I’ve had a few questions regarding how to make sure you are eating enough calories and hitting your macros on a vegetarian diet and since my camera died on me mid-filming, I will have to answer this question via blog. I appreciate that there is a lot of information here so take your time to read it and take it all in.
This type of calculation can easily be used for omnivores too, so don’t be afraid to do some testing and some maths for yourself!
If you are interested in reading about why vegetarianism, or veganism, or certainly a reduction in meat consumption, might not only be good for you, but also make an actual, tangible difference to the planet we live in, then read this blog post HERE written by world renowned sloth expert and scientist, Rebecca Cliffe.
According to the ‘Benedict Harris fomula’, accessible here, my calorific requirement for maintenance of weight sits around 3400 kcals per day. This is a number that has a substantial variance, and is just an estimate, so before taking this as the correct value I would simply test it out for a week or two, while following your usual routine, to see how it affects your weight and tweak it accordingly.
Adjustments based on goal
Once you have adjusted calorie intake and found your ‘true’ maintenance, here is where the manipulations begin.
Generally, for weight loss or weight gain, you would start at a 10% surplus or deficit, and trial how your body responds to this variation.
I should note that I am being guided by Alexis from Enhanced Performance, so therefore every decision that I speak about below was agreed on, and more often than not decided, by him.
Using myself as an example, since I am looking to lose fat and maintain muscle mass, I initially took my calories down to 3000 kcals per day, which is approximately a 12% reduction in overall calories from maintenance.
After two weeks of monitoring it was decided that this limit was slightly too low, since I lost weight a little too quickly (a good aim for fat loss while maintaining muscle is 1-2 lbs per week, whereas I lost 5 lbs in two weeks – this might vary slightly if you are larger and have more fat to lose, but for the general population this is a good, healthy aim).
Therefore, with this in mind, my caloric intake per day will be around the 3200 kcals mark for the next period of time, before further adjustments will be made according to how my body responds to the increased energy.
I will keep you updated on how it goes.
The macro split
This is where it becomes a bit tricky since, as vegetarians, in my admittedly limited experience since I have only been a vegetarian for a month or so, it is tricky to get high quantities of protein while limiting either carbohydrates or fat without taking a lot of protein supplements.
Therefore, I have noticed that the best macro nutrient split for me, in terms of % of total calories, seems to be 40% carbs, 25% protein and 30% fat.
As 1g of carbohydrates and protein = 4 calories, and 1g of fat = 9 calories, the maths works out as seen below.
Total calories – 3200
Calories from Carbohydrates (45%) -> 1440 kcals -> 1440 /4 = 360g
Calories from Protein (25%) -> 800 kcals -> 800 / 4 = 200g
Calories from Fat (30%) -> 960 kcals -> 960 / 9 = 107g
Benefits of this macro split
High carbs – lots of energy, carbs are ‘protein sparing’, meaning that to a certain extent you can eat less protein when your carb intake is higher. Also, it is very difficult to come by ‘pure’ protein sources as a vegetarian, so as a byproduct of eating peas, nuts, rice and all kinds of vegetables your overall carbohydrate ingestion over the course of the day will naturally be higher.
But don’t worry, for the general population that isn’t after specific manipulations such as carb cycling, carb loading, carb back-loading, the carbohydrate intake won’t make you fat. Provided you ‘earn’ the calories by exercising appropriately, of course.
Fats – high enough for good hormonal function and, again, gives you plenty of leeway to eat nuts and seeds, both of which will help you boost your protein to the numbers you are looking for.
Protein – I’m not going to lie, it’s rather difficult to reach 200g of protein a day without supplementation. Personally, I squeeze an extra 25-40g of protein in, depending on the day, by taking whey protein, vegan protein (rice & yellow pea) and hemp protein. All of these contain the full range of essential amino acids (meaning those we cannot synthesize ourselves within our body) and thus will not hold us back when we are looking at protein synthesis (the building of muscle).
In there, he goes over all ‘essential’ supplementation for you to thrive.
That’s all for now, I hope you have found the above both informative and helpful to your own goals.
As always feel free to get in touch with me with any questions you might have – I am more than happy to help and will make a corresponding blog or video.
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Remember, Reach for the Bars.