Magic numbers

I’ve been reading Michael Matthews’ Thinner Leaner Stronger, and while I don’t agree with everything he says, Michael documents what I’ve come to call the pcf ratio – the proportionate amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat you should have per meal/day.

If you’re more a picture than a words person, there’s some nifty infographics of the macronutrients online – one good source I’ve found is through myfitnesspal, who have done a few different ones:

These start really well with the basic info you need, although they do perhaps get perhaps a bit too mired in detail further down, but I still recommend a look. If you’re more a words than a picture person, or you want to know my take on all this, read on:

Protein

Having enough protein when you’re building muscle is essential. With the recent diet/exercise/lifestyle changes I’ve made this year, I’ve found monitoring my protein to be a great point of focus – for lots of different reasons:

  1.  it’s refreshing to be counting something other than calories
  2. by generally trying to have as much as possible I would just about hit my target
  3. so by combining 1 and 2, I found I was on a diet that orientated around getting as much of something as possible – which is the opposite of a typical ‘I need to minimise my intake’ diet mindset and lets me work across food groups, which means variety – again not usual with diets!
  4. The book focusses on what your body needs while you’re working to tone/bulk up – obviously your body will have less use for protein if you’re not regularly challenging your muscles and building them up. Therefore, while focussing on my protein intake, I’m aware it’s only useful to my body if I’m exercising regularly and properly and therefore creating a need for protein – a sort of circular logic that keeps me on track
  5. I like reasoning – I distrust blanket rules such as ‘all carbs are bad’, therefore looking at a ratio across different qualities within food seemed more reasonable to me

Carbohydrates
As above, I dislike removing all carbs just because they’re “bad” (and more importantly, because I really really like carbs). Understanding that even what I had seen as ‘non-carby’ veg such as broccoli has some carbs in makes me feel like I’m getting some carbs even if I don’t have a portion of rice or potatoes on my plate.

Fat
We all know there are different kinds of fat, and we all know too much of some types are bad for you. However, as with carbs, I’m loathe to cut out all fat just because ‘it’s bad’. I am distraught that mayonnaise is literally 80% fat (and none of the light versions come close to being edible).

The Golden Ratio
The magic ratio is: 1, 1.5, 0.25
This is how many grams of protein, carbs and fat you should have per lb of body weight.

Alternatively, if you’d like the pcf ratio in whole numbers, try: 36 / 55 / 9.
This is the % of protein, carbs and fat to intake in a meal (or day). It doesn’t matter so much per meal, as a general rule it’s probably best to aim to hit it at the end of the day. You may have a view on when to eat carbs around your exercise routine (i.e. just before, or just after) so working towards achieving the balance by bedtime will probably work best.

If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many carbs you’re allowed! However, what’s important to realise is you generally won’t intake only protein, carbs or fat – you’ll probably be having all three at once. And not exceeding your fat allowance is just as important as meeting your protein and carb targets. And if you’re even more like me, you’ll think it’s equally important to a) like what you’re eating and b) not be starving hungry all day. I’ve found working to the pcf ratio above generally meets both a) and b) which is what makes it sustainable for me to work towards every single day.

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