The perfect ratio and caloric amount will greatly vary between people. Some are what you would call a “hard-gainer.” These people struggle to put on weight no matter what or how much they eat. Typically, they stay pretty lean but are unable to gain the amount of muscle they would like to. As always, the grass is always greener on the other side. Other people struggle to lose body fat and get lean. There are many factors at play here, some you can’t control (i.e. genetics) while others you can manipulate to find what works for you (i.e. macros, calories).
This article should get you started on how to determine your ideal macronutrient goals and caloric needs.
No matter the goal, being mindful of what you put in your body is critical. In order to gain size, you’ll need to eat for that goal. In this article, you’ll learn how to calculate the calories you need in order to put on lean mass.
What is a Macro?
Macro is short for macronutrient. Macro, meaning large, and nutrient meaning, well the things your body needs to survive. Macronutrients are nutrients that are needed by the body in large quantities. The macronutrients consist of protein, fats, & carbohydrates. There also exist micronutrients which are nutrients the body needs in small amounts (i.e. vitamins/minerals) but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Often times, you will see protein, fats, and carbs listed on nutritional labels in grams (g). We will need to convert those to calories. That is easily accomplished with the following chart.
Macro (g) cal
Protein 1 4
Fat 1 9
Carbs 1 4
Notice how fats provide twice the energy as protein and carbs. This is probably why our society has a “fat-phobia.” Future articles will address this issue at large. For now, don’t fall into that trap.
First, you will need to get an approximation on where your metabolism is. Your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body needs to do the bare basics. If you sat on the couch all day and didn’t move, you would still burn X amount of calories. That amount is known as your RMR. A few factors go into this such as body weight and body fat.
First, you’ll need to estimate your body fat percentage. The following picture should get you into the general vicinity.
Once you know your BF%, you’ll calculate your Lean Body Mass (LBM). You’ll multiply your BF% by your body weight (BW). For example, if you weigh 185 lbs and are 15% BF, you’ll multiply .15 x 185. You should arrive at: 27.75. You will then subtract that from your BW (i.e. 185 – 27.75 = 157.25).
Our example would have an LBM of 157 (rounded down for convenience).
For a caloric deficit multiple by 14 (i.e. 157 x 14 = 2,198 cal)
For maintenance calories multiple by 16 (i.e. 157 x 16 = 2,464 cal)
For conservative surplus of calories multiple by 18 (i.e. 157 x 18 = 2,826 cal)
Short of a hyperbaric chamber, there is no sure-fire way to figure out your caloric expenditure and/or your caloric needs. However, these guidelines will provide you a great starting point.
If you wanted to be more aggressive with the weight gain, by all means, add more calories. However, I recommend you start with the above and see how it goes. I don’t think anybody actually wants to put on body fat. Perhaps I am wrong, but I have yet to come across anybody who has chosen that as a goal.