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DIY: Calories and Macronutrients

by Michael Petresky on November 5, 2013

The following article is a DIY-quick-start guide for creating your own nutrition plan.

Your maintenance calorie intake:

This is the amount of calories needed to maintain your current body weight. It is based mostly off your lean body mass, the number of hours per week that you engage in exercise activity, and your general non-exercise activity levels (eg. walking as a means of commuting as opposed to driving, whether you work a physically demanding job or a sedentary desk job, etc).

To estimate your daily maintenance intake:

Take your body weight and multiply it by 13-17.

If you carry a lot of extra body fat then you will want to start at the lower end of this range. Conversely if you are already fairly lean you will want to start at the middle range (x15). If you are extremely lean (<10% bf for males, <18% for females) then you will want to start at the high end of this range. To estimate your daily intake if your goal is fat loss:

Take your body weight and multiply by 10-12.

If you are beginning a fat loss program, start at the higher end of this range. Track your body weight changes over two weeks to see if you lose weight using this amount, and if not then move to the lower end of this range and continue to monitor changes over the next two weeks.

To estimate your daily intake if your goal is to gain muscle/weight:

Take your body weight and multiply it by 18-20.

If you are above 12-15% body fat or more start at the lower end of this range. If you are around 10% or lower then start at the higher end of this range.

Doing the above will give you easy estimated calorie ranges for decreasing, increasing, or maintaining your current body weight.

Know that these numbers are to be used as starting points and are not ultimate values. By monitoring whether you lose, gain, or maintain your weight with these values you will learn your true maintenance intake or calorie intake needed for fat loss/muscle gain. If your goal is to lose fat and nothing changes in your bodycomposition or bodyweight over 2 weeks then you know you either need to further decrease your calories or increase activity. For muscle/weight gain, if you do not see the scale moving up after 2 weeks you need to further increase your calorie intake.

Macronutrients:

Giving yourself calorie ranges and following them can get you closer to your goals, but to take things further with your nutrition plan you will want to determine how to break down your total intake into proportions of fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

Values to know:

Protein: 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Fats: 9 calories per gram
Alcohol: 7 calories per gram

First, determine your protein requirement:

This is the single macronutrient that should not fluctuate on a daily basis. It is a requirement similar to how your body needs specific vitamins in certain amounts. Your body uses protein for a lot more than repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue. A meal is not considered a complete meal if it does not contain a source of protein, and it is to your benefit whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain to meet your protein requirement daily.

You will want to take your lean body mass (LBM) and multiply it by 1 and 1.5 to give yourself a range for your protein intake.

To find your LBM take your body weight and multiply it by your body fat percentage. To find your body fat percentage you will want to visit your gym and ask if they do caliper measurements for members. A personal trainer should be able to do this for you.

An alternative is to estimate yourself by comparing to these pictures:
For Males
For Females

For example:
180lb male @10% bf = 162 lbs of LBM.
162 lbs x 1.5 = 243.
Protein requirement range: 162-243g/day

While 243g is a bit high, and definitely an overestimate of this person’s requirement it is better over shoot on protein than under shoot especially if your goal is body recomposition (to gain muscle and decrease body fat).

Training days will require a higher protein intake than non-training days (training = weight lifting).

I’ve found 1.2-1.3g per pound of LBM to be sufficient for body mass increases and still easily manageable for me to hit on a daily basis. It will come down to your preference. Some prefer to eat more protein, and some prefer to stay on the lower end of the range.

Females will be fine around 1.0g per pound of LBM.

Those specifically looking to increase their muscle mass will be better off eating at the higher end of the range than those who are looking to maintain their weight. If your goal is fat loss it is still beneficial to eat your protein requirement in order to preserve your LBM while in a calorie deficit to limit losses of LBM.

The rest of your calories will be made up by fat and carbohydrates.

For example:

180lb male at 10% bf with 162lbs of LBM.

*1.2-1.3g protein/day = about 200g/day.

Maintenance Intake: 2700 calories
Protein: 200g
Carbohydrates: ?
Fats: ?

200g*4 calories/gram = 800 calories.
2700 – 800 = 1900 calories to be divided between carbohydrates and fat.

The percentages of fats and carbohydrates will vary from person to person. One’s body-type (ectomorph, endomorph, or mesomorph),goals, and the volume/intensity of their training will determine whether they will want more carbohydrates and less fats or vice versa. It is best to experiment with these amounts/percentages and see how you feel, perform, and look best as this is very specific to the individual.

Fat:
2700*0.3 = 810 calories
810 calories/9 = 90g of Fat

The rest will be your carbohydrates:

2700*0.4 = 1080 calories
1080 calories/4 = 270g of Carbohydrates

Final breakdown:
Maintenance Intake: 2700 calories
Protein: 200g, 800 calories, ~30%
Carbohydrates: 270, 1080 calories, ~40%
Fats: 90, 810 calories, ~30%

The above is the breakdown for macronutrients and calories for this person to maintain his current bodyweight. If this person was looking to gain weight, he would increase his calories and do so by adding more carbohydrates and fats to his diet. If he was looking to lose fat, he would decrease his calorie intake and do so by lowering his carbohydrate intake. See: Carb Cycling for Fat Loss

For body recomposition, emphasizing more carbohydrates and less fats on training days, and more fats/less carbohydrates on non-training days will yield the best results.

An example of this using the above sample:

Maintenance Intake: 2700 calories
Protein: 200g, 800 calories, ~30%
Carbohydrates: 270, 1080 calories, ~40%
Fats: 90, 810 calories, ~30%

Training Day
Total Calories: 3200 calories
Protein: 200g, 800 calories, ~25%
Carbohydrates: 400, 1600 calories, ~50%
Fats: 90, 810 calories, ~25%

Non-training Day:
Maintenance Intake: 2500 calories
Protein: 190g, 750 calories, ~30%
Carbohydrates: 225, 900 calories, ~35%
Fats: 100, 900 calories, ~35%

*Note: For males, fat is necessary for the body to synthesize testosterone so for those who are fat-averse be weary of low fat diets as you will mess up with your hormones by not consuming enough dietary fat. The best macronutrient to adjust is carbohydrates with protein being consistent and fat being consumed in moderation.

Honestly, besides protein being static your carbohydrates/fats intake will be best determined NOT by percentages, but by tracking your and monitoring how you feel, perform, and look best over time, and adjusting when needed.

Through experience, I’ve found that eating more carbohydrates and less fats on weight training days, and the opposite on non-training days as well as calorie cycling (eating at a surplus on training days and at small deficit on off-days) has yielded the best results for gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.

The take home point with these values is to remember that they are only starting points. Everyone is different, and one’s metabolism is dynamic and dependent on a lot of variables (compare a sedentary desk worker who drives to work to a college student who commutes by walking or the advanced bodybuilder to the obese average Joe). Once you find your starting points you need to monitor body weight and composition changes to see if adjustments need to be made to reach your goals.

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