How Much Protein Should I Eat?
If you’re lifting and aiming to gain (or keep) as much lean mass as possible, 1.6-2.2g of protein per kilogram of body mass works pretty well in most contexts. If you’re on the higher end of the body-fat spectrum, you may aim for the lower boundary of this range. If you’re very lean and trying to get even leaner, you might aim for the higher boundary (or even a bit higher than 2.2g/kg). If you don’t lift regularly, then a lower range of 1.2-1.8g/kg is probably sufficient. Of course, these are just general recommendations; MacroFactor will give you a specific, individualized recommendation based on your body composition, goal, energy intake, and exercise habits.
How Much Carbohydrate and Fat Should I Eat?
For a lot of people, 0.5g of fat per kilogram of body mass is a decent estimate of the lowest advisable daily fat intake. However, this number doesn’t work equally well across the entire body weight spectrum. If you subtract 150 from your height (in cm), then multiply the outcome by 0.5 and add 30, this should give you a good estimate of your lower boundary. If you’re under 150cm tall, you probably want to ignore this equation and set your lower boundary to an even 30g/day.
Generally speaking, diets with pretty “typical” macronutrient distribution involve consuming 0.7-1.5g of fat per kilogram of body mass (or around 20-35% of energy intake from fat), with the rest of non-protein calories coming from carbohydrate. However, there is plenty of flexibility when it comes to balancing fat and carbohydrate in the diet. People who do a lot of high-intensity exercise may seek to consume over 6g/kg/day of carbohydrate, whereas people who prefer low-carb diets may seek to cap carbs at 30% or less of energy, and some might even prefer a ketogenic approach that limits total carb intake to no more than 50-60 grams per day. MacroFactor is compatible with a wide range of dietary preferences, and gives you the option to select guidance for diets ranging from high-carb to ketogenic. Within the app, individualized recommendations for fat and carbohydrate intake are based on your body composition, goals, exercise habits, dietary preferences, protein target, and total energy target.
What About Time-Restricted Feeding?
Rather than eating equally spaced meals throughout the day, time-restricted feeding encourages dieters to eat all of their meals within a quite narrow time window each day, often spanning 4-8 hours. This strategy is sometimes called intermittent fasting within the fitness world, but scientists call it time-restricted feeding.
Graphical representation of time-restricted feeding with arbitrary values
A lot of people tend to eat fewer calories when they use a restricted daily feeding window, which can facilitate fat loss goals. However, time-restricted feeding isn’t necessarily more effective for weight loss when calorie intake is controlled. In addition, time-restricted feeding inherently foregoes the potential benefits of equally spaced protein feedings on protein turnover in muscle tissue. So, time-restricted feeding seems to be a viable way to indirectly reduce calorie intake, and an optimal approach for people interested in maximizing muscle growth (or retention) might consider opting for an 8-hour feeding window with three distinct protein doses throughout. MacroFactor shows your daily meals on a timeline, which enables you to monitor your feeding window as you see fit.
What About Intermittent Fasting?
In the scientific literature, there are a few types of protocols for intermittent fasting. The most common include alternate day fasting, fasting for a two-day period, or including two fasts per week on non-consecutive days.
Note: “fasting days” often include restricting energy intake to 0-25% of the individual’s daily energy requirement
Meta-analyses on this subject generally tend to indicate that intermittent energy restriction strategies, using a variety of fasting protocols, do not lead to greater weight loss than typical weight loss diets. However, they also don’t seem to be substantially worse (at least in untrained subjects). While we maintain concerns about lean mass retention when using prolonged fasting periods, intermittent fasting strategies that implement long fasting windows can be effectively used by dieters who prefer the way these protocols fit their daily schedule or satiety preferences, and aren’t super concerned about muscle gain (or retention). If you choose to do intermittent fasting, you can easily implement any of the common intermittent fasting protocols in MacroFactor.
What About Ketogenic (Keto) Diets and Other Low-Carb Diets?
Ketogenic and low-carb diets have some pros and cons. They are viable options for weight loss or weight maintenance diets, and some people find that these diets help them manage their hunger or food choices more effectively while dieting. However, carb restriction can make it a little harder to get adequate intakes of certain micronutrients, and people who do a lot of high-intensity exercise might find that their performance is impaired when their carbs drop too low. Nonetheless, MacroFactor is totally agnostic with regards to dietary preferences, and gives you the option to select guidance for low-carb and ketogenic approaches. In fact, you can even set your own macro targets with the macronutrient breakdown of your choosing.
Are Processed Foods Bad?
Not necessarily. Whey protein is about as processed as a food can be, and few people view it as an inherently unhealthy food. The fact is, processing takes many forms; we are even “processing” food as we cook and chew it. When people talk about “bad” processed foods, they’re generally referring to foods that are highly processed, largely devoid of fiber and micronutrients, and extremely palatable. Such foods can absolutely be incorporated into a healthy diet, but many people find that they tend to exceed their daily energy target or fall short of their fiber and micronutrient targets when their diet becomes too reliant upon highly palatable, ultra-processed foods. So, these foods are not inherently bad and need not be avoided entirely, but healthy diets generally tend to include plenty of minimally processed, micronutrient-dense foods in conjunction with some more processed foods.
What About Vegan or Other Vegetarian Diets?
A vegan diet can make it a little more challenging to obtain adequate amounts of some key micronutrients, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B12. However, this can easily be overcome by thoughtful food selection (or supplementation), and a vegan or vegetarian diet can easily be adopted without unfavorably impacting health, body composition, or performance. There is ongoing debate and argument about whether or not a well-designed vegetarian diet is inherently more healthful than a well-designed omnivorous diet, but a plant-based diet with plenty of protein and no micronutrient insufficiencies can be viewed as an excellent diet option that is neither worse nor dramatically more advantageous than a well-designed omnivorous diet.
What About the Carnivore Diet?
There aren’t many people who casually dabble in the carnivore diet, which involves exclusively consuming animal products. This approach is pretty extreme when framed relative to conventional dietary guidelines, and is typically adopted with a pretty extreme level of enthusiasm. So, if you like the carnivore diet, we're not interested in trying to talk you out of it. However, given the large body of evidence reporting health benefits of a wide range of plant-based foods, you won’t catch me suggesting that people go out of their way to avoid the consumption of micronutrient-dense plants and fungi. A carnivore diet will be low in carbohydrate by default, so it limits your choices with regard to macronutrient distribution. Nonetheless, you can still use MacroFactor to track your daily nutrition intakes and keep your energy intake target in line with your body composition goals over time.
What About the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet only allows for the consumption of foods that are perceived to have been available to our early ancestors of the Paleolithic period. Major limitations of the diet include our incomplete understanding of exactly what our Paleolithic ancestors ate, the high probability that groups living in different regions had markedly different diets, and the reality that the modern interpretation of the Paleo diet unnecessarily prohibits foods that can easily be incorporated into a healthy overall diet. Having said that, one can easily construct a balanced and healthful diet using only Paleo-approved foods, so the diet does not directly eliminate any essential nutrients in a deleterious manner. So, Paleo is fine, but involves making some sacrifices that aren’t entirely necessary. If the simplicity of Paleo helps you increase your intake of micronutrient-dense foods and meet your intended targets for energy intake and macronutrient distribution, then there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
Should I Count Macros and Calories from Supplements?
For supplements containing meaningful amounts of carbohydrate, fat, protein, amino acids, or ketones, it’s probably a good idea to track them, even if the label doesn’t list any calories. For example, it’s not uncommon to find branched-chain amino acids products that list zero calories per serving or fail to disclose information pertaining to calorie content, but actually contain roughly 4kcals per gram.
An example of a supplement label reporting zero calories per serving of branched-chain amino acids. This supplement contains 9.5g of amino acids (protein) per serving, so it actually has about 38kcal per serving
Obviously, the degree to which this calorie tracking matters will depend on your supplement consumption habits and the precision required for your goal. If you’ve got an intense goal for which every calorie matters (such as high-level competitive bodybuilding) and you consume a substantial amount of energy from supplements each day, then tracking supplement calories is advisable. Fortunately, if you use a supplement that lists inaccurate calories on its label, MacroFactor makes it easy to stay on track by making a custom food entry with the real calorie content. On the other hand, if you’re just generally trying to enhance your fitness level and you only consume a single serving of branched-chain amino acids once or twice per week, then tracking supplement calories isn’t going to meaningfully impact your progress.
What About Low-Calorie Sweeteners?
The term “low-calorie sweetener” describes a group of diverse sweetening agents that have one thing in common: they can deliver the same sweetness as a typical sugar dose, while contributing fewer calories. You could lump sugar alcohols in here if you want to, but some of the low-calorie sweeteners are so low in energy that they’re virtually calorie-free. Examples include stevia, sucralose, aspartame, and many more. There’s a lot of fear-mongering that seems to be predicated on the assumption that low-calorie sweeteners are simply too good to be true. If you check out lay press articles, you might run into concerns about cancer risk, impaired glycemic control, out-of-control sugar cravings, paradoxical weight gain, gut microbiome disruption, and so on.
While these various low-calorie sweeteners are all truly distinct food ingredients that require distinct lines of research, it’s appropriate to collectively summarize the literature by stating that to this point, research has not validated the fear-mongering. Low-calorie sweeteners seem to be quite benign within the range of common daily doses, with neutral to positive effects on weight management. However, if you consider sugar alcohols to be part of this group of sweeteners, it's important to note that high doses of some sugar alcohols can lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating, discomfort, and diarrhea.