Intelligent Macro Breakdown for the Athlete

By: Gavin Hemmerlein

Before we get into the little nuances of health, let’s cover the top level first. Sherlock Michaels has done a fantastic job of covering your Total Daily Expenditure Estimate. To head back to the infogram, go here:

So let’s go from there. We now know what our maintenance should be. For ease of calculations, let’s go with 3000 calories. That’s a great level to go with just for mathematical ease. There are a couple of tweaks that ISSA uses, but it comes out to be very close for an estimation anyway. The difficulty and amount of work is much greater, but if you’re interested here are two pictures of that technique:

Leanness Factor:

Expenditure Guide:

Remember, these are only estimates. Take the time to do this calculation, but also log your diet for two weeks. Once you figure out if you’re staying at the same bodyweight/body composition, start a caloric deficit of 300 cals (for our example 2700 cals Total Intake) from there and do work. If you’re wanting to gain weight, 3300 cals will be your target.

This is where we get into meat and potatoes of fitness. Each activity stresses your body differently and requires fuel in a different way.

Choose your goal and stick with it. Here is a very important chart for your goals:

As you can see, we have a breakdown of macronutrient ratios (the percentages are % of your total calories) for the goal at hand. It is just logical to take the macros for your goal and apply them to your diet. What most people don’t realize is that your food intake can change depending on what stage of preparation you are in for the year.

Different training events apply different stressors on the body. Food is fuel, period. Fuel your body to succeed. Let’s look at this a little closer to break it down. So for our examples we’ll take the two extremes of ‘Track and Field Long Distance’ and ‘Weightlifting’.

Let’s compare the two side by side:


Task      Fats       Pro       CHO

T&F –      25         15          60

W –     (10-15)  (30-40)  (50-55)

So we see the obvious that carbohydrates have increased for the distance events and protein has increased for the weightlifting. The surprising thing is that the fats have lowered. I chose the Season timeframe because they show the greatest disparity. I personally feel that fats could be higher and protein could be lower for the Weightlifting, but that isn’t the point. The point is to train towards your goals and this chart will get you in the ballpark.

Now that we have finished that step through, let’s go back to our example of 3000 calories needed. I’m going to do our In-Season weightlifter for the example. Once again I’m going to use 3000 for ease of calculations, but you need to do that for your individual needs:

Total Cals: 3000

Fats: (3000 cals) * (15%) = (450 cals) / (9 cals/g) = 50g

Protein: (3000 cals) * (30%) = (900 cals) / (4 cals/g) = 225g

Carbs: (3000 cals) * (55%) = (1650 cals) / (4 cals/g) = 412.5g

So there you have it. The ideal macro breakdown for this competition weightlifter would be around 50/225/412.5 grams. That’s how you breakdown your macros. There may need to be some tweaking for each person, but 80% of the people out there will fit into this category.

There are many other subjects that we can go into (protein/meal intake timing, quality/content of food, the GI and why it is overrated), but this will get you to about 95% of where you want to go.