Diet by the Numbers

know your macronutrient ratios

Meal prepping, packing your six pack, and keeping track of what you eat helps develop self-discipline, improves focus and makes you become aware what exactly you are eating for getting better and faster results! A lot of people tend to under-report calories because they do not take time to prep their meals and keep track of their macronutrient numbers. Count grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat for EACH FOOD ITEM and EVERY MEAL. If I allow myself to have 50 grams of protein, 38 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat PER MEAL and have 6 meals per day this helps me manage each meal and keep track of the totals for the whole day. After each meal I subtotal the grams and macronutrient ratios to monitor how well I am doing throughout the day and plan what I can or cannot eat before the day ends.

meal prep, pack your six pack, and keep track of your numbers

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Years ago while living overseas for some time I kept track of everything I ate for 16 weeks. I utilized a circuit training program in conjunction with my diet and in 16 weeks I got what I wanted – a slimmer waistline with washboard abs! If you are truly serious about reaching your goal you’ll prep your meals, pack your six pack, and keep track of your macronutrient numbers for every food item and meal and macronutrient ratio percents for every meal you eat. Meal prepping and keeping track of your numbers becomes habit forming and educational, even a game to yourself enroute to your goal! If I am following a DIETARY PROGRAM of 2,600 calories with a 45% protein - 35% carbohydrate - 20% fat macronutrient ratio, then this equates out to be approximately 300 grams of protein, 225 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fat per day.

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If you don’t know how many grams you need but know what your goal calories are and know what your macronutrient ratios are you can discover your grams of protein, carbs and fat by using this simple calculation from my figures above. First, protein: 2,600 x 45% (protein ratio) = 1,170 (protein calories) divided by 4 (there are 4 calories in one gram of protein) = 293 grams of protein. Next, carbs: 2,600 x 35% (carb ratio) = 910 (carb calories) divided by 4 (there are 4 calories in one gram of carb – carbs get used first before protein) = 228 grams of carbohydrates. Last, fat: 2,600 x 20% (fat ratio) = 520 (fat calories) divided by 9 (there are 9 calories in one gram of fat) = 58 grams of fat. Counting protein, carbohydrates, and fat keeps you on track for the day for your allotted amount of calories during the week. If your weight remains the same with no fat loss and muscle gain, then you are holding at your maintenance. To lose fat or build muscle that is conducive to your metabolism and activity level simply adjust your macronutrient ratio percent amounts. It becomes a numbers game and you will lose or gain at will.

Example dialogue representing “diet by the numbers”

Client: Right now I’m just trying to lose the fat so I can make the weigh-in in…. I put on a tad bit of weight over the past few weeks. I also don’t have any handy books for measuring protein (I have a carbohydrate/sugars book and a calories/fat book). Today I ate 2,000 calories, 250 carbohydrates, and 40 grams of fat (as of 6PM). I’m going to cut back a bit tomorrow on the calories. You spoke about Ronnie Coleman’s diet. Did you see Jay Cutler’s 10,000 calorie-diet a few months ago!

Randy Personal Training: Without you telling me your protein intake (if you knew) as of 6PM you ate 160 grams of protein amounting to 640 calories – to put in the missing figure of your 2,000 calories. 250 carbohydrates (1,000 calories) and 40 fat (360 calories) amount to only 1,360 calories. The missing 640 of 2,000 was/is your protein intake. This breaks down to a 32% protein, 50% carbohydrate, and 18% fat ratio (granted that you didn’t eat anything after 6PM – I would have a hard time not to). Real good ratio for your goal I think!

Ronnie Coleman must eat around the same in the off-season. Assuming this calorie and breakdown range: 1,000 grams of protein = 4,000 calories; 1,000 grams of carbohydrates = 4,000 calories; and 222 grams of fat = 2,000 calories. Total = 10,000 calories. This would be a 40 – 40 – 20 macronutrient ratio. This sort of ratio would make sense to a bodybuilder who doesn’t want to add fat to his body while training in the off-season. He can maintain fat weight while gaining more muscle. The “bulk-up” and “cut-up” diet regimen died in the late 70s and early 80s but some still use it.

To make a case and point with protein, carbohydrates, fat, calories and appropriate ratio allowed for the day, I had a personal pan pizza (26 protein, 70 carbohydrates, 29 fat) after my workout and while on my diet! I could afford to because my macronutrient, calorie and ratio would still be within range at the end of the day. My last meal consisted of: 1 ½ cups salad (without dressing), 6oz. can of tuna, ½ cup 1% cottage cheese. Totals: 47 protein, 10 carbohydrates, 2 fat. Total macronutrients for the end of the day: Protein 281, Carbohydrates 246, Fat 65. Total Calories: 2,676. Ratio: 42 – 37 – 22. Very good, considering it is within 5% of my recommended ratio 45 – 35 – 20.

Client: You’re right…the eating journal came in handy. And you were right! I ate after 6PM because I couldn’t help it. I had a ham sandwich. Totals for Saturday were: 2,314 calories – 267 carbohydrates and 45 fat. Need to cut out about 300 calories today (to make an even 2,000-calorie diet) and get the carbohydrates down to 250. Fat is fine as long as it’s under 50 grams. What do you think??? Am I on the right track? Hey, how did you tell how much protein I had without me telling you what I ate all day????

Randy Personal Training: I thought you’d be surprised how I figured your protein. But I knew you’d figure it out with the math. If your aim is to eat 250 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of fat then that allows you to eat 138 grams of protein for a total of 2,000 calories. 250 carbohydrates (1,000 calories) a day is good for you. But try your original 40 fat (360 calories), which will give you an “exchange” of 20 grams of protein your body will probably need without losing muscle mass. This will put your protein intake up to 160 grams per day (640 calories) and give you a 32 – 50 – 18 ratio and would be good for your specific short-term goal.

Client: Yesterday I had 2,314 calories… 210 protein, 267 carbohydrates, 45 fat. That makes a 36 – 46 – 18 ratio. I am reducing the calories to 2,000 today. I’m exceeding 25% protein (your Reverse Pyramid Training book cautions not to do this).

Randy Personal Training: My book is a starting point for the recreational type of person. It is not individualized or does not take into account of “specialized” nutrition for specific goals of certain people of different experience like athletic dieting used in conjunction with athletic training for increasing performance or enhancing physical appearance. If you look at the (*) symbol under the box of percentages it is recommended not to go above 30% but I leave that up to the individual (my current diet is a 45 – 35 – 20 ratio). With your totals you have been under-reporting 314 calories! If 40 grams of fat is unrealistic for you, then 50 grams might be better. That’s only an extra 100 calories to maintain your sanity and sticking to your DIETARY PROGRAM.

Client: What do you think? I am a little worried about the protein. As of 7:30PM: 105 protein, 225 carbohydrates, and 42 fat. Total calories: 1,697. Ratio: 25 – 53 – 22. My goal ratio: 30 – 50 – 20. I still have a snack scheduled for tonight. I only need 300 calories to make my 2,000 calorie-goal. Will try to find something high in protein.

Randy Personal Training: Don’t starve yourself of protein and carbohydrates. Always start with your protein requirements first because the last thing you want to do is lose your fat-burning machinery – muscle! Next, determine a healthy and sane fat intake, and then figure your energy (carbohydrate) requirement. I always put a healthy recommendation of fat between 30-60 grams for a man or women between 150 to 250 pounds when following a calorie-restricted diet. Follow my Reverse Pyramid Training book recommendation for protein: 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass (muscle) weight. Your protein intake is dependent on a body composition test that can be assessed at virtually any gym or health club to determine your fat to muscle ratio in relation to total body weight.

If your aim is to follow a 2,000-calorie 30 – 50 – 20 ratio you’ll have to follow this breakdown regardless: 150 (600) protein, 250 (1,000) carbohydrates, and 45 (405) fat. Total calories: 2,005. That equals your goal ratio of 30 – 50 – 20. If you are having a hard time keeping up your protein while restricting your calories consume a protein supplement. The more you play with your numbers the more you learn what might be a good DIETARY NUTRIENT RATIO PROGRAM for you. Good Luck!