This is the big question and unfortunately there’s not a one size fits all answer. You’ll need to play around with what works for you and your current activity levels. You can download this Macro Calculator spreadsheet which has a tab for both Women and Men to help you calculate guidelines.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
First you’ll need to know your total calories. Enter your weight, height and age to get your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR (the number of calories you need to just survive). Then you can adjust for your activity level to get to the total number of calories you need each day. Once you have that, you can use the spreadsheet to figure out how many fat, carb and protein grams you’ll need.
The Best Tracking Software
MyFitnessPal.com is the best way to track this and it’s free and very easy. You can set your calorie and macronutrient goals in MyFitnessPal. Read on to figure out your macros, but first a word about timing and balancing your blood sugar.
First Eat Balanced Meals on a Schedule
This sounds simple but you would be amazed by how often this is disregarded. One of the keys to nutrition for EVERYONE is keeping your blood sugar balanced. Sugar highs and lows cause a lot of unperceived stress on your body and they also wreak havoc on your hormones and endocrine system. This leads to inflammation, fat accumulations, hormone imbalances, sleep disturbances, etc. So be sure to eat balanced meals on a consistent schedule throughout the day and eat some protein and carbs after your workout. Also, if you’re new to the Clean Challenge, then be sure to replace your carbs like bread, pasta and cereal with healthy carbs like starchy fruits and vegetables and in some cases even rice. One of the pitfalls of the Clean Challenge is that people replace their carbs with fats from bacon, nuts and coconut products but it’s important to get enough carbs so you can synthesize your proteins and recover from CrossFit.
Find Your Best Macronutrient Ratio
There are many differing thoughts on the best macronutrient ratios and here are a few of the most popular based on The Zone, Lean Mass and Body Type:
Macros Based on The Zone
A lot of CrossFitters and other athletes follow something close to The Zone – 40% carbs, 30% fat and 30% protein. In his book, Dr. Sears lays out several trials that showed that this breakdown both improved performance in athletes and also caused many people to lean out.
Macros Based on Lean Mass
You can get your lean mass from body fat testing (it’s in the upper left of your Bodpod printout). If you don’t have this, then you can estimate by taking 60-80% of your body weight (depending on how muscular/lean you are). The idea is to start with protein and set that at 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean muscle mass. For me that ends up being 20-25% of my total calories. From there you set your fat intake at 20-30% and then carbs would make up the rest. So for me, this would give me 25% protein, 25% fat and 50% carbs.
Macros Based on Body Type
Each body type will have a different reaction to each particular macronutrient. Here are some recommendations from the International Sports Sciences Association. But first, what’s your Body Type?
Ectomorph: If you’re an ectomorph, you’re naturally thin with skinny limbs and a high tolerance for carbohydrates. Usually, your metabolic rate is fast. A good starting macronutrient ratio for you would be something like 25% protein, 55% carbs and 20% fat.
Mesomorph: Mesomorphs are naturally muscular and athletic. They have a moderate carbohydrate tolerance and a moderate metabolic rate. Mesomorphs can usually start at a 30% protein, 40% carb, 30% fat macronutrient ratio.
Endomorph: If you’re naturally broad and thick, you’re probably an endomorph. Endomorphs have a low carbohydrate tolerance and a slow metabolic rate. If you’re an endomorph, try a ratio of 35% protein, 25% carbs and 40% fat.