When it comes to losing weight and gaining muscles, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There has never been. However, there is one factor that remains constant: Your body can lose weight and gain muscles simultaneously. Interesting, right? Also, regardless of your fitness goal, you need to understand how to balance between diet and exercise. Doing this will ultimately ensure the best results in your fitness plan. An essential aspect of your dietary fitness plan is related to macronutrients, aka macros. Understanding what they are and learning how to consume them will significantly help you achieve your goals. Read about macros for weight loss and muscle gain.
What Are Macros?
Simply put, macronutrients are the big, main nutrients that are crucial for keeping your body healthy and moving. These nutrients give you energy in calories, which are essential in supporting basic bodily functions.
The three nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. This means that it doesn’t matter what your dietary plan is; you will always need to create a balance between all three nutrients. You wouldn’t be able to survive if you weren’t. Apart from supporting your essential bodily functions and providing your body with energy, macros also play a role in weight loss and muscle gain.
Next, let’s look at each macronutrient in detail and the role they play in your fitness goals.
Proteins are arguably one of the most useful macros for muscle gain and weight loss. They have long been a popular choice for bodybuilders and dieters looking to gain muscle and for good reasons too. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles and organs.
Apart from that, proteins also form the enzymes responsible for supporting primary life functions and building and repairing damaged tissues. So why are proteins one of the ideal macros for weight loss and muscle gain? What roles do they play? Let’s find out.
Proteins Increase Satiety, Making You Consume Fewer Calories
Better satiety means reduced hunger and appetite. According to this study, proteins can help you achieve this through different mechanisms (1). This means that when you eat more proteins, you’ll find yourself consuming fewer calories.
Proteins Affect The Levels Of Weight Regulating Hormones
The hypothalamus in your brain is responsible for actively regulating your weight (11). It processes important signals from hormonal changes in response to feeding. This is how it determines when and how much you eat.
Increased protein intake enhances the production of satiety hormones like peptide YY and cholecystokinin. Conversely, it reduces the levels of ghrelin- the hunger hormone (7). This has the effect of causing a significant reduction in how often you feel hungry and, by extension, how often you eat. And so, the less you eat, the fewer calories you consume, and the faster you lose weight.
More Calories Are Burned When Digesting And Metabolizing Proteins
It takes energy to digest and metabolize food that we eat in a process known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Proteins have a higher TEF (20-30%) compared to carbohydrates (4). This means that more calories will be burned to digest proteins compared to other macros.
Proteins Prevent Muscle Loss While Increasing Cellular Metabolism
Losing weight is not always synonymous with losing fats. Your muscle mass also tends to be reduced too. You, however, don’t want to lose your muscle mass. What you want to lose is fats- both subcutaneous and visceral. Your metabolism will also be ultimately reduced in what is known as starvation mode (10).
Eating more protein reduces muscle loss while building up more muscles (8). More muscles will ultimately keep your metabolism high. This particular attribute makes it the most preferred macros for weight loss and muscle gain for men.
Carbohydrates include starch, sugars, and fibers. These macros are our bodies’ most preferred source of fuel. Most types of carbs are essentially broken down into glucose which is the most efficient form of energy. Our muscles and tissues then use glucose to power themselves through every physical activity.
That said, can you use these macros for weight loss and muscle gain? Here are the roles that carbs play when it comes to losing weight and gaining muscles.
Carbs Prevent Muscle Degradation
Glucose from carbohydrates is stored as glycogen. This reserve is necessary for ensuring your organs and tissues have enough glucose for optimal performance. When this reserve is inadequate, your muscles can be broken down into amino acids and converted to glucose. What this means is that your body will break down your muscles to generate energy in the absence of glycogen (12).
Severe muscle loss is associated with poor health and a higher risk of death (3). Your muscles, therefore, need to be in mint condition during your weight loss regimen, and carbs will make sure they are.
Carbs Provide Muscle Glycogen
Remember, weight loss is all about diet and exercise. As much as you need to watch your diet, you can also occasionally work out. Muscle glycogen is used up whenever you are working out to provide you with energy.
Fiber Reduces Your Belly Fat And Appetite
Fiber is one form of carbohydrate. Soluble fiber is a powerful appetite suppressant (2). This means that you will take fewer calories resulting in weight loss. Also, the gut bacteria responsible for breaking down soluble fiber produce short-chain fatty acids during fermentation. These fats help reduce belly fats by increasing the fat burn rate and decreasing fat storage (13).
Keto diets have increasingly become popular mainly because they involve eating large amounts of fats and low amounts of carbs. It may seem counterintuitive to encourage fats when trying to lose weight, but it’s not. Well, as long as it’s healthy fats.
Fats help our bodies absorb soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Additionally, they form a crucial part of our cell membrane structures and make other molecules like hormones. Fats are the most energy-dense macronutrients, so our bodies turn to them when there’s a glucose shortage.
Here are some of the roles that fats play when it comes to weight loss and muscle gain.
Fats Fill You Up For Longer Periods
It takes more time to digest fats compared to other macros. This will leave you feeling full, eventually creating the dominos of reduced cravings and calorie intake (5). A small portion of food containing fats will be more satisfying as compared to the same serving without fats. The fewer calories you take in a day, the faster you will achieve your weight loss goals.
Fats Help In Regulating Your Blood Sugar Levels
You’re probably wondering what blood sugar has got to do with you losing weight. Blood sugar levels affect insulin production, affecting your cravings, mood, and food choices. Healthy fats keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day, thus keeping your cravings in check (13).
Fats Taste Good
It’s no lie that everything tastes better with a pat of butter on the side. If fats will help you enjoy some fresh salad or roasted vegetables, then that is a win-win. Also, adding fats to fat-soluble vitamins from vegetables makes them a more filling and tasty meal.
So let’s face it. Not all weight-loss diets can be considered tasty. If fats can help you take them, what’s the harm in that? Also, this may just make fats the ideal macros for weight loss and muscle gain vegetarians need to get into the diet. Nothing makes veggies tastier right?
Each macronutrient plays a role when it comes to weight loss and muscle gain. However, which are the ideal ones, and how should you eat them to realize their full benefits?
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Ideal Macros For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain
Your body can burn fat while building muscles simultaneously. It’s therefore paramount to understand how your body handles these two masses, then you can know how best to consume the macros. They will, after all, determine how fast your body builds your muscles and burns fats.
When you consume excess protein, fat, or carbohydrates, a lot of extra energy is left in your body. This extra energy is then automatically turned into fats by your body and is stored for future use. This “future use” is rarely achieved, though. This is because your body will hold onto the fats unless it stops getting enough energy to sustain daily activities.
It is only when there is a calorie shortage that your body will break down the fat, converting it into energy. If you maintain this calorie deficit for a while, you start losing weight by burning fat. Taking fewer calories results in fat loss; however, eating more calories will not help you build muscles.
Building muscles is a result of consuming the right combination of nutrients and working out. Ideally, your body will only build muscles when necessary. That’s why you’ll need to start strength-building exercises that’ll typically break and rebuild your muscle fibers. This ultimately creates muscles that are bigger and stronger.
Despite most people approaching building muscles and losing weight as different entities, the two can be achieved simultaneously. All you need is the right approach, involving a reasonable calorie deficit and weight training routine. However, achieving weight-loss and muscle-gain goals is more than just cutting down on calories.
For both men and women macros for weight loss and muscle gain should be balanced. This will ensure you get the most effective results from the diet. To do this, you’ll need to calculate your macro balance. This figure usually varies in every individual. However, the typical macro breakdown for muscle gain and weight loss is approximatively 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbohydrates (9).
Next, we look at how to calculate macros for weight loss and muscle gain.
How To Calculate Macros For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain
Keeping track of your macros is crucial if you want to achieve your fitness goals. However, if you’re new to this, you probably won’t know how to count macros for weight loss and muscle gain. Worry not, we’ve got your back.
First off, here are some tips that will guide you through the process:
Always Maintain A Reasonable Calorie Deficit
The logic is simple. You go too big, and your muscles won’t grow. Go too small, and the rate at which you lose fat will be extremely slow.
Have A Comprehensive Weight Training Program
These programs will ensure that you’re actively breaking down muscle tissues and allowing them time to repair. This will help you come out of the program with more robust and bigger muscles.
Include Enough Protein For Muscle Growth In Your Diet
Always make sure you get enough protein to enhance protein synthesis while outweighing protein breakdown.
Make Sure Your Hormonal Levels Are Balanced
Losing fats and muscles heavily depends on hormones. These hormones are responsible for releasing fat stores and building muscle tissues. The best way to achieve a healthy hormonal balance is by eating a nutrient-dense diet, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising.
Now let’s look at how you can calculate your macros for muscle gain and weight loss.
1) Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your BMR is the number of calories you use daily at rest. Many factors, including your gender, activity level, and weight, influence the final figure you get when calculating your BMR. The most common way of estimating your BMR is by using the Harris-Benedict equation.
This formula factors your weight, height, age, and gender to get your BMR. Here’s how you can get yours:
Men: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
Women: BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161
Using a 190 cm 30-year-old male weighing 85 kg as an example, the result will be about 1900 calories. This means that his approximate daily calorie burn at rest is 1900 calories. This is the bare minimum your body needs for optimal performance. Going below this will result in your metabolism stuttering.
2) Work Out Your Activity Levels
Next, you must factor in your current activity levels. You do this by multiplying your total calorie count obtained in the first step by the following factors (6):
- If you get little to no exercise in a week: BMR x 1.2
- If you get light exercises a few times a week or exercise a few times a week: BMR x 1.375
- In case you exercise moderately 3-5 times in a week: BMR x 1.55
- If you exercise heavily in a week: BMR x 1.725
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x/day training) = BMR x 1.9
Let’s assume that the male in our example exercises moderately, three times a week. We then take his BMR of 1900 calories and multiply it by 1.55 to give his total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This gives a value of 2945 calories.
His TDEE is the number of calories he needs daily to maintain his daily weight. So to lose weight, you’ll need to cut that number by 15% for manageable weight loss (9). To put in some weight, bump up that number by the same amount.
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3) Figure Out What Your Macro Balance Is
The next step involves determining how you’ll split those calories to meet your fitness goals. A popular and generally recommended ratio is 40/20/20 for protein, carbs, and fats, respectively (9). It is important to note that there is no universal ratio, but experts advise that proteins take priority.
4) Work Out The Grams For Each Macro
Incorporating the 40/20/20 ratio in the dietary plan of our male example will give:
- Proteins: 2945 × 0.40 = 1178 calories
- Carbohydrates: 2580 × 0.20 = 516 calories
- Fats: 2580 × 0.20 = 516 calories
Next, determine the amount in grams for each macro. To do that, divide the figures by the specific calories per gram in each macronutrient. The figures are 9 for fat, 4 for protein, and 4 for carbohydrates. Our male example will therefore have a diet looking like this:
- Proteins: 1178 calories ÷ 4 = 295 grams
- Carbohydrates: 1178 ÷ 4 = 295 grams
- Fats: 589 ÷ 9 = 65 grams
5) Implement Your Dietary Plan
Now you know how to calculate your macros. The only thing left is the fine-tuning of your dietary plans to fit your goals. Mapping out your meals does not mean being rigid and overly meticulous in your approach. Remember, macro-counting is a flexible dieting approach.
The occasional parfait won’t throw you off course as long as you keep it, well, occasional. Tracking and calculating your macros before eating may look like a daunting task. Scratch that; it probably is. However, macro dieting is not supposed to be a long-term venture.
Done correctly, macro tracking could ensure you’re eating healthy while pursuing your fitness goals. The bonus? You’ll always be full without the constant fear that you’re consuming extra calories. When it comes to macro dieting, you can never overeat!
Losing weight and gaining muscles is not always about exercise. Sometimes, you need to make a few tweaks in your diet to achieve this—specifically your macro diets.
Macros are an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to leading a healthy life. They technically control how our bodies grow and develop. Eating them in the right quantities and combinations can lead to phenomenal muscle growth and weight loss. Give macro dieting a shot today and witness a hassle-free way of achieving your fitness goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats (2014, nih.gov)
- Adolescent Fiber Consumption Is Associated with Visceral Fat and Inflammatory Markers (2012, nih.gov)
- Age-related and disease-related muscle loss: the effect of diabetes, obesity, and other diseases (2014, nih.gov)
- Diet induced thermogenesis (2004, nih.gov)
- Dietary intakes and leptin concentrations (2014, nih.gov)
- Energy Intake Expenditure (n.d., nutritition.org.uk)
- Hormonal Regulators of Appetite (2008, nih.gov)
- Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes (2010, pubmed.gov)
- ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review: research & recommendations (2010, nih.gov)
- Metabolic Slowing with Massive Weight Loss despite Preservation of Fat-Free Mass (2012, nih.gov)
- Regulation of Food Intake, Energy Balance, and Body Fat Mass: Implications for the Pathogenesis and Treatment of obesity (2012, nih.gov)
- The Effect of Carbohydrates on Ammonium Ketoacid Excretion during Starvation (n.d., nih.gov)
- The role of dietary fat in body fatness: evidence from a preliminary meta-analysis of ad libitum low-fat dietary intervention studies (2000, pubmed.gov)
- The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism (2013, nih.gov)