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The Basics of Body Recomposition: Macronutrient Calculations to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

by Palwasha Malik on March 4, 2016 in Lifestyle, Health and News Articles
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The Basics of Body Recomposition: Macronutrient Calculations to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

 

While body recomposition is difficult, it can be done. In fact, with the right approach, it’s actually pretty simple. That said, as you delve more deeply into any process, you will need to following new steps in order to progress. Taking these next steps, of course, leads to better results.

Part 1 of this series focused on approaching body recomposition through calorie cycling. While that is undoubtedly a great start, we’re going to take the next step and teach you how to cycle your macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) to make the entire process more effective.

A Quick Refresher

For body recomposition, the single most important aspect of your overall fitness plan is nutrition. Exercise is certainly an important factor, but nutrition is at least 75% of the equation. So, we need to get your diet in order.

When structuring nutrition for recomposition, you need to focus on cycling. In the context of dieting, “cycling” means that you modify your nutrition based on your activity. Simply put, you need to eat more on days that you train (“training days”), and less on days that you do not (“rest days”). The primary reason for this is energy utilization and recovery.

Note that for the purposes of our discussion, the term “training day” only refers to a day in which you perform weight training for at least 30 minutes.

The first fundamental key of recomposition is to match energy demand with energy intake. Energy intake is critical—calories come first.

Determining Macronutrient Intake for Recomposition

Now that you’ve determined your caloric intake, you need to figure out where that energy ought to come from—for instance, what types of foods and how much of each. This means we need to figure out your macronutrient breakdown. As with calories, there’s a simple formula for this.

Before we can get into it though, it’s important to realize what macronutrients are. Simply put, macronutrients, or macros, are the three main categories of foods: carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

Each of these play different roles in the body and consequently have different effects. If you want a more complete discussion of macros, check out MyFitnessPal’s Nutrition 101 series. With regard to recomposition, just know that eating more protein and carbs is crucial on training days, while on rest days, carbohydrates are much less important. Simple and easy.

All macronutrients are measured in grams. The calorie content of each of these grams varies a bit among the macronutrients: protein and carbohydrates each have 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. That will be important for the formula we’ll be using. Speaking of which…

To Determine Training Day Calories:

  • First, determine your protein intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 (this is the total grams of protein you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of protein).
  • Second, determine your carbohydrate intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 (this is the total grams of carbs you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of carbs).
  • Third, determine how many calories remain. Add the calories from your protein and carbs together. Subtract that number from your total training day calorie intake.
  • Fourth, determine your fat intake in grams. Take your remaining calories, and divide that number by 9. The result is your fat intake in grams.

Just like that, you’ve got your macro breakdown for training days. Now, let’s move on to rest days…

To Determine Rest Day Calories:

  • First, determine your protein intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 (this is the total grams of protein you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of protein).
  • Second, determine your carbohydrate intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 0.35 (this is the total grams of carbs you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of carbs).
  • Third, determine how many calories remain. Add the calories from your protein and carbs together. Subtract that number from your total rest day calorie intake.
  • Fourth, determine your fat intake in grams. Take your remaining calories, and divide that number by 9. The result is your fat intake in grams.

And just like that, you’ve got your macros for your rest days.

To help drive this home, here is an example; I’m once again offering myself up as a guinea pig. Based on the formula to determine calorie intake, I’m starting with these numbers:

  • Training day calories: 2,932.5. This is the number of calories I will eat on days I train with weights.
  • Rest day calories: 2,295. This is how many calories I need to eat on days during which I do not train with weights.

These numbers are based on my current stats: 197 pounds, 5’8″, and 10% body fat.

With that covered, let’s determine my training day macro breakdown.

  • Protein: 197 x 1.5 = 295.5 grams. Represented in calories, this is 1,170 (295.5 x 4).
  • Carbohydrates: 197 x 1.5 = 295.5 grams. Represented in calories, this is 1,170.
  • Next, I add those two up, giving me 2,340 calories. I subtract this from my training day calories and see I have 592.5 calories remaining.
  • Fat: I divide my remaining calories by 9 and get 65.83—that’s how many grams of fat I need.

All told, my macronutrient breakdown for training days looks like this: 295.5g P/295.5g C/65.83g Fat.

Next, we determine rest day macros.

  • Protein: 197 x 1.5 = 295.5 grams. Represented in calories, this is 1,170 (295.5 x 4).
  • Carbohydrates: 197 x .35 = 68.95 grams. Represented in calories, this is 275.8.
  • Next, I add those two up, giving me 1,450.8 calories. I subtract this from my rest day calories and see I have 849.2 calories remaining.
  • Fat: I divide my remaining calories by 9 and get 94.35—that’s how many grams of fat I need.

All told, my macronutrient breakdown for rest days looks like this: 295.5g P/68.95g C/94.35g Fat.

Closing Thoughts & Next Steps

Okay, okay—it’s a bit more math than most of us would like, but thankfully, you only have to do it once. After that, you’ve got your macros, and you won’t be changing them for a while. Figuring this stuff out may take a few minutes, but it is absolutely the most effective way to structure your nutrition for recomposition.

While the process of getting in shape is never easy, it can be made simple with formulas like these. There are a few other ways to eat for recomposition, but this intermediate formula is a great step on your journey to simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain.

Your Turn

Now, it’s your turn. Give it a shot and post your result in the comments section. We’ll be around to check in on you, and offer some advice and guidance.

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