Controlling Food Portions and Macronutrient BreakDown

Controlling Food Portions and Macronutrient Breakdown

If many of us just stopped eating the amount of food volume that we consume, we would probably lose fat and feel better. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. I do not believe a calorie is a calorie. I also feel that reducing calories can make us become nutrient deficient, lack energy, lose muscle, and set ourselves up to overeat and fail in the end because calories are cut too low. So, we need to look at food portions in a different way.

Counting calories may not be the best option, so let’s take a look at some easier ways we can determine how much food we should be eating for each of our body types and lifestyles.

If we consume too many calories, they most likely will end up storing as fat. But, I hate counting calories and you probably do, too! I don’t think that counting calories, proteins, carbs, and fats are manageable for most people, even pro athletes. So, I tend to take a different approach.

First, let’s look at what we need to do by using rough estimates including:

  • determining food amount (calorie intake); and
  • considering food composition (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats).

Keep in mind we are not going to determine these using scales, iPhone apps or calculators. Instead, we are going to use our own hand and our own instincts. To ultimately understand how to eat healthily, we need to listen to our bodies in order to create long-term success.

Calorie counting tends to be inaccurate anyway. Food calculators are not perfect and neither are our instincts on how much we are actually eating. We also get so tired of being a constant number puncher that we end up quitting. Let’s make it easier on ourselves and STOP counting calories.

Portion Control Without Counting

I have started to teach my clients the concept of monitoring their portion control by using their own hand as their measuring tool (another method I picked up from PN). Below is an example of how to measure each type of food for a typical male. Keep in mind,

A man might be eating:

  • 1-2 palms of protein dense food with each meal;
  • 1-2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
  • 1-2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods if including extra carbs;
  • 1-2 thumbs of fat-dense foods with each meal if including extra fats.

A woman might be eating:

  • 1 palm of protein dense food with each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
  • 1 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods if including extra carbs; and
  • 1 thumb of fat-dense foods with each meal, if including extra fats.

Of course, your portion sizes will vary depending on your goals (losing fat, building muscle), your starting point, and your body type.

Let’s take a look at how you can determine the macronutrient breakdown that you will need for your body type. After all, we are all created differently, so we all need different ratios of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Food Composition and Macronutrient Breakdown for you and your Goals

There are some basic rules to follow for everyone, but each individual is a little different, depending on their goals and body type. Since most people want to gain lean tissue and lose fat, we will focus on this scenario.

Nearly all people will see dramatic improvements in body composition and health just by reducing nutrient deficiencies and controlling portions. The problem is, a lot of people are not sure about how much of what to eat. So, we are going to look into food composition and macronutrient goals a little further, by making some categories of body types for people to follow.

Dr. John Berardi did a great job talking about somatotypes (body types) in his blog. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I am simply going to use his template, with some modifications.

He categorized these as:

  • I types (ectomorphs),
  • V types (mesomorphs), and
  • O types (endomorphs).

While I like these definitions, I am going to make my own.

  • Type I: Thinner, smaller bone structure, think endurance athlete.
  • Type II: Medium sized bone structure, athletic body, more muscle mass. Think top-level Crossfitter or power forward in the NBA.
  • Type III: Larger bone structure, higher amounts of mass, including more fat mass, think football lineman or other bigger athlete.

Let’s take a deeper look at how each one of these body types should eat, and break down how much of what macronutrient should be consumed for overall health and fat loss.

Nutrition for Type 1 People

These people tend to be thinner in build, smaller bone structures, and thinner limbs. They are typically high-energy people who have higher metabolisms. This may be due to the fact that they are moving more throughout the day and seem to not sit still as much. Think of endurance athletes and high-activity people.

Type I people also tend to tolerate carbs better, known as “carb tolerant” people.

In light of being more “carb tolerant,” their bodies seem to do well on the following macronutrient breakdown.The diet forType 1 people consists of more healthy carbs, with less healthy fats, and moderate amounts of protein.

  • 50% calories from carbohydrates;
  • 30% calories from protein; and
  • 20% calories from fat.

Just a reminder: don’t get caught up in counting calories.

This is just to give you a rough idea of how each individual should eat. Worry about portions and how your body feels, not the calories. Using the Precision Nutrition portion control guide, here is what it would look like.

Type I men begin with:
  • 2 palms of protein dense food with each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
  • 3 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 thumb of fat-dense foods with each meal.
Type I women begin by eating:
  • 1 palm of protein-dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods with each meal;
  • 0.5 thumb of fat-dense foods with each meal. 

Nutrition for Type II people

Type II people tend to have a medium-sized bone structure and a more athletic body. When these people engage in sport and exercise, they tend to be leaner with more muscle mass. You can think about gymnasts, wrestlers, CrossFitters, and even basketball players.

They tend to have more power and strength, and excess calories seem to turn into muscle mass and dense bones when active. Their hormone levels tend to be better on the testosterone and growth hormone side. This will explain the increase in muscle mass and power they display. Staying lean and muscular is their friend.

A mixed diet tends to be best for Type ii people:

  • 40% calories coming from carbohydrates;
  • 30% calories from protein; and
  • 30% calories from fat.

Using the Precision Nutrition portion control guide, here it what it would look like.


Type II men begin with:
  • 2 palms of protein-dense foods with each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
  • 2 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods with each meal; • 2 thumbs of fat-dense foods with each meal.

Type II women begin by eating:
  • 1 palm of protein-dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
  • 1 cupped handful of carb-dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 thumb of fat-dense foods with each meal.

Nutrition for Type III People

Type III people tend to have larger bone structures with higher amounts of to- tal body mass and body fat. Think football players, powerlifters, or simply stated larger people.

These people usually are not highly active people and tend to be more sedentary. They don’t have high energy or high metabolisms. This can cause excess calories to be stored as fat, especially when those calories come from carbohydrates.

People with this type of body tend to have a bit of trouble losing weight and staying lean. But, with the right nutrition, they can get as lean as they want to be. This is typically done with a higher protein and higher fat diet with lower carbohydrates. Their carbohydrate intake will be scaled down with the bulk of the carbohydrates taken in the meal before a workout (if they do not work out in the morning) and post-workout. If they work out in the morning, I suggest they consume the other remaining carbohydrates at night.

A macronutrient breakdown would be 25% calories from carbohydrates, _5% calories from protein, and 40% of their calories from fat. Again, don’t get hung up on the calories and macronutrient distribution. Instead, think lower (not low) carbohydrates and higher fat and protein.

Using the Precision Nutrition portion control guide, here it what it would look like.

Type III men begin with:
  • 2 palms of protein-dense foods with each meal;
  • 2 fists of vegetables with each meal;
  • 1 cupped handfuls of carb-dense foods with each meal;
  • 3 thumbs of fat-dense foods with each meal.
Type III women begin by eating:
  • 1 palm of protein-dense foods with each meal;
  • 1 fist of vegetables with each meal;
  • 0.5 cupped handful of carb-dense foods with each meal;
  • 2 thumbs of fat-dense foods with each meal.

Cycling your Calorie and Carbohydrate Intake

Regardless of your health and fitness goals, cycling your carbohydrate and calorie intake can make a dramatic difference in your ability to lose weight and/or get lean.

As long as you are minimizing your deficiencies, macronutrient intake is in balance, and calories are controlled, you can start to use calorie and carb cycling to get the results you are looking for.

In short, you will be consuming fewer calories – primarily from carbs on your off workout days, and more calories coming from carbs on your workout days. It’s a pretty simple approach to gaining muscle and losing fat.

The reason we need to control our calories coming from carbohydrates and not fats and proteins is carbohydrates influence how you look and feel the most.

This will keep us from extremes when cutting carbs and calories to lose fat and gain muscle, and keep our metabolic rate moving fast. It also reduces the risk of having a too low, or too high-calorie intake, again, keeping our metabolic rate in check.

Here is the simplest way to do it.

  • On days you’re not lifting weights, or on days when you are just moving a little (walking, playing a sport, etc.), consume your baseline of fats, proteins, and vegetables, with minimal carbs.
  • On days you are lifting weights, or doing metabolic conditioning work, include more starchy carbohydrates to your baseline nutritional intake.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is. Don’t go crazy measuring cals and carbs. Just stick with your regular protein, fat, and veggie intake, and include or take away starchy carbs as needed.

Ryan Andrews, from Precision Nutrition, has a great article All About Carb Cycling if you want to get in-depth on the topic. If you are looking to gain some muscle mass without the unwanted body fat, here is a great article on that.

In short, to gain muscle, bump up your calories coming from carbohydrates. If you want to lose body fat, reduce your calories coming from carbohydrates.


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