So, how many ‘macros’ should I have? What are macros? Yes, I know what you’re thinking right now – where the hell do I start?
This is the biggest part to getting you an action hero status kind of body.
What’s the single most important part of building muscle and strength and then leaning out showing off your hard work? The simple answer is nutrition. Your diet is what you need to be putting a huge chunk of your effort into. Of course there are other crucial factors to consider, but none more important than fuelling your body with the right foods. A common myth about building muscle and strength is that lifting weights alone will get you bigger and stronger. But is it as simple as that? Nope.
If that were the case then everyone you see pumping iron at the gym would have an awesome physique. With all the information about this subject, there is still a massive amount of confusion particularly with those new to lifting weights. Despite what many people believe, a good nutrition plan does not need to be overcomplicated. I want to use this article to outline everything you actually need to know about the importance of nutrition if your goal is to build muscle and strength.
But don’t worry, I have the answer. Let me start by talking about protein, carbohydrates and fats – MACROS. These three are the foundations of your diet which all play a vital role towards helping build muscle and strength.
To put it simply, you need protein to grow. Protein is a substance in the body responsible for building, repairing and maintaining muscle tissue. After your punishing gym session where you’ve damaged your muscle fibres, your body will require a larger amount of protein to repair them.
Aim for a minimum of around 0.7g per kg of bodyweight.
Carbs are the body’s number one source of energy. You have simple carbs and also complex carbs. Sugary foods such as bananas and strawberries contain simple carbs and give you an initial burst of energy by raising blood sugar levels. Whereas foods such as rice, wholegrain pasta and potatoes contain complex carbs. The complex carbs are exactly what you need to give you longer-lasting energy. If you are trying to build muscle and you don’t eat enough of these, your body will look for the next source of energy, which is protein. You definitely don’t want that!
Aim for around 2-4g of carbs per gram of bodyweight on training days, and 1-2g per gram of bodyweight on non-training days.
There are two types of fats. Firstly you have ‘good’ fats which you’ll find in foods like fish, avocado, olive oil and nuts. Secondly you have ‘bad’ fats often known as trans-fats, these are found in foods like margarine, biscuits and processed ‘ready meals’. Your aim should be to avoid bad fats and focus on eating the right amount of good fats.
These three components are essential to a muscle and strength building diet.
I aim to make up at least 15% of total calories via fats, usually the amount of calories left after taking into account the protein and carbohydrate allowances.
How much do you need in each meal?
You should aim to have the right amount of protein, carbs and fats in each meal. When you know how much you need of each per day, you can divide that evenly among your meals. There are certain things we need to look at as to where we would benefit the most for the energy that certain macro nutrients will give us, so having a good amount of your carbohydrates before and after training is always a really great idea.
How many meals per day?
This is up to your personal preference and lifestyle. Some eat 5-6 meals per day while others eat 3-4. The important thing is that you fuel your body and consume the correct amounts of protein, carbs and fat to get you the results you want. The body can store carbs and fats for energy, but it will not store proteins,so you will need to make sure you stock up every 4-5 hours on protein sources.
How often do you need to eat?
To build muscle and strength you ideally need to eat every 2.5-3 hours. The meal sizes may be a little smaller, but you will be eating more regularly to keep fuelled.
Eat a small meal roughly an hour before you start training if possible. This way you will get the most out of your workout, as mentioned before, pop carbs here for a good amount of energy to get stocked up before the session. Feel free to have a black coffee or pre-workout drink if you must, but please do not rely on these every session.
Eat a medium-sized meal up to an hour after your workout. It’s often debated exactly how long, but you have a window in which to best replenish your body and muscles, ideally have a good amount of your carbs here too. Your body will thank you for this in recovering a lot quicker. Your muscles will crave replenishment straight after your workout and this is vital to gaining growth and strength.
So we need to look at the amounts of each of these macros. What is vital is that this is a guide for you to use, please listen to your body to adjust as needed.
I start clients on the following macros when looking to put on size:
Protein – 0.7 gram per lb of bodyweight. MINIMUM (I like carbs so I keep my protein low – something a lot of people are scared of but carbohydrates are protein sparing and this will mean you WILL still GROW and RECOVER having a minimum of 0.7g/kg per day).
Carbohydrates – 2-4 grams per lb of bodyweight.
Fats – whatever the calories left works out at once you've taken the carbohydrates and protein into account, divide this by 9 as fat has 9 calories per gram, and you have the amount of fat you need in grams right there.
So this has allowed us to get a good look into the types of macronutrients needed and where to get them from. Next I will go through a little thing called ‘carb cycling’ and also recommend which supplements I advise my clients to get.