How to Determine Your Required Macronutrient Intake
Monitoring your macronutrient intake is part of flexible dieting, also called "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM for short). Your body needs 3 macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fats—to function. The proportion of these nutrients that you include in your diet depends on your age, gender, height and weight, activity level, and fitness goals. According to the diet, once you figure out your macronutrient ratio, you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits into those proportions.
Calculating Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure
Measure your height and weight.Your height and weight are essential to help you determine your body composition. You'll need them to complete your other calculations so you can find your required macronutrient intake.
- If you're weighing yourself on a standard bathroom scale, take 3 readings and average them. You may want to weigh yourself at different times of the day.
- The easiest way to measure your height by yourself is to stand barefoot on a flat floor (not carpet) next to a wall. Make a small pencil mark on the wall at the top of your head. Then measure from the floor to your mark.
Estimate your body fat percentage.There are many different methods you can use to estimate your body fat percentage. Some are more accurate than others. However, if you just want a starting figure so you can nail down your macronutrient intake, a general estimate will suffice.
- You can estimate your body fat percentage at home using a tape measure. You don't have to make an appointment with a nutritionist, physical trainer, or other health care professional, and you don't have to buy any expensive equipment.
- Once you get your measurements, you can plug them into a free online calculator, such as the one found at , to find your body fat index.
Find your basal metabolic rate (BMR).Your BMR is the base amount of calories your body needs each day to function. As an active person, you will burn more calories than this, but you need this figure to determine your daily caloric needs.
- There are several different formulas you can use to calculate your BMR by hand. These formulas vary in complexity as well as accuracy.
- To get a rough estimate, you can use a free BMR calculator online, such as the one found at .
Multiply your BMR by an accurate activity factor.Once you have your BMR, choose a multiplier that takes into account your normal level of activity throughout the day. Be honest and realistic with yourself, keeping in mind you can adjust this as your activity level changes.
- Multiply your BMR by 1.2 if you have a relatively sedentary lifestyle. Use this multiplier if you have a desk job and aren't very active outside of work or throughout the day.
- Multiply your BMR by 1.3 or 1.4 if you have a lightly active lifestyle. Use this multiplier if you exercise 1 to 3 days per week, or if you exercise for less than 30 minutes a day.
- Multiply your BMR by 1.5 or 1.6 if you are moderately active. Use this multiplier if you exercise 4 or 5 days a week and have a relatively active lifestyle where you're on your feet a lot.
- Multiply your BMR by 1.7 or 1.8 if you're very active. Use this multiplier if you have a hard labor job or if you are training hard, multiple times a day, for a specific sport or goal.
Adjust your calorie intake depending on your fitness goals.Your BMR multiplied by your activity factor gives you your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight.
- If you want to lose weight, you want to consume fewer calories than your TDEE. On the other hand, if you're trying to build muscles, you might want to consume more calories than your TDEE.
Use these numbers as a starting point.As you progress towards your diet and exercise goals, these numbers will change. Revisit them at least once a month or so and correct them as necessary so you're always using accurate numbers.
- Don't forget to also adjust your multiplier if you start exercising more than you did when you first made your calculations.
Determining Your Ideal Macronutrient Ratio
Set your total calorie goal.Based on your TDEE and your fitness goals, figure out the total number of calories you want to consume each day. Start with your TDEE and adjust it up or down depending on whether you want to gain or lose weight.
- The right amount up or down varies greatly among people. Start small and then adjust as necessary. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you may start by consuming 10% fewer calories than your TDEE.
Start with a minimum fat requirement.Contrary to popular belief, consuming fat doesn't necessarily make you fat. Your body needs a minimum amount of fat to function properly. However, especially if you're trying to lose weight, you want to keep your fat consumption as low as possible.
- Generally, you should consume at least 1 gram of fat for each 4 pounds (1.8 kg) of body weight. For example, a woman who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) would need to consume aminimumof 37.5 grams of fat each day, but in reality would need more like twice that amount.
Calculate the protein you need.The amount of protein you need depends on your fitness goals. If you're trying to build muscles, you'll generally want to consume more protein than if you're simply trying to lose weight.
- If you're just trying to maintain your weight, go with 0.8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds (1.00 kg) of body weight. If you're trying to build muscle or are over the age of 65, you might go with 1.2 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds (1.00 kg) of body weight.
- If you're on a low carb diet, you may have greater protein needs. However, you typically don't want to consume more than 1.4 grams per 2.2 pounds (1.00 kg) of body weight.
Convert the grams to calories and find out how many you have left for carbs.Fat has 9 calories per gram, while protein has 4 calories per gram. Multiply the grams of fat by 9 and the grams of protein by 4. Add the numbers together and subtract the answer from your total number of calories per day.
- Then, take the number of calories you have left and divide them by 4 (which is the number of calories per gram that carbohydrates have). That is the number of grams of carbohydrates you should consume each day.
Convert your numbers to percentages.Take the number of calories you found for each of your macronutrients and divide them by the total number of calories you aim to consume in a day. That tells you the percentage of your calories that should be made up by that particular macronutrient.
- For example, if you have a 2,000 calorie diet and want to gain muscle, you might end up with a ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. This equates to 200 grams of carbs, 150 grams of protein, and about 70 grams of fat per day.
- Note that programs like Weight Watchers suggest a diet consisting of 20-35% fat, 10-35% protein, and 45-65% carbs.
Maintaining Your Intake
Keep a food diary.Writing down everything you eat is the easiest way to keep track of your food when you're dieting. Include little snacks as well, even if it's just a handful of almonds.
- Don't worry about figuring up calories and grams immediately, if you don't have this information readily available. You can reconcile your food diary later and find the right values.
- Search for mobile apps that will help you keep track of your food. Many of these also have tools that will estimate the calories and macronutrients in what you eat, so you don't have to do that work yourself.
Find recipes that reflect your ratio.Arming yourself with even a few diverse recipes that include the ideal macronutrient ratio you've calculated can save you a lot of work. Instead of looking up the macronutrient percentages for each individual food, you can simply make the recipe.
- Some macronutrient apps and blogs have recipes available as well. For example, you can find macronutrient recipes at . The recipes there break down the calories, carbs, fat, and protein in each serving.
Monitor your performance.What your body tells you can be more important than calculations. What works best for your body may not reflect a calculated ideal. When you first start flexible dieting, be prepared to adjust your macronutrient ratio frequently until you find something that works well for you.
- For example, if you notice that your body performs better when you eat more carbs, adjust your ratio to be more carb-heavy.
Video: How to Determine Your Required Macronutrient Intake
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