HOW MUCH SHOULD I EAT?? PART 2 - MACROS AND SPLITS

After the first part of this blog (that I know you’ve all read….) you should know how many overall calories you need on a typical day. This second part of the blog will explore the ways you can break those calories down and how you can then put those into a structure that allows you to hit your goals, without being too restrictive!

Fist things first; lets give the calories you’re eating a bit of context. A calorie, by definition, is;

‘The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1°C (approximately 4.1868 joules)’

So calories are the energy that your body uses to do whatever it is that you need your body to do. The calories that we eat and drink are broken down into three main macronutrients (macros).

Protein – 4 calories per gram

Protein is made up of amino acids and is the building block of every cell in your body. It is the macro responsible for growth and repair of your cells, especially important for anyone who undertakes any form of exercise. It is also highly satiating, meaning it will make you feel fuller, for longer, so a high protein diet is often utilised when looking to manage weight through diet.

Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram

Carbs have been demonised in recent years as the reason someone is overweight, which simply isn’t correct. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source for any short term or intense activities.

Fat – 9 calories per gram

Fat is vital in helping to absorb vitamins such as A, D, E and K, it also maintains hormone balances and helps to protect and insulate vital organs. Fat is the body’s energy source when carbohydrate (which is stored as glycogen) stores have been depleted.

A good diet will have a nutritionally dense balance of Protein, Carbs and Fat. With at least 80% of calories coming from healthy, whole food choices.

For those of you who are wondering, alcohol is roughly 7 calories per gram!

So, you know how many calories you need per day (remember….from part one of this two part blog!). Let’s take an example of a young lady who has calculated that her TDEE, after applying an activity factor (again…..first part of the blog!) is 2000 calories per day. It’s the New Year, and after some indulgence over Christmas, she decides she wants to lose a little weight, so she plans to reduce her 2000 daily calories by 10%, giving her an adjusted daily target of 1800 calories.

Brilliant, our lady now knows she’s aiming for 1800 calories a day. So how does she take in those calories?

We know how many calories our lady needs, we also know how many calories each macro contains. So now we need to do some calculations based on the type of macro split we want to use.

A macro split will ultimately be decided on by your food preferences. As in the first part of the blog, bold lettering isn’t shouting, but you need to know that;

Whether a diet is high/low carb or fat, weight loss and weight gain can both be accomplished on any macro split. It is the calorie balance that determines whether you lose or gain weight.

This means that if you take in 2000 calories every day, and burn off 2300, and that is done consistently…you will lose weight. Even if those calories are all from carbs!

Conversely, if you consistently ate 2300 calories every day from mainly protein sources and were burning 2000 calories, you would put weight on!

You could in theory eat burgers every day and lose weight if you were burning more calories than you took in (don’t do that, please).

When it comes to changing your weight, calories are the most important factor.  This is followed by how those calories are split (macro split) followed by exercise and supplementation.

The first part, we have - the deficit for our lady….let’s call her Sarah, gives her the target of 1800 calories.

Macro splits are simply a way of portioning out the calories we take in by splitting them up as protein, carbs and fat.

Now, parents…. if you want a break from home schooling the kids, gather them around for a maths lesson at this point.

Now, Sarah loves her carbs, and is happy to have less fat in her diet, from an enjoyment point of view (which will help her stick with the plan), so we will go for a 40/40/20 split. That means 40% of total daily calories will come from protein, 40% from carbs and 20% from fat.

So we need to work out how many grams of each macro Sarah will need to get her 1800 calories on a 40/40/20 split…..get your calculators out!

Protein – 40%

40% of 1800 (1800 x 0.4) is 720

To figure out the number of grams of protein we need to get 720 calories from protein sources, we divide 720 by 4 (protein is 4 calories per gram) which gives us 180.

So 40% of 1800 calories, in grams of protein is 180g

Carbs – 40%

40% of 1800 (1800 x 0.4) is 720

To figure out the number of grams of carbs we need to get 720 calories from carb sources, we divide 720 by 4 (carbs are 4 calories per gram) which gives us 180.

So 40% of 1800 calories, in grams of carbs is 180g

Fat – 20%

20% of 1800 (1800 x 0.2) is 360

To figure out the number of grams of fat we need to get 360 calories from fat sources, we divide 360 by 9 (fat is 9 calories per gram) which gives us 40.

So 20% of 1800 calories in grams of fat is 40g

This means Sarah’s daily food intake can be broken down into;

 

 

Protein

Carbohydrates

Fat

Amount

180g

180g

40g

Calories

720

720

360

Total calories

1800

 

Now Sarah has her split, and how many grams of each macro she should be taking in. She can confidently plan her food intake to hit her daily/weekly calorie targets.

Please note, the grams listed above are of the nutrient, not the food. For example, 180g of protein isn’t 180g of chicken!

Depending on your preference you may want a different macro split. But there are a few golden rules;

  • Don’t eliminate any one macro
  • Do not go below 15% fat, aim for 20% minimum
  • Make sure your food sources are at least 80% healthy, whole food choices
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day, especially when exercising
  • Do not go much higher than 50% protein
  • Use macro splits as a guide, adjust if necessary after two weeks

As illustrated in the pyramid, it is the total calories that is the most important factor when losing or gaining weight. So as long as the calorie target is hit consistently, the macros can be adjusted for when you need more or less energy for training (e.g. by lowering carbs and increasing fats on rest days).

To give a bit more context, another example and break  it down one step further, let’s look at the macro split I am currently using. Hi! I’m Craig, the one on the right!

My goal is to maintain my current weight but change my body composition slightly to reduce the amount of fat and increase the amount of muscle (because….cheese and wine over Christmas).

As a further goal, I specifically want to increase muscle mass in my legs. For this reason, my TDEE (daily calorie target) split looks like this based on 2600 calories per day/18200 calories per week.

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

 

Normal training day

Leg day

Rest day

Normal training day

Normal training day

Leg day

Rest day

TOTAL

TDEE target

2600

2600

2600

2600

2600

2600

2600

18200

Actual calorie intake

2500

3000

2200

2500

2500

3100

2200

18200

 

I have decided that I want to prioritise protein to help with growth and repair and have a balance of carbs and fat with the remaining calories. So I have opted for a 40/30/30 split. Breaking the above calories into my macro split looks like this;

 

Total calories

Calories from Protein

Protein (g)

Calories from Carbs

Carbs (g)

Calories from Fat

Fat (g)

Monday

2500

1000

250

750

188

750

83

Tuesday

3000

1200

300

900

225

900

100

Wednesday

2200

880

220

660

165

660

73

Thursday

2500

1000

250

750

188

750

83

Friday

2500

1000

250

750

188

750

83

Saturday

3100

1240

310

930

233

930

103

Sunday

2200

880

220

660

165

660

73

 

This is the kind of split you would use for specific training goals, and when restrictions are lifted and I can train using higher resistance, these macro splits will be taken one step further to give higher carb and lower carb days depending on performance needs (carbs will never go below 20%).

I’m going to give you a minute, because that was a lot of numbers………….

A couple of final points to help you plan your macro splits.

Protein is a brilliant macro for helping to build muscle, we know this. It can also help with weight loss, this is because not only is protein highly satiating, but to digest protein, your body needs more calories than if it was digesting carbs or fats. The calories required to digest any food is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Protein has the highest TEF of any macronutrients. For all these reasons, try to incorporate plenty of high quality protein into your diet. Our 80% whey protein found on our online store, www.nl-nutrition.com is a great source of highly available protein, with 24g per serving, and come in at only 113 calories!

For the purpose of muscle building and fat loss, aim for a protein intake of a minimum of 1.2g/kg of bodyweight per day. Preferably nearer 2g/kg. You can go as high as 3g/kg, but only for a maximum of 6 weeks.

 

The goal here is not to track every single calorie forever more and become obsessed with tracking and macro splits.

The goal is to learn enough about how your body responds to a certain number of and type of calories so you can eat more mindfully, so that you can have a healthy relationship with food and know how much you need to eat on any given day, and what type of food will be best to fuel the required work ahead.

The most important thing to take away from this is to ensure at least 80% of your calorie intake comes from healthy sources and that you stick with it! Adherence to a nutritional regime is the quickest way to figure out if it’s working. Stay consistent in your approach and then adjust, as necessary.

Time to put down your calculator and pick up your fork…..bon appetit!