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Macros and bodybuilding

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3 Keys To Dialing In Your Macronutrient Ratios
Building? Maintaining? Looking to lose some fat? What you eat is as important as how you work out. Craft your macronutrient ratio with these tips!

3 Keys To Dialing In Your Macronutrient Ratios
June 06, 2017 � 6 min read
I often get asked questions like, “What amounts of carbohydrates do you recommend for bulking?” “How much protein do I need during weight loss?” and “Is there an ideal macro ratio for getting rid of unwanted fat?” If you’ve ever asked someone these questions, you may have also tried a ratio you saw someone touting and found that it definitely didn’t work for you. Maybe you felt groggy or exhausted all the time, or you expected gains that never showed up. This is all too common.

The truth is that just like everyone has different goals, everyone has to take a different road to get to their ideal body. Otherwise, building lean mass, shedding unwanted fat, and maintaining your goal weight would be easy�just adjust your calories and you’d be set! Sadly, it’s not that simple.

Does this mean we’re all doomed to start from scratch and tinker until we find our way? Definitely not. Here are three factors that can help you establish an effective starting point for your journey from “before” to “after.”

Factor 1: Fitness Goals
Your first step is to choose what’s more important to you: fat loss or lean mass gains. You may ask, “What if I want both?” However, this is one of those situations where you’re better off tackling one goal at a time. While lean mass gains can occur alongside fat loss, neither process will occur at its full potential. Why? Higher carbohydrate ratios augment lean mass gains, while lower carbohydrate ratios tend to accelerate fat loss.

There are ways you can move incrementally toward fat and build muscle simultaneously, such as carb-cycling, where you alternate muscle-building phases of higher carbs with periods of lower carbs to encourage fat burning. Some recent research also supports intermittent fasting as a means of achieving both fat loss and mass gains. However, individual results vary in both cases, and neither is an excuse to disregard your macros altogether.

Regardless of what method you choose, you’ll see more pronounced mass gains, or more rapid fat loss, if you focus primarily on one main goal at a time. Many pro fitness athletes utilize a “building” phase lasting several weeks or months, followed by a “cutting” phase to achieve a well-developed, yet lean physique. This doesn’t have to be extreme or unpleasant in order to work, as long as you stick to these typical macronutrient ranges.

Macronutrient Ratios
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Notice that fat never goes below 15 percent of total calories. Since hormones are constructed from cholesterol and other fat molecules, getting any less than that can actually suppress normal hormone levels. This also has a negative effect on the bodily functions driven by those hormones, including growth and development, metabolism, reproduction, and mood. Low fat intake can also impair absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Even worse, not getting enough essential fatty acids can increase your risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

But as you might imagine, not just any fat source will do. Prioritizie healthy fat sources like monounsaturated fats like monounsaturated fats (avocados, egg yolks, olives, nuts, peanut butter, canola oil, olive oil, high-oleic sunflower oil), medium-chain triglycerides (coconut oil), and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, and other fish, grass-fed beef, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, soybeans, tofu, edamame, beans, wild rice, and walnuts).

Factor 2: Body Type
Once you determined your primary fitness objective, it’s important to factor in your body type. This will help determine how well you tolerate carbs and establish where in the above ranges you should start.

There are three general body types, with many people falling somewhere in between. While the endomorph could be considered the polar opposite of the ectomorph, many people are a combination of “endo/meso” or “ecto/meso.” Even if you end up determining you’re somewhere in the middle, these categories are helpful for establishing a nutritional benchmark. Start with the body type you most resemble, and tweak as necessary.

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Ectomorph
An ectomorph is best described as slender. Characteristically, they have delicate bone structure, small shoulders and chest, and a fast metabolism. Ectomorphs are the classic “hardgainers.” They find it hard to gain weight and put on mass.

On the plus side, it’s easy for them to get lean. They tend to require a greater percentage of carbohydrates to prevent muscle catabolism, as well as a higher calorie intake overall.

Diet Recommendations: Ectomorphs should stick to the high end of the range for carbohydrates, between 30-60 percent of total calories, depending on whether the goal is mass gains, maintenance, or fat loss. Higher carbohydrate ratios augment lean mass gains, while lower carbohydrate ratios tend to accelerate fat loss.

I recommend the high end for mass gains, the mid-upper end for maintenance (45-55 percent), and the low-end for fat loss. At least 25 percent of total calories should come from protein, with the remainder from fat.

Mesomorph
A mesomorph is someone who trends toward being muscular. They’re often strong, athletic hard-body types with well-defined muscles, broad shoulders, and dense bone structure. Mesomorphs generally have little trouble gaining muscle or losing fat, though they will put on fat more readily than ectomorphs.

They can handle a moderate level of carbs due to their ample capacity to store muscle glycogen. Weight gain will happen, however, if carbs and calories are overly high. No body type is immune to a bad diet!

Diet Recommendations: Mesomorphs do well in the middle range for carbohydrates, between 20-50 percent of total calories. Again, I recommend the high-end for mass gains (40-50 percent), the middle for maintenance (30-40), and low-end for fat loss (20-30).

To prioritize fat loss, increase both protein and fat while lowering carbohydrate intakes, with no more than 40 of calories coming from fat.

Endomorph
The endomorph is best described as soft. They typically have a round or pear-shaped body, shorter limbs, a stocky build, and a slower metabolism.

Endomorphs can put on a lot of muscle, but they also tend to carry more adipose tissue and thus have a greater propensity to store fat. Because excess carbohydrates in the endomorph’s diet end up as fat, a high carbohydrate intake will make it difficult for them to get lean or lose weight.

Diet Recommendations: Endomorphs should stick to the low end of the carbohydrate range, between 10-40 percent of total calories, depending on their goals. Here, I recommend no more than 30-40 percent carbohydrates for mass gains, the middle range for maintenance (20-30), and low-end for fat loss (10-20).

As with the other body types, protein and fat provide the remainder of your calories, with 25-50 percent of total calories from protein and 15-40 percent from fat.

Factor 3: Gender
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Gender is usually less pronounced of a factor than goals or overall body type, and it’s far more prone to individual variation. However, it’s nevertheless important for you to keep somewhat in mind as you work to find your ideal number.

In general, women are more efficient at burning fat and less efficient at burning the glycogen stored in muscle. As such, they may be able to operate on lower carbohydrate intake than men.

Research suggests a variety of reasons that women have a greater reliance on fats for fuel during exercise, including:

Estrogen enhances epinephrine production, the primary hormone that stimulates lipolysis (fatty acid breakdown).
Estrogen promotes the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which inhibits the uptake of carbohydrates and increases the mobilization of fatty acids from adipose tissue.
Women have increased blood flow to adipose tissue, which could assist in fatty acid mobilization.
Women have higher levels of intramuscular triglycerides (IMTG), a fat-based source of fuel that spares muscle glycogen during moderate to high intensity exercise. This sparing of muscle glycogen may actually give women an endurance edge when performing at high intensities against men!
According to one study, men appear to rely more on stored carbohydrate for fuel than women when doing the same exercise.
Diet recommendation: Does this mean that women should always have a lower carb intake than men? Not necessarily. An ectomorphic woman training at high intensity would likely need a higher carbohydrate percentage than a sedentary endomorphic man.

On the other hand, a mesomorphic male trying to maintain weight would likely require a higher percentage of carbohydrate, perhaps in the range of 40 percent, while a woman of the same body type with the same goal may wish to start at around 30 percent.

Nevertheless, if you’re a woman training at low to moderate intensity, I would suggest first referencing the above macro ranges to select a ratio that corresponds to your fitness goals and body type. Then, start on the low end for carbohydrates and see how you do.

Male or female, if you feel fatigued and weak from your workouts, yet you fail to build muscle mass, you should consider increasing your carbs.

Macros Are Just One Part Of The Puzzle
After the hundredth or so time that you hear “abs are made in the kitchen,” it can be tempting to spend all your time worrying about macronutrient ratios and pay less mind to other factors that are just as important to your overall results. Don’t lose the forest for the trees!

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If your health was a math equation it would look like this: (x+y+z)(a+b+c)= u. There are hundreds of factors, and you must address them all to get the right answer.

One crucial additional factor is the total calories you take in. Even the perfect macronutrient ratio is ineffective if your calorie intake is too high or low. And along the same line, you can’t expect to achieve a toned, muscular physique if you are unwilling to take training seriously!

This may sound like a lot to keep in mind, but don’t get frustrated. You’re building a healthier lifestyle here, not just doing math. Determining your ideal nutritional strategy will take time, and as your fitness goals evolve, your ideal macro ratio will too. But with determination, resolve, and a willingness to change, you’ll keep progressing toward great things.

2 Likes

Thanks brother, great info!

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My pleasure ,there is never enough nutrition information I feel ,and it’s 80% of the sport

Yes it is took me awhile to figure that out, wasted a lot of money on aas when I should have been spending it on food… in the past two months I put on more weight because of proper eating, then I have in the prior 6 months.

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This is another great post. Thats one thing I need to start doing is counting my macros and micros.

Awesome post. I was a very little boy when my father started teaching me martial arts…i was a fat boy, my dad motivated me to eat healthy and learn nutrition. I joined a karate school by the age of 6. I was teaching when i was 9…still a fat boy…I made all the effort i could to work out and train towards my purpose; by the age of 14 i was very athletic and i had a 2nd degree black belt in kenpo karate. I learnt that i was an endomorphic person; but what i learnt the most was the necessary discipline to overcome my problem. am 54 and i had the opportunity to compete and make it to stage several times. I celebrate this post cause the knowledge is essential and so is the passion the commitment and daily discipline

I keep a daily journal for the past 20 years of meals ,I can always look back on diets to see where I need to improve I’ll bet there are over 100 note books in my shed

Holy crap…thats a lot of documentation. How do you remember which diets and meals plans work the best?

Great topic and info!

@Mountain-man
I am a person, due to work schedule and other circumstances, who always trains first thing in morning (6am) immediately upon waking up. I use a preworkout powder (redcon total war), pump formula (redcon bignoise), and an intra workout carbohydrate drink (redcon clusterbomb). I usually train for 1hr 30 mins (that includes weight session and 20-30mins cardio of my choice).

My question is, should i prioritize my carbohydrate intake later in the evenings so im fueled up for the following morning to train? One scoop of my intraworkout drink is about 25g clusterdextrin, its enough to get me through most tough workouts with good energy, however im always interested about the timing of the rest of my carbohydrate intake and what the optimum protocol would be. im a mesomorph and can handle carbohydrates fairly well.

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@Mountain-man seems to be over at AA im not sure if he will answer back but I hope that he does he is full of knowledge and a great guy. I believe that he is actually a moderator at AA now

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@Mountain-man was suspended for some reason 2yrs ago I don’t remember why I believe he was doing something that he shouldn’t have been but I lifted his suspension so hopefully he can answer your question

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okay, I’m open to feedback from others of course as well. is this the best place to ask my question or should i open my own topic?

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I would open up a new topic and if you would like you can take the link from this post and if you put the link in your new topic it will make it so people can go back and forth between the two if its relevant. If not for sure brother you can always open up a new topic to discuss anything that is in line with the community rules

unfortunately its saying that I cannot include links in my posts, perhaps i am doing it wrong. I clicked the link chain on his main post, and then clicked new topic

I have to raise your trust level don’t let me down if you’re going to post a link it can’t be selling anything
I will change it in a second

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I appreciate you taking that chance, and i can assure you i have no interest in selling anything on the forum. I am here to learn, and share experiences, that is all. you have my word

Try now you have permission and the trust level you need

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