T Nation

Ideal Macros for Maintenance

#1

You are a person who lifts 5 days per week, and is active. Lets assume that you are not bulking or cutting. You've found a sweet spot where you can be fairly lean, not competition lean, but a weight and body composition that you are happy to just maintain. You are happy with your level of muscular development. You may time your carbs around your workouts, but you aren't doing anything complex in terms of carb cycling or intermittent fasting.

Does this state exist? :slightly_smiling:

If so, what are your ideal macro percentages? Please list Protein/Carbs/Fats.

If you are over 35, have your macros for maintenance changed with age?

EDIT: When listing carbs, please specify if you count everything, or if you don't count veggie carbs.

#2

I just found a very similar thread in the Bigger, Leaner, Stronger Forum. Here’s the link if you are interested. Sorry for the repetition. http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/macro_talk

I’m asking because I don’t usually focus on macros at all. I usually just try to hit protein targets and adjust total calories depending on what I’m doing and how I feel. I recently looked at my macros and found that on a typical day I was at 44% pro, 26% carb, and 30% fat - That’s counting all carb sources. I’m not sure what to make of that. I’m may be getting more of my energy from protein than is necessary.

I’ve tried carb cycling before, but have never done a keto or Atkins diet. I’m interested in baseline maintenance here, not a six-weeks to get shredded type of thing. I want to just keep it simple. Find a way to eat most everyday and repeat.

Thanks!

#3

I would look into some Lyle McDonald articles personally. He’s a sh*tbag but his articles are a goldmine.

#4

I’m 47.

I’ve learned over the years to get enough protein (around 300g for me), ingest enough fat (avocadoes, peanuts, beacon…) and play with the carbs. In all seriousness, I don’t like to many carbs because it makes me fart. I’ve tried everything (more chewing as carbs get partially broken in the mouth, Beano, mix with only fats, etc…) So, I just lowered (over the years) my carbs. Rice, bread, pastas, etc. Doesn’t matter, my body doesn’t really like that stuff. So, I keep it to a minimal. Veggies are fine.

Now, I know I am not answering your question about macro, I just wanted to let you know that it is ok to let your body tell you want you need. Ever had a craving of OJ just before getting sick? Or, as a women, protein before that time?

I’ve always said that you should start by looking at your breakdown. Most people that actually do it for an extended period of time, learn quite a bit on what is happening. I know the first time I did that, I found that I was ingesting, on average, less then 2000 cal a day and wondering why I wasn’t growing… yeah, I was young. I also found out that my carbs where way to high and protein, way too low. Made some adjustments, kept the journal for a few months and never looked back.

On a typical day I get around 1200 cal from protein, 1200 in fat and the rest in carbs. Now, those numbers change as my life change. I was injured most of 2012 and part of this year. I adjusted my intake accordingly. Just by how I felt and how my pants fit.

At then end of the day, Im like you. I don’t count macros (anybody not competing, or under a coach or for medical reason count those numbers, is wasting a lot of energy IMO), I live and enjoy myself.

I also find that NOT changing your daily diet to much, really help. Breakfast is usually protein shake with fruit and fat or eggs with veggy and cheese.

Lunch is protein (chicken, beef, salmon, etc) with big salad.

Dinner is protein with veggies. Ill add a carb (potatoe, rice, etc) if I feel the need (feeling run down, etc)

The base is the same, I just make small changes.

Snacks can be anything from a handful of nuts, beef jerky (my own, no sugar) egg salad, tuna salad.

I’m a Chef by trade, recipes are not what i’m missing.

Hope I’m making sense.

#5

40/30/30, I don’t really change them wether bulking or cutting

#6

[quote]myself1992 wrote:
40/30/30, I don’t really change them wether bulking or cutting[/quote]
I’m right around there as well, and that’s what Lyle McDonald recommends for a lot of people depending on their activity level, insulin sensitivity, if their addicted to carbs, or if they have stubborn body fat areas. In the end it comes down to calories… +10-20% for gaining, -10-20% for cutting.

#7

[quote]PB Andy wrote:

[quote]myself1992 wrote:
40/30/30, I don’t really change them wether bulking or cutting[/quote]
I’m right around there as well, and that’s what Lyle McDonald recommends for a lot of people depending on their activity level, insulin sensitivity, if their addicted to carbs, or if they have stubborn body fat areas. In the end it comes down to calories… +10-20% for gaining, -10-20% for cutting.[/quote]
They way I do it is all my meals are 513 calories so if I’m cutting I’ll just eat a meal less than what I usually do and I don’t believe in bulking so none of that for me

#8

PB Andy - Thanks for the Lyle McDonald recommendation. Wow. His articles will keep me busy for awhile. I found a 2-part one called Diet Percentages where the basic conclusion on macros is “it depends”, but he goes into a lot of detail. Thank you. I also had time to read an article called Protein Requirements for Strength and Power Athletes that was helpful. I will keep reading. I like to at least try to understand the science. :slight_smile:

As an aside, I stumbled on a Q and A called Carbohydrate Intake and Depression. He mentioned that dieting in general can lower serotonin and lead to depression in susceptible people. High protein/ low carb diets can be problematic in terms of depression and sleep disturbances, even more so with women. I just mention that because I am fortunately NOT prone to depression, but when I tried to cut this time last year, I stopped because I started feeling depressed. I didn’t have the same problem when I successfully cut in December, so I’m not sure what was different.

JFG - Thanks for going into detail about what you do. About keeping it simple, with the same basic foods most days - I feel the same way. It makes it easier to stay on track. You asked about intuitive eating or letting your body tell you what it needs. I did really crave red meat when I was recovering from Abdominal surgery in 2011. As for the problems with farty grains, funny. That brought back memories of the horrible dorm food when I was in college. I’m a woman and we don’t fart, we just fluff a little. :slight_smile:

myself1992 - Thank you for putting up your macros. It looks like I’m not too far off from you and Andy. Slightly lower on my carbs. I think I’ll try to readjust a bit. I was surprised to hear a man say they don’t believe in bulking here. :slight_smile: I slowly gained about 10 pounds the first year I started lifting, mostly eating very clean. I really hate to diet, and I’ve only had one successful attempt at cutting so it’s better if I don’t gain a lot of fat. At this point, I think it’s better for me to just stay in a healthy place and maintain. Eating on a deficit makes me want to binge eat, and I really don’t want to yo-yo.


BlueCollarTr8n recently discussed his diet in detail here for anyone who wants to look at his macros. I found his thread helpful because he’s really goes into detail and has kept data over a long period of time. It looks like his maintenance baseline is 36p/44c/20f and that’s counting everything. http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_bigger_stronger_leaner/bluecollar_how_do_you_tr8n?id=5587885

From the other thread that Steely put up, people are really all over the place with carbs and fat. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
Example: xxSeraphimxx was at 46p/29c/25f. On the other end of things, DoubleDuce is doing a more ketogenic thing at 33p/7c/60f.

Also, I did a search for women talking about macros, but outside of the strength training world, it was just too all over the map to be useful. Vegetarians, runners, people eating the RDA for protein…

#9

I actually had this conversation with my wife about this.

Being a chef, food is very important to me. I’m also quite passionate about it.

Her macros are quite different as she is vegetarian (ovo-lacto).

Enjoying life and eating go hand in hand. Having a coconut cream pie once in while, will not detract my macros that much. All about balance…

#10

Reason I say that is when I started I was 160 and I would just eat cleanly and when hungry and I went up to 180 and got leaner. I then tried to speed things up by bulking and of course I did gain weight but also a lot of unnecessary fat. I could’ve gained muscle at the same rate had I just eaten the right macros when I needed them instead of force feeding myself into a higher weight. I believe you need to set the necessary conditions for your body to grow (training, resting, good hormonal balance and digestion etc…) and your body will be wanting to grow and you’ll gain muscle just by eating when hungry.

Carbs are protein sparing and that’s why I keep them high and I don’t use low fat because healthy fats improve your health and your hormonal balance I believe (might be off on that one a bit) and if your protein is too high you’ll just excrete what’s not being used as urea (i think). Depending on the conditions you put your body in for growth your body will have a certain positive protein turnover rate and going above the protein requirements for that and calories your body actually needs will just make you get fatter.

#11

[quote]myself1992 wrote:
Reason I say that is when I started I was 160 and I would just eat cleanly and when hungry and I went up to 180 and got leaner. I then tried to speed things up by bulking and of course I did gain weight but also a lot of unnecessary fat. I could’ve gained muscle at the same rate had I just eaten the right macros when I needed them instead of force feeding myself into a higher weight. I believe you need to set the necessary conditions for your body to grow (training, resting, good hormonal balance and digestion etc…) and your body will be wanting to grow and you’ll gain muscle just by eating when hungry.

Carbs are protein sparing and that’s why I keep them high and I don’t use low fat because healthy fats improve your health and your hormonal balance I believe (might be off on that one a bit) and if your protein is too high you’ll just excrete what’s not being used as urea (i think). Depending on the conditions you put your body in for growth your body will have a certain positive protein turnover rate and going above the protein requirements for that and calories your body actually needs will just make you get fatter.[/quote]

Got it. And I just noticed in the other thread that you listed macros as 30p/40c/30f. Ok, I am a lot higher in protein as a percentage than you and Andy. Maybe listing c/p/f is more standard. Sorry about the confusion. I was reading your macros the way I listed them as p/c/f.

I’d imagine there’s a point in terms of calorie surplus where you’d maximally encourage muscle growth. That point might be influenced by the factors you mentioned, as well as genetic potential. It makes sense that anything beyond that would just get stored as fat. Modest slow surplus or deficits instead of crazy bulking, or constantly being on some 6-week-to-Nirvana drastic diet plan.

About too much protein being stored as fat, I’d think that’s only happening if I’m in a calorie surplus. This is simplistic, but as understand it, the body can and will use protein as an energy source if it has to. Still, I’m planning to work toward a bit lower protein and higher carbs as a more efficient energy source and see if I have more energy, and am less prone to the feeling the desire to binge on carbs.


Here’s a quote from Lonnie Lowery for anybody who’s following. He’s not a big fan of strict percentages, so I score a point for my system there! As you can see, he favors setting protein targets at 1 gram per pound BW, setting fats at at least 25% for optimal hormonal function, and then manipulating carbs according to activity levels. Ideally, you’d have someone look at individual factors like insulin resistance, metabolic rate, predisposition to diabetes, and so forth to figure ideal carbs.

"…But really for protein, a lot of the time it’s best to shoot for a daily dose in grams, as opposed to percentage of total intake. I shoot for the age-old suggestion of one gram per pound of body weight, and that usually isn’t that far off from the ideal. But the trick is to time protein intake around the workout. With protein, the total dose is not nearly as important as timing.

So to sum up: set protein at a gram per pound, be sure to time it around the workout, set fat at 25 percent of calories minimum to keep Testosterone at optimal levels, and manipulate carbs according to your goal. Simple, but effective."

#12

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:

[quote]myself1992 wrote:
Reason I say that is when I started I was 160 and I would just eat cleanly and when hungry and I went up to 180 and got leaner. I then tried to speed things up by bulking and of course I did gain weight but also a lot of unnecessary fat. I could’ve gained muscle at the same rate had I just eaten the right macros when I needed them instead of force feeding myself into a higher weight. I believe you need to set the necessary conditions for your body to grow (training, resting, good hormonal balance and digestion etc…) and your body will be wanting to grow and you’ll gain muscle just by eating when hungry.

Carbs are protein sparing and that’s why I keep them high and I don’t use low fat because healthy fats improve your health and your hormonal balance I believe (might be off on that one a bit) and if your protein is too high you’ll just excrete what’s not being used as urea (i think). Depending on the conditions you put your body in for growth your body will have a certain positive protein turnover rate and going above the protein requirements for that and calories your body actually needs will just make you get fatter.[/quote]

Got it. And I just noticed in the other thread that you listed macros as 30p/40c/30f. Ok, I am a lot higher in protein as a percentage than you and Andy. Maybe listing c/p/f is more standard. Sorry about the confusion. I was reading your macros the way I listed them as p/c/f.

I’d imagine there’s a point in terms of calorie surplus where you’d maximally encourage muscle growth. That point might be influenced by the factors you mentioned, as well as genetic potential. It makes sense that anything beyond that would just get stored as fat. Modest slow surplus or deficits instead of crazy bulking, or constantly being on some 6-week-to-Nirvana drastic diet plan.

About too much protein being stored as fat, I’d think that’s only happening if I’m in a calorie surplus. This is simplistic, but as understand it, the body can and will use protein as an energy source if it has to. Still, I’m planning to work toward a bit lower protein and higher carbs as a more efficient energy source and see if I have more energy, and am less prone to the feeling the desire to binge on carbs.


Here’s a quote from Lonnie Lowery for anybody who’s following. He’s not a big fan of strict percentages, so I score a point for my system there! As you can see, he favors setting protein targets at 1 gram per pound BW, setting fats at at least 25% for optimal hormonal function, and then manipulating carbs according to activity levels. Ideally, you’d have someone look at individual factors like insulin resistance, metabolic rate, predisposition to diabetes, and so forth to figure ideal carbs.

"…But really for protein, a lot of the time it’s best to shoot for a daily dose in grams, as opposed to percentage of total intake. I shoot for the age-old suggestion of one gram per pound of body weight, and that usually isn’t that far off from the ideal. But the trick is to time protein intake around the workout. With protein, the total dose is not nearly as important as timing.

So to sum up: set protein at a gram per pound, be sure to time it around the workout, set fat at 25 percent of calories minimum to keep Testosterone at optimal levels, and manipulate carbs according to your goal. Simple, but effective."
[/quote]

I honestly don’t even know how the standard is regarding that c/p/f lol I’ve just always written it like that. If your carbs and fats are too low your body will just turn the protein into glucose and use that as an energy source intead, that’s why I say that carbs are protein sparing. Also the way I see it is that when your body is primed for growth you’ll just get hungrier and eat more and gain more muscle so the caloric surplus (from previous maintenance) comes about naturally.

There are cases when people have a hormonal imbalance or digestive issues so they should fix those problems first so that this method can work for them. And yes what Lonnie said will work perfectly fine

#13

I’ve read a lot of articles by Lyle McDonald over the past few days. Thanks again PB Andy!

So here’s my thinking about macros and maintenance:

  • Adequate protein and total calories really are the TWO main factors here. When you have a very petite woman who is trying to hit BBing protein targets, and restrict calories, you are going to be WAY more likely to have someone eating protein at a fairly high percentage. For example, if someone is cutting on 1200 calories per day and eating 130 grams of protein per day, they are getting 520 of their cals from protein. I found a Lyle McDonald article that touched on this as a reason why it’s can be difficult to convince small women to eat enough protein to build muscle. :slight_smile:

  • Most of us are willing to micro-manage our diets to a degree that the average person doesn’t need, or want to. The goal isn’t just to be at a healthy weight, or to NO be fat. Tweaking body composition is a hobby, or a lifestyle, or whatever. For myself, I’m starting to loose all interest in dieting down to levels of body fat that I cannot maintain. I have zero interest in doing some 6-week program to get super lean for a month, or one day even.

  • Over the past year, my weight has varied 10 pounds. I’ve gone from 116 to 106 and am now at 112. My low weight of 106 is not something I can maintain, so the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. AND it’s freeing to think that I’m fine with that. Honestly, after three years I think that’s my genetic potential. Be active, eat healthfully but not obsess over it, and be one of the very few women who’s totally at peace with her body. That’s the goal.

#14

The Plan -

Not quite as simple as I’d hoped, but we’ll see how this goes.

I’m not aiming for strict macro percentages. Protein at about 110 grams per day. Fats at 25-30% of total cals., Carbs for the balance. Settle into maintenance so I only need to make minor readjustments once in awhile, such as a bit more cardio one week, or short-term and gradual calorie deficits to compensate for the occasional big meal or off day. That’s the goal.

Targeted Carbs - Honestly, I haven’t been very good about this. I train in the morning, and it’s not naturally a hungry time of the day, so I’m not always eating enough around my training. And I naturally like to eat carbs in the afternoon. So, the plan is to do a better job of targeting carbs to the pre and post workout windows, then taper to veggie carbs after lunch. Meals after lunch will be protein, fats, and/or veggies. I’m hoping just this small change will help me maintain and improve body comp a bit.

Carb Cycling - For the next month, eat only veggie carbs on non-training days and see how I feel, and how I respond in terms of body comp. This one is a major change for me. I like the idea of just eating the same way everyday, but I think for people who want to stay fairly lean, this one might be worth the effort. We’ll see.

Unrelated to the topic, but I’m working on getting more sleep. Inadequate sleep is an ongoing issue. I’m an extreme morning person, and I start to crash in the afternoon which I’m sure is related to my afternoon eating habits - desire to binge in afternoons. Hopefully shifting more calories and carbs to the AM, and getting more sleep will help. This one isn’t an easy fix, but I know it’s related.

#15

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:
Here’s a quote from Lonnie Lowery:
"…But really for protein, a lot of the time it’s best to shoot for a daily dose in grams, as opposed to percentage of total intake. I shoot for the age-old suggestion of one gram per pound of body weight, and that usually isn’t that far off from the ideal. But the trick is to time protein intake around the workout. With protein, the total dose is not nearly as important as timing.
[/quote]

Puff, can you provide a link to this article? I’m very interested in reading more on his thinking re protein timing.

#16

You’ve probably read more LyleMcD articles than me at this point PP. It’s a lot to take in and I’ve only skimmed the top of it, but I do have a general sense of Lyle’s approach. Anyways, it seems you are in the right track and probably in the same mindset as me in terms of dieting… I too have no interest to go on some short-term diet to lose X amount of fat, but rather find a lifelong system that works for me.

#17

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:
Here’s a quote from Lonnie Lowery:
"…But really for protein, a lot of the time it’s best to shoot for a daily dose in grams, as opposed to percentage of total intake. I shoot for the age-old suggestion of one gram per pound of body weight, and that usually isn’t that far off from the ideal. But the trick is to time protein intake around the workout. With protein, the total dose is not nearly as important as timing.
[/quote]

Puff, can you provide a link to this article? I’m very interested in reading more on his thinking re protein timing.[/quote]

#18

[quote]PB Andy wrote:

[quote]EyeDentist wrote:

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:
Here’s a quote from Lonnie Lowery:
"…But really for protein, a lot of the time it’s best to shoot for a daily dose in grams, as opposed to percentage of total intake. I shoot for the age-old suggestion of one gram per pound of body weight, and that usually isn’t that far off from the ideal. But the trick is to time protein intake around the workout. With protein, the total dose is not nearly as important as timing.
[/quote]

Puff, can you provide a link to this article? I’m very interested in reading more on his thinking re protein timing.[/quote]

That’s it! Thank you.

EyeDentist - Sorry, It’s more of a short Q and A than an in depth article. I was looking for people talking about ideal macros, but I’ve decided it’s probably not a very productive question. :slight_smile: I’d guess nutrient timing might be more crucial when your are doing an IF type of thing. Let us know what you come up with.

#19

[quote]PB Andy wrote:
You’ve probably read more LyleMcD articles than me at this point PP. It’s a lot to take in and I’ve only skimmed the top of it, but I do have a general sense of Lyle’s approach. Anyways, it seems you are in the right track and probably in the same mindset as me in terms of dieting… I too have no interest to go on some short-term diet to lose X amount of fat, but rather find a lifelong system that works for me.[/quote]

Yeah, my thinking on this has evolved a bit. I admire people who get lean to do a competition. It’s really fun to watch, but at this point I’d rather just stay reasonably lean all the time.

Yep, I think Lyle McDonald is awesome, personality issues aside. :wink: And it’s nice that he has so much free content on his site. He seems like a savant for diet and nutrition. Maybe he’s like the expert brain surgeon who has a horrible beside manner. He’s really good, so you kind of don’t care that he’s a jerk. I’m a fan.

I had to sit around at an appointment yesterday so I printed five of his articles and brought a highlighter. Low tech - That’s how it was done back in the day. :slight_smile: Also, there’s a link to a podcast on his home page, doing a guest spot on The Dr. Drew show. It’s entertaining if you find the time.

#20

[quote]Powerpuff wrote:
Yep, I think Lyle McDonald is awesome, personality issues aside. :wink: And it’s nice that he has so much free content on his site. He seems like a savant for diet and nutrition. Maybe he’s like the expert brain surgeon who has a horrible beside manner. He’s really good, so you kind of don’t care that he’s a jerk. I’m a fan.
[/quote]

Or eye surgeon. I hear those guys are the worst. ;^)

Lowery has a lot of content here on TN (thanks PB for the link). I’ll peruse it, and let you know if I figure out the specifics underlying his comment re protein timing.