There is an idea out there that ‘golden’ macronutrient ratios exist that can transform a person’s physique. The idea was born in bodybuilding forums by people looking at someone else’s body transformation, asking their macro intake, then reverse engineering it to come up with a macro ratio that is assumed to be somehow special.
I’m not a fan of this idea. It’s logically flawed and here’s why…
Metabolism is adaptive. Calorie needs increase over time when bulking, and decrease over time when cutting.
- When cutting it isn’t prudent to decrease the calorie intake by reducing all macronutrients equally, because protein intake is best set according to lean body mass due to the muscle preserving properties when dieting.
- When bulking it is neither cost effective (protein is expensive), nor optimal (fat storage is more likely with higher fat intakes), to increase equally either.
- There is a broad scope for personal preference between fat and carbohydrate intake to make up the remainder of the calorie balance for most people, outside of specific situations. But for most serious trainees, once fat intake (tolerance/preference) has been established, carbohydrate increases and decreases will be used as the prime energy balance manipulator.
Macro ratios are therefore a function of the stage of dieting, not something specifically to target.
Let’s explain this with one quick and very simplified example.
Take a macro ratio ‘P40/C40/F20’ that has been proposed as perfect for cutting (meaning that 40% of a person’s diet will come from protein, 40% from carbohydrate, 20% from fat).
- Take a guy that can initially lose his target rate of fat loss eating 2500kCal per day. As the diet progresses over many weeks he finally needs to adjust to 2000kCal per day, and finally 1500kCal per day by the time he gets on stage.
- At the start of the diet, he’ll be consuming 250g of protein at the end of the diet he’ll consuming 150g a day.
- If that guy carries 70kg (154lbs) of lean body mass (LBM), he’ll be consuming ~3.6g/kgLBM of protein at the start, and ~2.1g/kgLBM at the end of the diet, which is an overconsumption of protein initially, and an underconsumption at the end.
Why does it matter if we over or under consume protein?
An overconsumption costs unnecessary $$ and steals away our ability to have a higher carb intake. An underconsumption when dieting can cost us muscle mass.
There is a similar issue with the other macronutrients also when you fix them as a ratio of the overall calorie intake rather than to lean body mass.
- Fat is important hormonally and allowance should be set to lean body mass (and then adjusted per tolerance).
- Carbs make up the remaining balance and are important for training intensity and recovery.
Nothing should be arbitrary.
Set your macros according to, 1. Your energy needs, 2. lean body mass, 3. body type, 4. then personal preference. Ignore macro ratios and let the myth die.