How To Decide Your Own Macro Split

Macro Split
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Everyone’s talking about macros. But how can you use a macro-based approach to diet unless you know your numbers?

What Are Macros?

Macros is shorthand for macronutrients – the three components of all foods. Macronutrients are protein, dietary fats, and carbohydrates. (Some people argue that alcohol should be the fourth macronutrient, but let’s keep it simple here and just talk about the three established macros!)

Every food you eat will contain one, two, or even all three of the macros. Chicken, for example, is protein and fat. Oats are carbs, fat, and protein. Protein powder is protein, with a tiny amount of carbs and fats. You get the idea. There are some foods which are purely one single macro, but they are rare examples. This is why it pays to understand about macronutrients if you want to eat for fat loss or muscle gain.

Why Use A Macronutrient Approach To Nutrition?

Gaining or losing weight fundamentally comes down to energy balance. Consistently take in more calories than you expend, and you are in a calorie excess = weight gain. Take in fewer calories than you expend, and you are in a calorie deficit. Do this for long enough = weight loss.

Calories may be King, but if you want more than simply weight gain or weight loss then you need to know about macros. After all, a calorie intake made up purely of protein, with no healthy fat or carbs, wouldn’t leave you feeling capable of productive gym workouts. And a diet of purely fats, with no protein or carbs, would do very little to support your muscle tissue. You get the idea. It’s important to eat the optimal balance of the three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats), especially if you are chasing sports performance or body composition.

Are Macros Calories?

Yes – the calorie count of food is made up of the combined calorie load of the macronutrients. Confused? Don’t be. All it means is that the amount of calories in a food can be separated out into the macros. It goes like this.

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories

It’s important to note that we don’t mean 1 gram of the food itself. So if you put some chicken on a food scale and it weighed 100g, that would not be 400g of protein.

Instead, you need to look at how many grams of each macro are within that food. So if we go back to that 100g of chicken on your food scale, it has (roughly) 23g protein, 1g fat, 0g carbs. This is 23 x 4, 1 x 9 = 99. So that 100g chicken has 99 calories.

There’s no need to turn your brain into a super computer. You can look at food labels, which will tell you the grams of protein/carbs/fats per 100g or per portion of the food. Or – simpler still – you can use an app like MyFitnessPal to help you crunch the umbers.

How Much Should You Be Eating?

Now you understand what macros are and how many calories they all contain. But how much should you be eating? The answer – frustratingly – is “it depends”. Your personalised macro split will be dictated by food preference, energy output, training frequency, physique and performance goals, and other things like your food environment and habits. It will also be a matter of trial and error over time.

But there are a few basic fundamentals to help you get started.

You could kick off with a balanced 40/40/20 split of macros. To calculate this, start with your calorie intake (the amount of calories you want to eat to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain).

Let’s use 2000 calories per day to make it easier – this is just an example. So 40% will come from protein, 40% from carbohydrates, 20% from fats.

That’s 800 calories from protein – 4 calories per gram – 200 grams protein

And 800 calories from carbs – 4 calories per gram – 200 grams carbohydrates

Plus 400 calories from dietary fats – 9 calories per gram – 45 grams fats

200g protein/200g carbs/45g fats = 2000 calories.

Macro Splits According To Goals

Or you could base your intake around the following calculations, which are designed to prioritise protein for muscle gain and muscle retention, which enough healthy fats for general health and wellbeing, and carbohydrates placed around your most active times of the day.

2 grams protein per kilo of bodyweight

0.7 grams – 1.2 grams fats per kilo of bodyweight

The remainder from carbohydrates

Get your calculator out, learn to read food labels, and make friends with a macro app on your smartphone – it’s never been easier to design a food plan around macros!

Everyone’s talking about macros. But how can you use a macro-based approach to diet unless you know your numbers?

About the Author:

Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging. Follow her here and on Facebook & Twitter (@thefitwriter) too.


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