Health & Habits
The Secret to Gaining More Muscle - Macro Edition
Posted September 13, 2022
Macronutrients are the nutrients we need in larger quantities to provide us with energy, and are categorized as fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Micronutrients, conversely, are mostly vitamins and minerals, and are equally important, but consumed in smaller amounts. Thankfully, eating a wide variety of foods on a regular basis allows us to hit both our daily macronutrient and micronutrient needs.
Diet and exercise are paramount for anyone looking to gain muscle, so understanding not only the proper movements but also the right nutrition needs for each individual will help streamline the path to our goals. It can take time, diligence, and trial and error. In terms of our diet, familiarizing ourselves with the roles of each macronutrient and how they affect our body is foundational information that is necessary for success.
Carbs are made up of chains of starch and sugar that the body breaks down into glucose. They provide 4 calories per gram, are the body’s main source of energy, and the brain’s primary source. Our brain requires fuel at all times in order to function, and our body is very efficient at storing glucose (in the form of glycogen) in the liver and muscles. Quality sources of carbohydrates include whole grains (brown and wild rice, oats, amaranth, whole wheat), starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, beets), legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas), and fruits (apple, oranges, berries, pear, banana).
Fats are the densest of the three macronutrients, providing 9 calories per gram. They’re needed for brain development, making hormones, and aiding in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. They require more energy to burn, but at the same time, are helpful for increasing feelings of satiety. Good sources of fat include avocado, olives, nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews), and seeds (chia, pumpkin, flax).
Protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks of cell and muscle structure. In total, there are 20 types of amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning that our body requires them from food. Protein in the body is used beyond just muscle - it is the core component of organs, bones, hair, enzymes, and all tissue. It provides 4 calories per gram, and sources not only include animal products like meat, fish, dairy and poultry, but also tofu, tempe, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Knowing how to track our macronutrients can make a big difference in reaching our fitness goals. Both diet and physical activity are closely connected, and being mindful of how much we’re eating on a daily basis can significantly boost our capacity to lose weight and/or build muscle mass. Although it may sound like a tedious and time-consuming task, tracking macros has never been easier today. There are a number of calorie counting apps and health tracking software that make it easier than ever to start tracking our macros.
The most popular option is MyFitnessPal, since it has an extensive food database and is compatible with popular fitness trackers. Chronometer is another software that tends to offer more accurate food entries. It can be helpful to purchase a food scale for accurate measurements of protein, carbs, and fats, then ultimately a body weight scale to help measure our weight progressions over time. Once we know our calorie requirements by using a simple calorie calculator, we can work out our macronutrient ratios. According to USDA guidelines, these are the acceptable macronutrient distribution ranges (AMDR):
- 45–65% of our daily calories should come from carbs
- 20–35% of our daily calories should come from fats
- 10–35% of our daily calories should come from protein
If we want to gain weight or build muscle, we will have to add more calories on top of our maintenance level. Building muscle is a very energy-consuming process and our body will not do it effectively if we’re not eating enough. A general recommendation is to increase our calorie intake by approximately 500 calories per day. We’ve covered this topic on the amount of calories needed to build plant-based mass here.
Stepping on the scale every two weeks can allow us to track our progress over time. If we want to gain weight in muscle, we can add 100-200 calories worth of carbohydrates each day. Then, we can check our weight each week and adjust from there. It’s important to focus on this part of the process, but after all, the point of counting macros is to make our diet work for our life, not let our diet dictate our life.
If we’re increasing our exercise and building muscle, protein is undoubtedly a macronutrient we don’t want to fall short on. Implementing a protein powder supplement like Vedge Plant Protein can provide 25 grams of USDA Certified Organic plant protein per serving, and can easily be implemented into a post workout smoothie or morning oatmeal. As stated before, micronutrients also play a critical role in a healthy diet, and should not be overlooked. Vedge Organic Greens offers nutrients from 15 different superfoods, and includes B-vitamins, vitamin A, C, K and minerals which help keep natural energy levels high, decrease fatigue, and help regulate blood sugar.
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