On a day-to-day basis, most people eat in an intuitive manner. Unless, of course, they are following some type of diet or counting their macros for a specific goal. Intuitive eating is based on the idea of eating what you want, when you want, according to your hunger cues.
While tracking your macros or counting calories is very different from intuitive eating, it doesn’t have to feel restrictive. In fact, macro counting is often likened to the proverb: “Give a man to fish and you feed him for a day. But teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.
Macro counting is a brilliant tool for understanding food, its nutrients, and how to feed yourself adequately. All of which is important when trying to build muscle. Learn more about it in this blog.
What Is Macro Counting?
Short for macronutrients, macros are the building blocks of all foods and eating plans. There are three main macros to consider: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. All of which are essential for your muscle-building goals. Macro counting or your daily macro total is based on your caloric intake each day.
Calories and Macros
If you know the basics of weight-management, you should know that what you weigh depends on the number of calories you’re eating, but also expending in a day. I.e. calories in vs. calories out.
Calories have a bit of a negative stigma, but in reality, they are fuel for your body. Every single food and drink item you consume has a caloric value. This means that foods are not innately ”bad” for you — but rather, can impact your weight based on how much of it you consume.
When it comes to muscle building, this concept could not be more important. In order to build real muscle, you have to dial things up with your caloric intake. Why? Because your body needs the macros (building blocks) to build muscle — simple as that.
This is the basic premise on how to build lean muscle, as well as bulk muscle. You have to eat more macros to support your energy expenditure, i.e. you have to be in a caloric surplus.
How to Balance Macros for Muscle Building
Eating a caloric surplus is not as simple as eating double the amount you do on a regular basis, and working out extra hard in the gym. Yes, you will gain muscle. But there’s a chance you’ll also gain fat.
When it comes to hitting your muscle-building goals, tracking your macros in a caloric surplus is essential. First, you need to figure out your ideal caloric intake for the day based on your level of physical activity, known as your BMR. Then, you have to track your macros according to specific caloric goals.
So, what exactly does a caloric surplus mean? In short, you are eating more calories in a day, than you are burning.
But the key to success is eating whole, unprocessed foods in a surplus while counting your macros to ensure you are gaining more muscle, rather than fat. You also need to eat the correct ratio of macros for muscle gain.
Here’s a basic breakdown:
Prioritize Your Protein Intake
When you want to build muscle, protein is your best bud. If you eat too little, you risk losing muscle and going into a caloric deficit. Or, you won’t gain enough muscle even when eating in a surplus.
A good way to ensure you’re eating enough protein is to consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 175 pounds, for example, you want to stick to 175 grams of protein.
Then, you’ll need to figure out the number of calories from protein that you’re eating. There are four calories per gram of protein. So, if you’re eating 175 grams of protein per day that equates to 700 calories. This means that 700 of your calories in your day’s eating must come from protein, alone.
Carefully Monitor Your Fat Intake
Fat is a very important part of any diet. It’s an essential nutrient for so many processes in the body, but most importantly, hormone regulation. Too little fat, and this impacts your hormone levels (hello, testosterone!), which impacts how much muscle you build. Too much fat, and you could just gain more fat than muscle.
Fat is also not as filling or satiating as the other two macros. It’s important to remember that fat is also the most caloric dense macro. There are nine calories per one gram of fat. This means that fat must be your least-consumed macronutrient. But it’s important not to think of fat as a ”bad” macro — you just need less of it when trying to build muscle.
Additionally, fat is what makes food taste delicious. It’s an important part of your diet and should not be avoided, but balanced correctly with protein and carbs.
In order to calculate how much fat you should be eating for your weight, multiply it by 0.3. So, for example, if you weigh 175-pounds you shouldn’t exceed 53 grams of fat per day, and 477 of your daily calories should come from fat.
Don’t Cut Out Carbs, You Need Them
The outdated (and inaccurate) myth that carbs are ”bad for you” is something to forget about when you want to build muscle. They are almost as important as protein in terms of macro counting, and life in general!
Carbs are essential for energy expenditure. They are converted into glucose and stored in our fat cells. When you want to work out and lift heavy — carbs are your fuel.
Carbs should be calculated last when determining your macros. This is because they usually make up the bulk of your caloric intake for the day. Based on your caloric goal for muscle building, you need to consider your calories from protein and fat, first. Whatever is leftover is your ideal amount of calories from carbs that you should be eating.
With carbohydrates, there are four calories per gram.
Don’t Forget About Hydration
While H2O is not a macro, it’s a hugely important part of any well-balanced diet. Drinking enough water throughout your day-to-day life assists with a myriad of functions, but most importantly, cell function.
In order for your muscles to grow, they undergo a process called protein synthesis. At a cellular level, your muscles need water in order to carry out this process. So, make hydration a priority, just as much as the three above-mentioned macros!
Prioritize Hydration, Prioritize Your Health
Tracking your macros is also about trial and error. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because each person is different and has varying caloric needs. The more you understand the caloric value of food, the better your relationship with food will become. Think of macro counting as empowering — with it you know how to feed your body for results.
Whether you’re looking for water bottles, reviews, or information on the importance of hydration, be sure to explore the rest of this site for more.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.