The Best Macro Split for Fat Loss/Muscle Gain?

by Paula Vargas 282 views Nutrition

The Best Macro Split for Fat Loss/Muscle Gain?

You’ve been training consistently, eating healthy and seeing some effects of your hard work. However, you know you can get better results if you just dialled in your nutrition more!

Everyone seems talks about macronutrient (macro) splits nowadays. Depending on who you chat to, will have a different answer on what split is best. Keto? Fats rule. Vegans? Plenty of carbs (unless you’re a vegan keto dieter, then we have a different story).  

Why should you care about macronutrient ratios?  

For better or worse, the modern dieting world has been obsessed with calories. There wasn’t the focus on macronutrients there is today (except for keeping fats low in the era of ‘fats make you fat’). If you eat 100 calories worth of chicken breast or 100 calories in lollies – which one will keep you fuller for longer? I hope that you’ve thought the first option, but in case you haven’t... it’s the chicken breast. Without diving in too deep on hormonal effects of food, fast-digesting sugars are used as quick energy and often leave you hungry for more – this is useful to take into consideration when dieting down! A focus on macronutrients helps to ensure you’re having enough protein, carbohydrates and fats to support your ultimate goal. 

Ps – micronutrients are important too, but for this article we’re looking at macros! 

But first: 

The most important thing is to remember is to keep your calories in check. Suppose you want to take a numbers-based approach to body composition, which I imagine you do otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. In that case, it’s essential to know your starting point (there’s plenty of calculators on the net). First, you need to decide whether you’re looking to achieve fat loss or muscle gain. 

Your overall calorie intake is going to determine whether you move towards or further away from your goals. If you’re trying to lose body fat, you’re going to need to consume less calories. For muscle gain, you need to eat at maintenance level at least, but a surplus is best (even just 10%). By sticking to mainly wholefoods, you can help prevent blowing out while trying to gain muscle, and keeping satisfied for longer when dieting. 

It sucks sometimes, but calories are king. As mentioned, if fat loss is your goal, you need to be eating less than you expend. Every. Single. Time. The tricky part is that several factors determine what drives your internal calorie intake and activity output, so it’s not always as clear cut as a simple calorie equation. For example, as you diet down, you may notice you start feeling slower in your movements – this is your body working to keep you at your comfortable weight set point to protect you! Nevertheless, numbers can be a useful tool to help control dieting variables. You'll need to keep updating your calculations as you progress on your journey.

Protein: Body composition

One thing is definite: you need to have sufficient protein. This is probably something you already know. If you’re struggling to hit your protein targets, make sure you take a look through our range of protein powders!  

You want the majority of the weight that you lose to be from fat mass, and when gaining weight, you want it to be muscle. Having enough protein in your diet is crucial to achieving these ends.   

At this point, I should let you know that it’s a no brainer you should be doing resistance training too. And if you start to diet without having any foundation of muscle mass, then you’re more likely to look ‘skinny’ rather than shapely and athletic. If you’re a beginner with a lot of room to move, you can get away with putting on some muscle and losing body fat. Otherwise, if you've been training and don’t have a lot of muscle mass, it is wise to spend time building so you can show off your results with a deficit!   

Carbohydrates: Performance fuel  

Some athletes thrive on minimal carbohydrates, but for the majority of us, they are necessary to help get the best results possible. Carbohydrates are required for you to crush your workouts, and recover better so you can come back and make gains continuously. Glycogen is your body’s primary fuel source when you’re hitting those weights hard, so it’s wise to have enough in your diet (especially around training!). Carbs also give you necessary fibre for gut health and more volume so you can feel fuller for longer.

If you're trying to gain muscle and you're struggling to get those carbs in, powdered carbs can be an easy and effective way to get your intake up, plus give you extra stamina at the gym. If you're trying to lose fat, you may want to skip the carb powders and eat fibre-heavy carbs that satisfy you for hours.

Fats: Hormonal health 

Without dietary fats, hormone production suffers. Fat and cholesterol are needed for hormones to be formed, so if you're suffering from hormonal imbalances and are on an exttremely low fat diet, it would be wise to increase this macronutrient. Fats are also necessary for you to get the full benefit from the fat-soluble vitamins you consume: Vitamin A, D, E and K. To help you get more of the good stuff, check out the healthy fats in the general health section.

Note: These categories are, of course, just simplifications – fat is also an excellent source of energy, that can help you in times of both bulk or shred. Every macronutrient has a place for overall health. 

Some argue for carbohydrates to be the main manipulated macro, and leave just enough fats for hormonal health. The issue is that some people prefer to eat higher fat foods!  How much depends on you. You will get FAR better results if you eat according to what you prefer (see this article here for more). If you hate every step of the process, you’ll be more likely to get sub-par results.   

Where to start? 

  1. Decide what your calorie target will be.

  1. Have sufficient protein: Approximately 1.6-2.4 g per kilogram of bodyweight. 

  1. Establish a minimum intake of 0.8g per kg for fat, but adjust higher if preference dictates.

  1. Use the rest for carbohydrates. 

As you can see, there’s some leeway here. Know that you’re not fixed into your macros forever either. Experiment with what works for you. The most important thing is that you can stick to your program long enough to see results, and then make educated adjustments from there if need be.

What do you enjoy the most? What can you adhere to?

By knowing that there's no hard and fast rule on an 'optimal ratio', you can feel like you have a greater sense of control. This alone will help empower you to make the best choices for yourself. 

Product Recommendations:

Lean WPI by Genetix Nutrition

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Infrared NRG by ATP Science

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Ultra Omega 3-6-9 by Herbs of Gold

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Paula Vargas

Fitness & Nutrition

I studied Law and Marketing at University, but my love for fitness and nutrition lead me to become a qualified PT and Precision Nutrition certified coach. 

If I’m not at the gym, you can catch me researching nutrition, supplements and human psychology. Let’s connect on Instagram! 

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