Best Macronutrient Distribution For Fat Loss? | Q&A Weekly Roundup

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If you’re curious about protein bars, eating the right macronutrients, or the difference between a squat and a lunge, you’ve come to the right place! This week’s Q & A features some great info about both diet and exercise that’ll hopefully help keep you healthy and strong.

Here’s the short list of questions based on topic:

  • Best Macronutrient Distribution For Fat Loss
  • Swimming To Get Lean
  • Best Nutrition Database Website
  • The Difference Between Squats & Lunges
  • Best Protein Bars
  • Question #1 | Best Macronutrient Distribution For Fat Loss

    Question: Hi Marc. I found this article very useful, yet, I haven’t found an article of yours where you talk about the balance of macronutrients. I mean, what’s the optimal proportion between carbs, proteins and fats within your total calorie consumption?
    – George
    Answer: @George – I think the short answer is there is no optimal macronutrient distribution for everyone and it depends on your specific goals. The topic is worthy of a separate article for sure. Keep in mind that nutrition organizations typically suggest 10-15% protein, 55-65% carbs, and 20-25% fat as macronutrient distributions.

    From a fat loss perspective, there are what are called low fat and high fat phenotypes. This means that some people will lose relatively more fat on higher vs. lower fat diets, and vice versa. How do you know which one you are? Try both and see what is more satisfying for you.

    Personally, the sweet spot for me is around 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 25-30% fat as a range, which is considered low/moderate fat. I’ve also found this to work for many other people. From my perspective, it’s easier to control calories with a low/moderate fat intake if you are actively looking to lose fat. If you are already lean, you can increase the fat calories to 40% or more, which is similar to the heart healthy Mediterranean diet. The challenge I find with higher fat diets in the 50-60% range like some variations of the paleo diet is they can create low levels of satiety. Again, it’s not an exact science, so you need to see what works for you.

    – Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

    Question #2 | Swimming To Get Lean

    Question: How long should I be swimming for to get lean (considering that too much cardio can remove muscle)? – Toby

    Answer: It’s not about how long that matters to get a great workout, but the quality of the workout. When I do a swimming workout, I typically do 10 swimming sprints for two laps (down and back) with somewhere around 30-60 seconds rest between each set, so it takes 15-20 minutes total. You can do something similar by adding, or subtracting more volume, or intensity depending on your own fitness level. You can also consider 4 laps instead of two, which decreases the intensity a bit, but increases the volume and do that for 5-10 rounds.

    – Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

    Question #3 | Best Nutrition Database Website

    Question: What site can you recommend to find out nutri-facts for veggies and fruits as they don’t have labels.
    I know there are plenty out there, but I was hoping you’d know a trust worthy one.
    Thanks. – Milad

    Answer: @milad – My favorite is Nutrition Data, which is owned by Conde Naste. The information in Nutrition Data’s database comes from the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference and is supplemented by listings provided by restaurants and food manufacturers. The downside is after inputting the specific food item into the search bar and clicking “search”, you will need to filter the results by choosing either “vegetables and vegetable products” for veggies or “fruits and fruit juices” for fruits. These filters are located right under the phrase “Narrow Your Search”. The other thing about the database is that it has great detail including calorie information for veggies raw, cooked, or fruits with skin and without skin for example. I don’t mind this extra detail, but some find it too much. If anyone else has any other databases they like that may be more simple, please chime in!
    – Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

    Question #4 | The Difference Between Squats & Lunges

    Question: Marc could you explain: why do you need a squat and a lunge exercise, surely they are basically the same movement with little difference between them? – Donald

    Answer: @Donald – Interesting question, Donald. They are in fact different movements, because a squat is a stable exercise with two feet working in sync, whereas a lunge requires “dynamic stability” on one leg. More specifically, one is unilateral (lunge) and the other is a bilateral exercise (squats) and both require different types of stability. Finally, there is a different type of glute/hip activation with squats vs. lunges. Strength coaches consider a lunge to be a “knee dominant” exercise and a squat to be a “hip dominant” exercise.

    – Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

    Question #5 | Best Protein Bars

    Question: Any suggestions on Protein Bars? – Alec
    Answer: Hey Alec, I’m not a huge fan of protein bars and don’t have any suggestions at this time. With that said, I do plan on writing an article on protein bars to explore them in more detail. The challenge is that most have a lot of “stuff” in them like sugar alchohols (which are safe for consumption but can cause bloating) and many chemicals to keep them preserved on the shelf. I would say a handful of nuts/seeds, some fruit, greek yogurt are solid snack ideas that I would take over a protein bar any day. In addition, many protein bars are basically candy bars with sugar in them. Also, I would take a whey protein shake over a protein bar. Thanks for the question and I hope to give you more specific suggestions soon.

    – Marc (Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT)

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    14 Comments on “Best Macronutrient Distribution For Fat Loss? | Q&A Weekly Roundup

    1. Seb
      June 22, 2012 #

      Edit : he = my brother Edit : my brother gave me a protein bar today (cliff bars) or they could be energy bars.

    2. Dimitris
      June 24, 2012 #

      Swimming To Get Lean

      Marc, would you recommend using swimming fins and/or paddles to increase the intensity of the workout?
      Do you think using that equipment would turn swimming more into resistance training rather than a cardio workout, requiring to reduce the weight lifting days to avoid overtraining?

      Thank U!

      1. June 28, 2012 #

        @Dmitris – I wouldn’t look at swimming as a replacement for resistance exercise, but more as a complement and also an active rest day. An important purpose of resistance training is to stress your body and strengthen your bones, whereas swimming is very low impact. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. I think whether or not to add fins/paddles is your call as many swimmers do add them, but I think it’s really a personal preference. It can increase resistance and make the workout harder for sure.

    3. Peter
      June 24, 2012 #

      I’ve tried quite a number of different brands of protein bars and most of them taste really bad, the numbers (amount of protein, calories, sugar etc) aren’t too good either. I’ll definitely go for protein shakes instead.

    4. Aaron
      June 27, 2012 #

      Marc,

      When you mention Greek yogurt are you speaking of the plain kind? Would a fruit flavored chobani be ok?

      1. June 28, 2012 #

        @Aaron – Sure, the fruit one is fine.

    5. Kiki
      June 28, 2012 #

      Hi Marc,

      I just recently started following your website and am enjoying the content so far! I started your 20min Full Body Circuit Training workout last week and am eager to see how it will transform my body, strength-wise and visually, in the coming months :)

      A question about your swimming workout – how many laps (down and back, as opposed to “length” which is one-way right?) do you swim per set? And by 10 swimming sprints do you mean 10 laps?
      Lastly, do you think this swimming workout would aid in endurance training? I’m hoping to try a Sprint Triathlon in a couple months but am finding it difficult to make time for swimming, whereas I can squeeze in the biking and running as part of my commute to work. Any tips would be much appreciated.

      1. July 2, 2012 #

        @Kiki – Really happy you are following the site! When I was talking about my swimming workout, I meant swimming hard for 2 laps, or 50 meters, and repeating that 10x with minimal rest between sets (like around 30 seconds). The idea is to slowly decrease the rest and increase the intensity over time. I absolutely do think you can train for endurance events with interval training. In fact, some professional triathletes and marathoners use primarily interval training to prepare for events because it decreases the volume of exercise substantially, which aids in recovery and prevents injuries. The thing is that you will really have to push yourself to get the added benefit at a very low volume.

    6. Spencer
      July 18, 2012 #

      Hey Marc,

      I love reading you articles. They are so informative. I am currently on about 55% carbs, 30% fat and about 15% protein. I am trying to lower my protein intake and eat lots of complex carbs to give me energy through my bike rides. I ride about 25-30 miles 5 days a week. Do you think those will be good macronutrient ratios? I am not trying to lose body fat. If anything I would like to gain some lean muscle. All my carbs and fats are “healthy” ie. brown rice, wheat bread, ezekiel bread, fibrous vegetables etc. And fats are from avocado, peanut butter, olive oil, nuts, etc. Will I stay lean with these ratios?

      Thanks so much,
      Spencer

      1. July 19, 2012 #

        @Spencer – I think the calorie level is more important that the macronutrient ratio to prevent fat loss. If you are an athlete, i wouldn’t go much below 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Whatever ratio that comes out to once you figure out your calorie level, that what i would use for protein. The balance would go into carbs/fat.

    7. Sam
      July 29, 2012 #

      I have been on a low carb diet. I lost my love handles. Now I am trying to gain weight but I have been eating about 55% carbs. I have noticed the love handles coming back. What do you think of a high fat diet (60-70%) and lower carbs to around 20 and have protein at 20. Would that help me lose some fat while still gaining lean muscle. What have you heard about higher fat lower carb diets?

      Thanks

      1. August 2, 2012 #

        @Sam – The short answer is that different diets work for different people for different reasons. Some people lose more fat on a low fat diet, and some on a high fat diet, but generally, if you eat natural foods and exercise intensely, and control calories, you will lose fat. The opposite is true for gaining muscle, where a calorie surplus is required. Carbs are anabolic, so they can help you build muscle, but whether or not you can build muscle on a low carb diet is controversial. As long as you have enough protein and calories, the answer should be “Yes” you can build muscle on a low carb diet. Personally, I would go for relatively high protein, moderate carb, moderate fat if I was trying to build muscle.

    8. Sam
      July 29, 2012 #

      Also I have seen many diets such as the paleo diet which say no whole grains and starches. Will whole wheat breads, whole wheat pastas, oats, brown rice, swet potato, etc. cause fat gain? They are all healthy carbs. What do you think about whole grains? Also what do you think of the mediterranean diet while trying to gain some lean muscle?

      Thanks

      1. August 2, 2012 #

        @Sam – We have a post coming up on the Paleo diet in the next couple weeks, so that post will answer most of your questions. The questions you are asking are very controversial and there is no easy answer. Generally speaking, eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods than paying attention to how your body reacts is a very smart idea. Low fat, high fat etc., that usually does not make as much of a difference as total calories for fat loss. Many studies confirm this.

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