Courtesy of Inside Fitness
The term “fitness” is an all-encompassing realm that includes improving body composition, strength, and endurance for a myriad of objectives ranging from simple self-satisfaction all the way up to elite-level sports performance by athletes whose livelihoods depend on it. The role of nutrition in all of these contexts is truly essential, for although the expression “You are what you eat” appears elementary, it’s literally a truism. Nutrition not only makes you who you are, but it controls what you do by influencing your physical and mental abilities.
The following goal categories contain a suggested macronutrient range for achieving your purpose. These should be considered rough outlines, since many personal factors come into play, particularly your body somatotype (i.e. ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph). In very basic language, ectomorphs are skinny people with fast metabolisms, mesomorphs are average size people with average metabolisms, and endomorphs are those heavy-set or big-boned individuals who usually have slow metabolisms. But, regardless of your somatotype, if you sustain your diet to a level of these ratios approximately, you should reach your specific objective over time:
Protein: 40% Carbs: 30% Fat: 30%
In order to lose fat efficiently, you certainly don’t want to avoid fat altogether, as was commonly thought in days of yore. Healthy fats have a host of benefits including hormone regulation, which in turn influences body composition. The main idea here is to keep your carbs to no more than a third of your consumption, particularly so you can exhaust your glycogen stores when exercising and then burn fat for energy. Protein is essential to help you preserve muscle, since in addition to macronutrient ratios, you should also aim for a calorie deficit from your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The consumption of caffeine (which has virtually no calories) can assist with fat loss, but keep in mind that it only releases fat from your cells — you still have to be active and exercise regularly to actually burn the fat.
Protein: 35% Carbs: 40% Fat: 25%
To build muscle, you must first stress the muscle fibres and then use nutrition, supplementation, and sleep to grow them back bigger than they were originally. Muscle growth is fairly easy to accomplish when you first begin training, but over time as your muscles adapt to being stressed, nutrition really becomes paramount. To sustain bigger muscles, you need a high level of protein, and to fuel your workouts in order to lift heavier weights (and for more reps), you need quite a bit of carbs. Building muscle is more easily accomplished when you’re in a calorie surplus; that is, when you’re consuming more calories daily than your BMR. As a consequence, people have a tendency to gain a little more fat at the same time as they build muscle, but this is nothing to be afraid of as long as it’s in moderation. In fact, this is the essence of what bodybuilders know as the “bulking” phase. Although building muscle can be achieved (very slowly) in a caloric deficit, it’s quite a challenge.
Endurance and Sports Performance
Protein: 30% Carbs: 50% Fat: 20%
Competitive athletes and those who undertake such sports as distance running, swimming, or bicycling, need a very high amount of carbs to fuel their energy. A conservative amount of fast carbs is acceptable in the time immediately before the workout, but the large majority of carbs should be in complex forms (the concept of “carb loading” has been very widespread among elite-level athletes for decades). Protein is important too, since your muscles will be taxed very heavily and need amino acids to recover and re-build. For this objective, fats take a back seat, though they shouldn’t drop below around 20 per cent.
Strength and Power
Protein: 30% Carbs: 45% Fat: 25%
To build strength and power, nutrition is important — but we’re going to be honest here, the manner in which you train has an edge in terms of priority. The term “strength” is generally accepted as meaning the amount of weight you can lift for about three to six repetitions; the term “power” is what you can lift for just one or two reps. Using near maximal weights as resistance for low reps is really the preferred method of gaining strength and power. In this way, you’ll activate more fast-twitch muscle fibres and over time you’ll become stronger. Having said all this, you still need ample supplies of protein and carbs, but you don’t need to limit fat severely, since that has nothing to do with this goal.
If you look closely, you’ll see that while the range of suggested carbs varies by 20 per cent, the range of suggested protein and fat varies by only 10 per cent. The bottom line is that if you want to achieve your goal in the most efficient way possible, eat clean, nutrient-rich food and avoid empty calories, particularly fast sugars and trans fats.