Macronutrients are the foundation of our diet. They consist of proteins, carbs and fats. Let’s take a look at each in more detail…
Why is it important?
In the quest for a lean body, this macronutrient should be at the top of your list. With the exception of nuts, whose health benefits are usually sabotaged by high salt content, it is close to impossible to get protein on the go. This is why most of us fall victim to excess carbohydrate intake, which in return can lead to excess body fat. As with all food groups, protein plays a part in many different bodily functions. It is essential for muscle tissue repair, preserving lean muscle mass, and a secondary energy source, to name a few. Whenever you do strength training, there are micro tears that happen in your muscles, which usually causes soreness. The amino acids in protein, link on to the amino acids in your body and helps those muscles repair, becoming bigger and stronger, which is continually a process every time you workout.
The Center for Disease control recommends 56g of protein for men, and 46g of protein for women daily. For weight loss and fat burning purposes, my recommendations are slightly higher. I suggest your minimum protein intake is equal to 1gram of protein per 2 pound of bodyweight (120 pound female should take 60g of protein per day). While some, would not mind to get that daily amount through Steaks and chicken wraps, it can be extremely expensive and time consuming. This is where supplements such as protein powder come into play. Most of these products are milk based; Whey and Casein protein are the two main types. One scoop of protein powder usually amounts to between 24-26 grams of protein per serving. This is a convenient option when it comes to helping you meet your daily requirements. For those who might not want to go that route, there are also plant based protein powder options as well. I will discuss supplements more in-depth in a later post.
What are Carbs and how do they work?
Just like Protein, carbohydrates wear many hats, but this food group’s primary focus is to supply the body with energy, either immediately or over prolonged periods of time. Carbohydrates are either a sugar, starch or a fiber. When you eat carbs, they are converted into sugar (glucose) in the body. Carbs that are needed immediately are transported through the bloodstream in the form of glucose to the major organs and muscles to provide energy. When it is not used immediately it is stored in the body’s liver and muscle tissue, in the form of glycogen as a back up source of energy. When carbs are eaten in excess of what can be used immediately or stored in muscle tissue, it is then distributed throughout the body in the form of adipose tissue (body fat).
Good carbs versus bad carbs?
While fruits and vegetables are carbs, you can consider almost all vegetables and most fruit to be good carbs. They are considered good carbs because glucose from these foods are “slowly and steadily” distributed through the bloodstream after digestion. “Faster acting” bad carbs, lead to the bloodstream being loaded with glucose in a shorter window. These “Fast acting” Carbs are the ones you want to stay clear of most the time. They are most beneficial immediately after an intense workout, to help the body get quick energy and to replace your back up energy stores.
A good source to check out a list of “slow vs fast” acting Carbs the Glycemic index (GI), this list gives you an idea of how quickly your body processes foods into sugar. High GI foods convert into sugar faster then Low GI foods. Please take more into consideration then just an items placement on the chart; also consider the overall nutritional benefit of the food.
What are Fats?
Will all the Fat-free and Low fat labels out there, this is probably the most misunderstood of all the food groups. This macronutrient is used in the body as a secondary source of energy, and it is a carrier for certain vitamins (A,D,E,K). Fats help maintain normal blood cholesterol in adults and also play a role in growth and brain development in children.
There are four mains types of fats, two you want to keep in your diet, the other two I would save for cheat meals if not totally eliminate them. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are the ones that are good for you and aid in heart health and cholesterol. These fats are usually plant, nut or fish based and if not a solid are liquid at room temperature, such as Avocados, Olive oil, Nuts, Fish, Sunflower oil, Canola oil etc. Saturated and Trans Fats are the bad fats which should be limited or avoided. These fats play a major role in elevating cholesterol levels while increasing risk for certain diseases as well. Opposite to the two healthy fats above, these tend to be solid at room temperature. Saturated fats include mostly animal products (unclean cuts of red meat, whole-fat dairy products, butter, cheese etc.). Trans fat includes donuts, muffins, and fried foods, candy bars.