T Nation

Macros Advice and Abs

Hi all,

I am currently a 5’2 female weighing at 112-114 (depending on the day).

I am around 17 percent body fat- last time I got measured was 6 months ago and I was 18 and I def got leaner since then.

My macros is: 200g protein, 130g carbs, 50g fat.

My workouts are: 4 days a week heavy lifting for an hour. Then rock climb 5 nights a week. So most days I am doing double workouts.

My problem I suppose is I really just want to eat more carbs. The reason I don’t let myself is with this macros it’s been working well the last 3 months and I see results. So I’m worried to alter it I suppose.

I also would like to work towards a 6 pack but wondering how long these things take.

Thank you!

Just my .02, you should definitely be eating more carbs if you’re lifting AND rock climbing, no doubt about it.

At 112lbs protein certainly could be lowered, to raise carbs and keep total caloric intake the same. Protein only NEEDS to be .8g-1g per pound to build and maintain muscle. Just as comparison, I’m a 160lb male and my protein is 170g per day. So, if you lowered protein to 150g (-50g) you could raise carbs to 180g (+50g) and see how that goes. You may notice a slight increase in scale weight due to extra water/glycogen, but if total cals are the same you’re not gaining fat, and you’re definitely not gaining fat with rock climbing 5 nights a week combined with your training. You can keep carb sources clean and slow digesting, like Ezekiel bread or Ezekiel cereal, rolled oats, apples, etc.

You already have a pretty visible 4 pack, and it’s hard to tell from one pic, but I think you’re lower than 17%. I’m guessing to get a hard 6 pack you might need to lose another 5-6lbs. It can take some time, but considering your current level of leanness, I think you could get there in 6-8 weeks depending on how aggressive your approach is. You may find increasing carbs will actually boost the fat burning by speeding up your metabolism a bit and increasing leptin. I’m sure your body has adapted it’s energy expenditure to deal with the 130g carbs you’re giving it. At the very least, you should increase carbs on your lifting+climbing days.

If you do want to go for a 6 pack, hiring a coach might not be a bad idea. Especially as a female, you need to be careful because the body is really not meant to be so lean, and hormones can get whacky. The female competitors I’ve prepped, they lose their cycle when they get into 6 pack territory. Not saying that would happen to everyone, but it is common. Again, just my thoughts based on experience coaching/prepping females, be sure to have proper guidance if you want to keep cutting.

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Thanks! Do you have any ideas of where I can find a coach to help me get down to a 6 pack?

Please keep in mind that I didn’t post recommending a coach to try to plug myself! If you want some more info, please feel free to email me, it’s my username at Verizon dot net. @The_Mighty_Stu is also a great coach! You can find his website by googling “The Mighty Stu bodybuilder.”

Oh sureeeeee you didn’t! :stuck_out_tongue: hahahha it’s ok, I wouldn’t blame ya if you did!

As Rob pointed out, the human body will adapt to what you give it. I’ve seen plenty of people convince themselves that they must follow a low carb diet, and essentially train themselves to never deviate.

When you hear about people “reverse-dieting” out of a contest, they take small steps and as their body acclimates to increased calories and yes, increased carbs, they maintain some very impressive leanness, eventually returning to their pre-contest scale weight, albeit while eating a much greater amount of carbs than they were when they first started. Think about that for a moment,… they trained their body to handle more carbs… pretty much goes against the cutting edge diet advice you’re going to find in mainstream media.

IMO You can unquestionably handle more carbs. Leaner individuals will typically have much better insulin sensitivity, and be able to eat a greater percentage of their diet from carbs because their body is using them, and actively looking for them. What you’ve done is set up your diet so that your body is most likely taking all that extra protein, breaking it down into it’s basic component, and MAKING ITS OWN CARBOHYDRATES to use. (Gluconeogenesis). This is not an ideal situation, because as your body has settled into a routine of either using ingested protein or breaking down existing muscle tissue to create the carbs that you’re not giving it, you’re hampering it’s ability to create new muscle tissue.

So your abs, which might have been thicker, and more visible from your training if your body wasn’t directing it’s proteins to make carbs, might have actually been much more evident if you were eating more carbs.



Thank you!

This is interesting to hear what you guys think because from everything I read, I didn’t need this much protein and I need more carbs. The reason why my macros is the way it is is because my trainer put me on this and it’s produced results so I didn’t question it too much. I am guessing the reason she put me on so much protein is because she wanted to keep me feeling full?

Could be a few things…

-Protein does have a satiating effect,… but so does fat, so…?
-Most personal trainers don’t know much about nutrition so they just repeat supplement ad copy :wink:

Many things will produce results if the current (previous) approach wasn’t. ie. Everyone thought creatine was magic, but just find someone who was eating enough beef every day that their muscle creatine stores were already topped off… they didn’t experience any magic. Now, look at someone who isn’t getting enough protein and give them a sufficient amount…



I have noticed ammonia-scented sweat when I get my protein higher than 1.2g/lb body weight. If I increase carbs a little, it goes away. I’m drinking plenty of water.

Is this a good indicator that I am going into gluconeogenesis?

As it stands now, anytime I notice the ammonia, I increase carbs and decrease protein a bit. I am Coming from a higher BF%, and attempting to reset my metabolism as a “lean” person by coming down (in BF%) as slowly as possible and spending as much time at a lower BF as possible (Similar to what Stu said above, re: reverse dieting… I want to train my body to handle carbs) Does this sound like a good approach? Like many ex-fatties, I fear the carb and tread carefully.

@robstein by the way, what exactly do you mean by “aggressive”? What exactly is an aggressive vs non aggressive approach? Like less overall calories?

Yes, it could be calories, and other factors. The ultimate factor in fat loss is creating a deficit by consuming less calories than you burn. This can be done through nutrition, cardio, and typically both.

So, the deeper the deficit, the more aggressive the approach. For example, you could create a 10% deficit under maintenance and toss in a couple of cardio sessions a week, for a slow and steady type approach, or you can create a 20% deficit and toss in more cardio, maybe some low carb days, etc., for a more aggressive approach.

Keep in mind though there are many factors to consider, and just by creating more a deficit, does not mean you’ll keep getting leaner. As an example, in both my first and second contest seasons, I reached a point in my prep where I was adding more and more cardio, less and less carbs, assuming it would get me leaner. While these methods worked for a time, eventually I got to a point where I stalled. I was doing 2 hours of cardio a day, plus weights, and low carbs and cals. So, knowing I couldn’t possibly do more cardio or take out more cals and carbs, I wound up cutting back on cardio, raising cals and carbs a bit, a lo and behold, I starting losing again, muscles looked fuller and tighter and the progress kept coming. For my last show of this year I actually wound up eating MORE going into the show, because I was low enough on carbs and was doing so much cardio that my body just started slowing down, and I needed to kick start my metabolism again.

I would imagine it’s a possibility you could be in the same boat, especially if you’ve been on these macros for 3 months. You’re eating 1770 cals a day, while lifting heavy 4 days a week, AND climbing. So, you may find that by lowering protein and adding carbs, and even upping overall cals, your abs and upper body will look tighter and you’ll continue to get leaner.

Understandable, but remember, the body is always trying to achieve homeostasis, so whatever method you try that “works” will only “work” for so long before the body adjusts and you need to throw some new stimulus. As @The_Mighty_Stu likes to say, “everything works, but nothing works forever.” So, you can’t assume that because you got results with your current macros, they’ll keep coming, they will not. The body will adjust, and then you need to make some tweaks to keep the progress going, and again, that does not always mean lowering cals/carbs and adding more exercise. Quite the contrary. If you’ve been dieting long enough, often times, eating less and exercising more will only make things worse.

It’s not uncommon to have insulin sensitivity in today’s world, combined with genetics, it’s important to know how you handle carbs, and adjust total carb intake, and carb sources, accordingly. Nothing makes you handle carbs better like hitting the weights and building lots of solid muscle. Muscle is metabolically expensive, it takes a lot of energy to maintain. So, with more added mass, your ability to handle more carbs will increase.

The body needs carbs, so they need not be feared, they need to be understood and utilized properly.

I’ve never heard of this personally. I’ve had protein as high as 1.5-1.6g, even 2g at one point, and never noticed that.

If you can post more about your macros, training, nutrition, etc., it would be easier to give specific advice :slight_smile:

When protein intake exceeds about 1 gm/kg most of the excess does get turned into ammonia, but it is not a sign of increased gluconeogenesis. Pretty much all of the protein you eat (minus the small margin of growth) HAS to either be turned into glucose, or fatty acids (I believe-I a reviewing this now). About half the protein you eat is turned into glucose within 4 hours, or “nets” glucose as it is cycled into protein synthesis/breakdown balance. Only about 10% of the protein you consume ever enters muscle cells. A large portion is taken into cells of the gut, and either turned end up as glucose, or replacing other amino acids that net glucose.

The nitrogen in protein can either net positive protein synthesis (very tiny amount), net urea or net ammonia (or tiny amounts in nuclei acids) The non-nitrogen portion can either net positive protein synthesis (tiny amount) net glucose or net fatty acids (OR some may end up in net+ nucleic acids or excreted directly).

Type 1 diabetics have discovered over the years that they have to take insulin for protein as if about 50% of the protein will “net” glucose within 4 hours.

Eating more protein upregulates the body to turn protein into glucose faster. Protein also stimulates insulin release and by the way, a calories, not carbs is the main determinant of insulin output. The advantage of lower carbs is smaller blood sugar fluctuations, (energy levels) not significantly reduced insulin needs. As carbs in the diet are replaced by fat, the amount of insulin required to manage a given amount of carbs will go up because muscle cells get loaded with fatty acids and don’t burn carbs as easily.

I was going to add that even a huge gain in muscle mass , say 25 pound in a year only involves the incorporation of about 2000 grams of net protein into the muscles, (about 80 grams per pound of muscle) and that would only require about 5.5 grams of net protein gaining muscle per day. That means that if you eat 200 grams of protein a day and gained 25 pounds of muscle a year, 97% of the protein is excreted, turned into glucose or fat


Thanks. That makes a lot of sense.

Now when you test new macros or change things up, how long do you generally monitor before you are like, nah it’s not working? Like two weeks or a month? Say I up my carbs to 170 and lower my protein from 200 to 170 (doing 40/40/20)… I wonder if I should see if it’s working for two weeks or wait longer? Sometimes I also worry im too impatient to see results hahah.

Thanks Mert, for that nugget. I’m stoked to get you in a thread. I wanted to introduce myself and thank you for the vast amount of knowledge that you have shared over the years. I find your perspective fascinating, and you have provided me with “game-changers” on more than one occasion (most notably your insights on carbs!).

I am going to digest this info; thanks again

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Thanks Rob, I’ll follow up with a bit more later. Just quickly: I may not have been entirely clear earlier… It would be more accurate to say that I suspect that my ammonia surplus is due to a lack of non-protein calories, as opposed to a lack of carbs (as I stated earlier.) I did not notice the ammonia when I was low-carb/high cal (200+Fat daily), regardless of how much protein I consumed.

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It can vary widely depending on the adjustment(s), but for something like what you’re doing, generally 10ish days to 2 weeks. Keeping in mind that aside from scale weight, the leaner you get the more you want to rely on the mirror and progress pictures. Also remember that since your overall calories will remain the same, you definitely won’t be adding any fat. If you do raise carbs and tighten up, might be a good idea to start raising overall cals. I believe you wrote you’re 5’2", so I don’t think you need a ton, but again for heavy lifting plus rock climbing, 1770cals seems low. You could start by increasing cals on lifting+climbing days first to take a slower and safer approach.

Patience is key. As much as we always want to see the results ASAP, these things take time and as long as you are keeping data and have a smart approach, you’ll keep progressing.

The simple answer is that I usually go overly strict for 3 weeks (using a baseline and cutting enough to see a sure 3-6 pound loss over 3 weeks) based on a 3500 cal deficit yielding 1 pound of fat loss. Then based on actual 3 week loss I will add back calories per day to stay in the loss rate that I want (1-2 pounds a week for rapid loss and .5-1.0 for more slow and steady).

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You can make this as simple or as complex as you want. The simplest answer is two weeks.

Week one will let you establish a baseline, as you adjust to the new plans. Week two will let you compare to week one and assess how much scale movement has occurred between the lowest readings from both weeks.

Of course, because you can’t ever depend on any magical set of numbers or training routine to continue to yield results forever, you can’t just go into auto-pilot mode and assume that you’ve now done all the work and can just cruise into being huge n ripped.


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Thank you @The_Mighty_Stu and @robstein!!!

One last question- do you guys find yourself switching up your lifting workouts or do you keep the same and just increase weights each week (or whenever you feel you can)?

If you do switch it up, why and how often?