Optimal Macronutrient Ratio for Lean Muscle Growth

In a previous post I discussed a good way to work out your daily calorie requirements for building muscle. But knowing how many calories to eat is useless if you don’t know where those calories should come from.

After calculating your calories, the next step is to split those calories into an optimal ratio of macronutrients, more commonly referred to in the bodybuilding world as “macros”.

Macros are of course proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The word “macro” simply means large, because these are the nutrients the body needs in large quantities for energy, growth, tissue repair, immune function, metabolism and other essential functions in the body.

The body also needs micronutrients (“micro” meaning small). These are vitamins, minerals and trace elements which are essential for regulating processes in the body, enabling chemical reactions to occur and for general health.

Each of the three primary macronutrients provides a certain number of calories:

1 gram of protein provides 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories
1 gram of fat provides 9 calories

An ideal macro ratio for gaining lean muscle mass is 35/45/20 daily:

35% of calories from proteins
45% of calories from carbohydrates
20% of calories from fats

macro pie chart

There is no single best – set in stone – macronutrient ratio for building lean muscle mass. You will find a variety of different yet effective ratios for bulking diets, but generally they follow the same formula, give or take 5 – 10% either way.

Now here’s how to create a daily meal plan using this ratio:

Let’s say that you have worked out that you need 2,800 calories daily to start building muscle.

Using protein as an example, simply calculate 35% of 2800 calories, (use Google for a fast way to make this calculation) then divide the answer by 4, because every gram of protein contains 4 calories.

35% of 2800 = 980

Are you with me so far? Great…

Now take the answer and divide by 4 to find out how many grams of protein to eat each day.

980 ÷ 4 = 245 grams of protein

Below is the complete formula for converting the percentage of macronutrients into grams per day.

Protein: 35% of 2800 = 980 calories ÷ 4 = 245g per day
Carbs: 45% of 2800 = 1260 calories ÷ 4 = 315g per day
Fat: 20% of 2800 = 560 calories ÷ 9 = 62g per day

You don’t need to obsess about being 100% accurate with these macro ratios or grams of nutrients per day, it would be impossible to do so. Not even Jay Cutler gets his macros exactly dead on; they’re just a good guide to work with so that you’re getting a sufficient number of calories and ratio of macronutrients to insure an increase of lean muscle mass while minimizing fat gains.

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