When it comes to eating for muscle growth, most people subscribe to the advice of “Eat big.”
While beneficial, this tidbit of information is vague and often leads to unnecessary fat gain alongside the muscle.
Like dieting for fat loss, building muscle is about nutritional discipline, which depends on figuring out your food needs and adhering to them consistently.
With that in mind, let’s dive into macros for muscle growth and how manipulating them might shift your results.
But First: What Are ‘Macros’?
Macros, short for macronutrients, are the three components that make up the foods we eat. Most foods contain some amount of all three macronutrients, but certain foods (such as oils and meat) mainly consist of one macro.
The three macronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins and carbs provide four calories of energy per gram, whereas fats offer nine. For example, a meal consisting of 40 grams of protein, 55 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of fats would provide 605 calories.
Each of the three macronutrients plays a vital role inside the body, so getting all three is essential (1, 2, 3). For example, protein is necessary for post-training recovery, development, and muscle growth (4).
With that in mind, let’s now look at good macronutrient ratios and how manipulating your intake might shift your results.
First: Make Sure To Get Enough Protein
Aside from eating enough total calories, consuming enough protein is going to play the most significant role in your ability to recover in time, maintain good health, and build muscle mass.
There are plenty of recommendations ranging from as little as 0.6 grams per kilogram of body weight to as much as three, even four grams.
According to research, the sweet spot for muscle gain is 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight (4). For example, if you weigh 70 kilos, you should aim for 112 to 154 grams of protein daily.
You can consume more protein than the above recommendations, but studies don’t find any extra benefits as far as muscle growth and recovery are concerned.
How Changing Macros Affects Muscle Growth
Reducing your protein to less than 1.6 grams per kilogram can hinder your post-training recovery and ability to build muscle (5). In contrast, going over 2.2 grams per kilogram likely offers no extra benefits related to muscle gain.
As the primary source of fuel for your body, carbohydrates play an essential role in muscle growth. Consuming enough allows you to replenish lost glycogen, fuel your workouts, and do the necessary training for optimal muscle gain (6). In contrast, not eating enough carbs can hinder recovery and limit your gym performance (7).
Fats play a less critical role in muscle growth, but we still need to get enough to support our brain health, hormones, metabolism, and well-being (8, 9). Plus, with nine calories per gram, fats provide much-needed energy to maintain a calorie surplus and gain muscle.
The issue is, consuming too many fats can increase the risk of fat gain. One potential reason is that fats are more readily stored as adipose tissue (10). In contrast, excess glucose needs to go through de novo lipogenesis before we can store them as fat.