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 lower belly 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 two factors that can help you establish an effective starting point for your journey from "before" to "after." AND my #1 tip for getting your macros dialed in!
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 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.
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.
- 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.
Macro 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.
- 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!
Macro 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.
Macro 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.
So now that you’ve factored in your goals and your body type for determining your perfect macros, here is my #1 tip to bring it all together...CONSISTENCY! Choosing your numbers and staying true to them day in & day out for at least 7-10 days will give you an adequate amount of time to know whether or not they’re working. You will not see significant results if you continue to change your ratios or calories. Likewise, if you’ve plateaued then it’s time to reassess these factors.
If you’d like help dialing your macros, I would love to help you! While my VIP nutrition program is 110% full, I’m currently offering a 1-time custom macronutrient plan for just $67 if you purchase by this Saturday. The custom macronutrient plan includes macros based on your specific goals, a sample menu, and copy of my 8 week Strictly Barbell program. Get details and purchase via the link here!