Ever heard the term macronutrients?
Ever wondered what macronutrients are used for?
Low fat or high protein diets got you confused? Well, read on.
What are macronutrients?
Simply put, macro means large scale and nutrients are what the body needs to function.
Therefore, macronutrients are dietary nutrients that are required in large volumes for a healthy body.
Specifically, they are protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each macronutrient serves a different purpose in the body and the majority of foods contain some proportion of these nutrients.
When reading about macronutrients you will often see them called macros, this is how we will refer to them for the rest of this article.
The body requires amino acids to repair and build muscle broken down through training, these amino acids are found in protein.
Protein has had an insane amount of publicity in recent years. This is due to the popularity of protein-based diets such as Atkins and Paleo, as well as publicity by supplement companies attempting to sell their latest “must have” shakes.
While the publicity surrounding protein has certainly been excessive in recent years it’s not completely without basis.
Protein is required to build muscle. however, the amount of protein required for an individual engaged in a training program is the subject of debate. This is where the lucrative and powerful supplement companies make their recommendations that are generally much higher than most. However, more protein doesn’t directly mean more muscle growth. Protein that
The amount of protein required for an individual engaged in a training program is the subject of debate.
The influential and powerful supplement companies make recommendations that are generally much higher than most.
More protein doesn’t directly mean more muscle growth. The protein that isn’t used is broken down into its various amino acids. At this point, most of the amino acids are converted to energy and used, or stored as fat. The nitrogen component is expelled from the body in urine. So it quite literally goes down the toilet.
There are some potential side effects to consuming a very high protein diet. In some cases, this type of diet has been shown to put a strain on both the heart and kidneys due to the amount of waste product the body is expected to dispose of.
Want to make sure your protein requirements are being met?
The best and most practical advice is to try to have some protein with every meal. Doing this will comfortably provide you with enough of the required amino acids either when training or otherwise.
Many people find a diet high in protein more satisfying and therefore easier to stick to. Since diet compliance is the first key to success if you happen to be struggling with meal satisfaction a higher protein diet may be worth exploring.
Sources Of Protein
- Beans & Pulses
Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of readily available energy. It can be used immediately or stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen.
Once upon a time carbohydrates were seen as the greatest food group ever to grace the earth. With enough carbohydrates, you could run faster and further, lift heavier and leap buildings in a single bound. Of course, none of that was ever true. It does illustrate however how carbohydrates have formed just one of the many trends that has engulfed nutrition advice over the years.
Alas, more recently the carbohydrate has fallen out of favour with the fitness community. Low carb diets are now the fashionable choice for those who follow such trends.
It may or may not be a coincidence that low carb diets are often also high protein diets, which conveniently fits with the narrative pushed by the supplement industry.
Carbohydrates are absolutely necessary for the body to function regardless of goals.
It is pretty counter productive to in any way treat them as “bad” as they provide the body with the energy required to be active, and to recover from that activity in such a way as to get stronger and faster.
“Good & Bad” Carbs
When looking at the good and bad sources of carbohydrates this is probably most beneficial to look at from the perspective of compliance and satiety. To do this we’ll start with
To do this we’ll start with 100 grams of cookie and compare it to other foods.
100g of cookie = 480 calories
Which is roughly equivalent to:
6 x Slices of bread (265 cal per 100g)
4 x portions of cooked rice (130 cal per 100g)
3 x medium potatoes (77 cal per 100g)
Given the above comparison, it’s clear that if you want to either consume 100g of a given food (or 480 calories worth) there are more filling choices than cookies and other such treats.
So is there such a thing as good and bad carbs? No. But it depends on what you want to achieve with your food choice.
If you want a sweet treat (and there’s nothing wrong with that) then the cookie is (in my opinion) a fantastic choice.
But if you want to be well fueled and full there are more probably more helpful choices you can make.
It’s worth just being honest with yourself when you’re making those choices, exactly what you’re achieving with these options.
Ah, poor old dietary fat. The devil in food form. There is probably no other food group that has been so persistently vilified over so many years as fat. In fact, it’s so widely accepted that fat is bad, that an entire industry has been built around providing low-fat and fat-free products.
So culturally ingrained is this idea, that even the common phrase “trim the fat” is used to describe disposing of something undesirable.
Fat is incredibly important for a whole range of our bodily functions.
In fact, some side effects of a low-fat diet are reduced brain function, hormone imbalances, insulin resistance and depression. That being said however if we’re trying to lose fat, it follows we should eat less fat right? Well not really for two simple reasons, compliance and satiety.
Compliance and Satiety
Fat is possibly the most complicated and misunderstood macro and it’s easy to see where it got its reputation. One gram of protein or carbohydrate contains around four calories, and a gram of fat contains nine. So there are more than twice as many calories in the same amount as fat as any other of the macros. It’s then understandable that people looking to cut down their calorie intake start by restricting fat for the easy win. While on the face of it that appears like a perfectly sensible plan it underestimates one of the most important aspects of success with nutrition, compliance and satiety.
One gram of protein or carbohydrate contains around four calories, and a gram of fat contains nine. So there are more than twice as many calories in the same amount as fat as any other of the macros. It’s then understandable that people looking to cut down their calorie intake start by restricting fat for the easy win.
It’s then understandable that people looking to cut down their calorie intake start by restricting fat for the easy win. While on the face of it that appears like a perfectly sensible plan, it underestimates one of the most important aspects of success with nutrition, compliance and satiety. Meals that contain a reasonable amount of fat have been shown to be more satisfying.
Any meal plan that is fundamentally unsatisfying basically sets you up to fail. Whether it’s an hour or a week later you’re going to come to a point where you’re feeling weak and are going to break from the plan.
The point is, it’s far better to be on a higher fat nutrition plan and to stick to it than to try to go fat-free and struggle to maintain it.
What are macronutrients proportions
The term “macronutrient proportions” refers to the ratio of an individuals calorie intake. So if you’re consuming 2500 calories you may want those calories to come from 35% Carbs, 35% Protein and 30% fat (35:35:30) or something similar.
While there are many recommendations of macronutrient proportions, the only proportion we’re really interested in is the one that ensures we can stick to our meal plan long-term.
If that means higher fats, higher carb or higher protein and it works, that’s all that matters. To find out what your own personal ratio is you can start by using an app to track your meals, see which meals leave you most satisfied with the fewest calories and build further recipes around those ratios.
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