Anytime that you hop on the Internet asking for the answer to a question, you will undoubtedly come across just about anyone who thinks that they’re an expert.
While this is true for any niche, it's especially true for fitness.
When you are working to sculpt and build muscle, your overall nutrition is extremely important and directly affects your results.
The information that is on the interwebs regarding this topic constantly conflicts each other. So much so that women have gotten to the point that they don’t know what to eat so they simply won’t eat.
What is the answer to that question? What DO you eat to get shredded? First of all, to simply not eat is an entirely different subject than the topic we are tackling today. However, it’s important that you do eat and not just skip meals or snacks.
Let's dive in to how to eat to sculpt muscle.
First of all, protein is your friend. Protein is quite literally the building block of your muscle. Approximately 80% of your muscles are made of proteins. That number goes back-and-forth depending on what study you look at, but the actual number is around that percentage.
Based on that information, you can see that your daily nutrition will need to be heavy in protein. But how much heavier than the other macros? Hang with me, we'll get there.
Before that though, let’s talk super fast about the Thermic Effect of Food.
Protein has the highest satiety rating of all the macros which means that it helps you feel fuller longer.
Thermic Effect of food also discusses how your body breaks down the food and how it is utilized in your energy balance. Translation? It's vital to overall energy output. The other macros of fat and carbs do contribute to this, but it is not as high as proteins.
Keeping all of this in mind, how do you split up and balance your food so that you have that optimal output without losing your mind trying to hit those numbers?
Chances are, if you counted macros in the past, you have probably sat at your counter at 9 o’clock at night with 20 more grams of protein to eat and 10 more grams of carbs and you are wondering what random concoction you’re going to put together to perfectly match your macros. It's madness and unnecessary.
So, how do you split and reach your target without going nuts?
First thing's first- you are going to need to know what your specific calorie target is and then I will tell you how to split that up.
Unless you are specifically looking to put on weight, you are going to choose the maintenance calories option. For the sake of this post, we're talking specifically about sculpting the muscles, therefore maintenance will be the choice. Take that calorie target and come back here.
Utilizing this maintenance number, it will be your ultimate target for the day. Example- if your target calories are 2100 that is ultimately what you want to reach that day. That is priority #1.
Your ultimate goal for each day is to eat whole and complete foods while working towards hitting this number. This number does not mean that you want to eat as much junk food as you possibly can while staying at or under this number.
This is because those foods do not provide quality nutritional value. Choose Whole Foods as close to nature as you can get. Some days this will be super easy and some days it will not. Your responsibility is to not freak out and obsess.
Do your best and it WILL get easier each day!
Your second goal per day will be to hit your protein target. Remember, how proteins are the building blocks of your muscles? This is why it’s second priority.
Why is it not first priority? Because eating enough overall is even more important!
Generally, my recommendation for a target for protein will be 1.5g per body weight. Example- if you weigh 140 pounds your protein target will be 210g for the day.
Third, you’re going to want to hit your fat target.
The minimum fat target for a woman based on hormones and other needs is 60g.
You would be amazed at what other trainers recommend for fat targets to women who want to build muscle. I've seen fat targets as low at 15g per day. This is atrociously low.
With our cycles and other hormones we must eat a minimum of 60g of fat per day. For a point of reference, my fat targets are anywhere from 75g to 95g depending on where I am in my cycle.
This is the point where you are going to want to play with your targets a little bit. Figuring out where, your body feels best on what split between fat and carbs. What split helps you to feel full and satisfied? Keeping in mind that this can and will change based on where you are in your cycle.
Simply keep that minimum target of 60g of fat and adjust as necessary as your body is telling you what you need.
From there you’ll fill in carbs. Carbs are not our enemy, carbs are our friend. They provide us that quick energy that we need and fats providers that longer-term energy that we need.
I have had women that have had a pretty even split of macros. I’ve also had women who have had a super high proteins split and a really low carb split simply because their bodies didn’t handle carbs as well based on their medical needs recommended by their doctor.
There have even been women who have had a super high carb target even almost with protein.
The important thing here is to start with 1.5 g target protein for body weight and to adjust as your body feels the need.
It's important to remember that your protein target should always be higher than your fat or your carb targets when the focus is sculpting of muscles.
From here, some trainers would say that you need a fiber target. However, because I encourage women to eat whole foods as much as they possibly can they will get most of, if not all the fiber that they need.
How do you apply this information? What do you do from here?
From there you’re going to take your body weight and multiply it by 1.5 and that will give you your protein target.
Then you will take your fat at a minimum of 60g and adjust as needed until you find that sweet split your body feels best on. Past that, you'll fill in the rest with carbs.
I highly recommend taking pictures as you go, keeping in mind that your body will look a little bit different as you go through the phases of your cycle.
It’s very possible that you have eaten so little for so long that you will need to reverse diet, which means to slowly build back your calories.
If that is the case, you have one of two options, simply dive right in and jump those calories up to your target or slowly rebuild your calories at 100 calories per week until you reach your target maintenance.
Remember to not obsess. This process can be extremely fun!
You will learn so much about your body and how it works, if you will simply roll with things and not obsess over what you are putting in your mouth.
Simply be aware and apply your knowledge, but don’t obsess. I'll leave you with one last piece of information...
This process can take months and even a year or more. This is a lifestyle this is not a crash course. Anybody that claims to you otherwise is lying to you. Don't fret! The time will pass anyway so enjoy the process. Apply this process over the course of time and your body will reward you. It will be difficult at first but as you go, it will get so much easier.
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