The Best Macronutrient Ratio for Bodybuilding

The three macronutrients -- proteins, carbohydrates and fats, each play a different role within the body. When dieting for a bodybuilding contest or following a muscle-building meal plan, the macronutrient ratio you consume is of critical importance. Too much of one macronutrient and not enough of another can lead to unwanted fat gain, less than optimal muscle growth and poor performance. You'll need to experiment to find what ratio works best for you, as everybody responds differently to macronutrients.

Macronutrient Basics

For a bodybuilding diet, you need all three macronutrients. Protein is essential, as its main job is to repair damaged cells and build new muscle tissue. Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy. When you eat carbs, they are broken down into glucose, which can be stored in the liver and muscle cells, or used immediately for fuel. Fats are also a source of energy and aid in hormone production.

Standard Macronutrient Ratio

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Nutritionist Dr. Mike Roussell recommends starting with a macronutrient ratio of 30 percent protein, 30 percent fat and 40 percent carbohydrates, as this should allow for maximum muscle gain while keeping you lean. The number of calories you consume is important too. According to Lyle McDonald, author of "The Protein Book," your macronutrient ratio doesn't matter if your calorie intake isn't on point. To build muscle, you need to consume more calories than you burn, and vice versa for fat loss.


The standard macronutrient ratio can change, depending on your goals. When adding muscle, professional natural bodybuilder Marc Lobliner advises increasing carbohydrates to 50 percent of your total calories and dropping fats to 20 percent. However, to shed body fat or prepare for a competition, nutritionist and bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton suggests that you increase your protein intake to preserve muscle mass and drop your carbohydrate intake slightly. A high carbohydrate intake raises levels of the hormone insulin, which can be beneficial when bulking because it aids in recovery and building muscle -- but consuming too much carbohydrate can hinder fat loss.


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No two people will have exactly the same genetics, metabolisms or muscle-growth potential, so there will never be a singular best macronutrient ratio. However, with a little experimentation, you can find what your optimal intake is. Determine your caloric needs, and start with the ratio of 30-30-40. From there, you can make adjustments depending on progress. If you're bulking and adding too much fat, lower your carbs slightly, or increase them if you're not gaining. When losing fat, keep an eye on the scales and your waistline, and don't be afraid to alter the macronutrient ratio if you need to.