsheet on your phone with 5 columns to track everything: protein, carbohydrates, fat, quantity you eat, calories. This is annoying, and yes it takes time. And with this strategy you have the exact data you need to start working with. Take 5 minute after every meal to update your spreadsheet.
Different energy levels – what it means to reduce your calorie intake
That’s when it becomes harder because this step requires your full attention. You are transitioning from being a passive eater to an active one. Instead of eating without any plan in mind, you’ll learn how to choose your food to meet your macronutrients.
Before going further, we must define 3 states you can be in.
- Hypercaloric. You are eating more calories than what your body burns. This is where you want to be when building muscle. Extra energy may be stored as fat. You’ll get bigger
- Maintenance. You aren’t gaining fat. You aren’t losing fat. As a beginner weight-lifter/calisthenics man you’ll be able to build muscle in this state.
- Hypocaloric. In this state you are burning more energy than what you consume. That’s where you lose fat. You’ll get shredded
Based on your personal goals, you decide in which state you want to be. Don’t worry, after several weeks you’ll be able to go through the whole process mindlessly.
Once you decided which state will help you reach your personal goal – build muscle, maintenance, fat loss – it’s time to find your maintenance level. That’s how many calories you need to eat to remain at the same weight.
For one week you’ll track your weight and calories eaten in a spreadsheet – try to eat the same number of calories every day. If your weight stays stable, congratulation you found your maintenance level.
You are gaining weight? Lower your calories.
You are losing weight? Increase your calories intake.
Now with your maintenance level in mind we can plan accordingly. You are in control. And knows more about your body than most people because you read a simple article.
Moving forward, you define your goal.
If you want to shred fat – that’s how you get better looking if you already have lots of muscle to brag about – you’d like to lower your calorie intake compared to your maintenance level.
Let’s say your maintenance is at 2600 calories per day. It’s time to lower it.
Let’s subtract 10%. From 2600, you go down to 2340 calories per day.
Try one week eating only 90% of your maintenance level. You’ll burn fat faster than an ice drip at the beach.
Hey! You must eat those calories! Now come the big question. How do you meet your goal of 2340 calories per day while adding macronutrients to the equations?
You learned how to count your calories and macro. You roughly understand how many calories and macro you are eating. Now’s the time to tweak these to reach your goals.
Different macronutrients, different diets, different objectives
When talking about the diets and macro you eat, it comes down to percentages. Let’s say you’d like to eat 2340 calories. And you decide to follow a carnivore diet. You’ll eat 60% protein, 40% fat and no carbs.
It means you are eating (0,6*2340)/4 = 351 à 350 grams of protein and (0,4*2340)/8 = 117 grams of fat. With next to no carbohydrates.
Now, when adding up the calories and macronutrients to your spreadsheet, try as hard as you can to respect these numbers.
Congratulation, you know how to count your calories and macro to eat the way you need to lose weight or build muscle. You are in complete control of the food going down your belly.
When the results stop coming – you’ll notice it! You’ll be tempted to reduce one more time your calories intake. That’s exactly what you should do. Keep lowering the score.
For the bad news: you can’t reduce indefinitely. Assuming you are training hard, at no point in your life will you stay at XYZ calories intake for longer than several months. Your body composition will change – more lean mass – and you’ll need to make some tweaks.
Don’t try to reduce your calorie intake below 60-70% of your maintenance level.
If your goal is to build strength and muscle, you should aim for 110%-130% of your maintenance level.
If you find yourself stuck, not knowing what to do next. Come back to the basics. Redefine your maintenance level so you can start fresh all over again – with previous experience and gains, of course.
Coming to the most interesting question of them all… “Which diet should I follow”
Unlike any people magazine or internet marketers promoting their 197$ meal plan… I’m not trying to sell you anything. Instead of focusing on what food you eat, you focus on hitting your macro for the goal you decide to pursue. It’s more efficient, easier to understand and you don’t have to rely solely on what food books suggest to you. If you meet your macronutrients and calories goal, you’ll do just fine.
- There is no miracle food
- Only consume whole food – processed food to the trash
- Sugar makes you fat. Not fat
- Avoid snacks. 3 meals a day – or less if you are into intermittent fasting
- Training and eating like it’s your job to get better looking – it is!
Based on your goal, you choose a style of diet. You can eat anything you want – except sugar – till you meet your macro goals. Below you’ll find all macro written with this blueprint:
Protein | Fat | Carbohydrates
Muscle building diet:
High protein, low fat, high carbohydrate diet will turn your body in a muscle building machine. If you exercise, you’ll pack muscle.
I’m recommending you this one if you want to bulk up or if your already lean – near visible abs – so you can build more muscle without taking too much fat.
You are more likely to pack on fat with this diet as it contains high carbohydrates which will tell your body to store excessive energy as fat. If your burning all the energy, no worry.
Fat burning diet:
60/40/0 not-so-famous carnivore diet – only eat meat and eggs
40/60/10 keto diet
High protein, high fat, low carbohydrate. This diet will drive you from chubby to lean. Eating like this will make sure your body won’t stock extra energy as fat.
This diet is packed with lots of energy – and is hard to follow if you aren’t into meat. You feel different in the first 2/3 weeks because your body need a time to adapt. Normally your body burn carbohydrates to build energy. Now he’ll have to burn fat as a fuel – you aren’t eating enough carbs. This change will occur within 2/3 weeks. You’ll feel it. Don’t freak out. If this doesn’t move away within a month, revert to your normal diet or try another one.
Think of it as every diet near 33/33/33. This the standard diet. Most people eat this kind of diet. Now, this one can definitely do the job if you are trying to achieve a state of maintenance. But if you are into building your body to get the bulky look, you should try the muscle building diet.
Same thing if you’d like to burn some fat, give a try to the fat burning diet.
You’ve got a complete plan ready to go above this line. I expect you not only to read or take note. But to apply what you just read. If that’s you, open a spreadsheet and start tracking your macro and calories. Then? Find what works best for you and start getting better looking.