Macronutrients, or “macros”, are basically what your food (calories) are made up of. They are broken into three parts – Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. Everything you eat, whether it be a cheeseburger and fries or chicken breasts with brown rice, are made up of the three macronutrients. The difference with these two meals is the different ratios of macronutrients in them. Most of us have heard that meat is full of protein and nuts are made up of healthy fats and this pretty much means that these foods are just high in a certain macronutrient. Today i’m going to breakdown the three macronutrients, why they’re important and how you can use them for even better fat loss and get better results quicker.
Sidenote: Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post stating the importance of calories and how you can use them to lose body fat and gain muscle. Measuring Calories and tracking your food should be your main focus when you are starting to lose body fat so you have an estimate how much food and calories you’re consuming everyday. Once you have an estimation you’re able to reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming or you burn more calories through exercise to create a negative energy balance which means you will be losing weight. If you missed the article make sure to read it here
Let’s start with the king macronutrient, Protein. Protein is made up of 4 calories per gram. Protein is the most important macronutrient for the body; it helps with body growth, tissue repair, immune function, making essential hormones and enzymes, creating energy when carbohydrates are not available and preserving lean muscle mass. The list goes on and on. If you want to build muscle and lose body fat protein is going to play a very important role. When we consume protein the body breaks them down into amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and the amino acids are then used in the body for muscle growth etc. Some foods like meat and dairy are made up of “complete protein” which means they have all amino acids, but some protein sources that come from vegetables and beans are “incomplete” protein which means they aren’t made up of all amino acids. Here are the best sources of protein:
- Poultry: Chicken, Turkey, Goose, Game Birds, etc. (Be sure to remove skin. If buying ground meat ensure it is lean.)
- Red Meat: Any quality lean meat from Cows, Goat, Lamb, Kangaroo, Game. (If buying ground meat ensure it is lean.)
- Other Meats: Pork, Lamb, Lean Ham, etc. (Ensure you buy the leaner cuts as these meats can be quite fatty.)
- Fish: Fresh Cod, Snapper, Salmon, Swordfish, Canned Fish. (Most fish are lean but the fattier fish are high in healthy fats)
- Shellfish: Includes: Mussels, Oysters, Scallops, Prawns, Lobsters, etc.
DAIRY – Choose mostly low fat dairy products
- Milk, Powdered Milk (Choose mostly skim milk. Can be Cow/goat/sheep, etc)
- Low Fat Cottage Cheese & Natural Yoghurt. (These foods include the benefits of bacterial cultures to improve gut health)
- Cheeses & Other Dairy Products. (Cheeses are very high in fat, choose softer cheeses where possible)
- Eggs, Powdered Egg (Egg whites are pure protein, egg yolks contain fat and protein)
VEGETABLE PROTEINS – Vegetable proteins are often “incomplete” so i recommend to vary them or add dairy/meat
- Raw Nuts & Seeds: (These are also high in healthy fats and contain carbohydrates)
- Grain Protein: (Many grains eg: wheat, rice, quinoa etc contain significant amounts of proteins)
- Bean/Vegetable Protein: (Soybeans are the main protein source here, although other beans and vegetables contain protein) I don’t recommend soy at all
PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS These are available in powders/bars/drinks/etc.
- Whey Protein: (A fast digesting milk protein. Available in various forms/fractions)
- Casein Protein: (A slow digesting milk protein.)
- Soy Protein: (Derived from soybeans.)
- Egg Protein: (Primarily the protein albumin, this is a slow digesting protein)
- Vegetable Proteins: (Can be found in the form of Wheat, Pea, Spirulina Protein, etc)
How much protein do you need? A simple way to figure out how much protein you need is to get your body weight in kg and times it by 2. For example if you’re 70kg your aim should be to consume 140g of protein a day. I recommend consuming protein at every meal (at least 20 grams minimum.)
Fat is another essential nutrient that the body needs. 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories. Fat is important for normal growth and development as it creates energy (fat is the most concentrated source of energy). Fat also absorbs certain vitamins, provides cushioning for the organs, maintains cell membranes, provides taste, consistency, and stability to foods and helps with hormone function (especially testosterone levels in men). There are commonly 4 types of fats found in food – Polyunsaturated Fats, Monounsaturated fats, Saturated fats and Trans fats. You want to focus on consuming predominantly unsaturated fats (poly and mono) and consuming less saturated and trans fats; however saturated fats and natural trans fats (grass fed butter) should still be consumed in moderate amounts.
Fat is made up of the highest amount of calories per gram, so it’s easy to over consume a lot of calories when you’re eating higher fat foods. You can get fat from the following:
VEGETABLE FAT SOURCES –
These are mostly high in mono and polyunsaturated fats and contain EFA’s
- Flaxseed, Hempseed, Evening Primrose, Almond, Canola, Olive and Most Other Plant Oils.
- Whole Raw Nuts & Seeds
- MCT Oils / coconut oils
ANIMAL FAT SOURCES –
These can be high in mono and polyunsaturated and saturated fats. I always recommend grass fed and wild caught
- Salmon, Cod, Halibut, Shellfish & Other Fatty Fish/Fish Oils (Fish are high in unsaturated fats like omega 3’s
- Dairy Products (Can vary in fat content wildly and can contain high levels of saturated fat)
- Lean Meat & Poultry (Even when trimmed and skinless, these provide fat. Can be high in saturated fat)
- Eggs (Only the yolk contains the mainly saturated fat) also don’t stress about cholesterol if you aren’t consuming more than 2 eggs per day or have a pre existing condition.
How much fat do you need?
I recommend about 1-1.5g of fat per KG of bodyweight. So for example if you weigh 70kg you should be consuming 70-100 g of fats a day.
I also recommend consuming healthy fats at every meal except after your workout. Post workout nutrition should be focused more on just protein and simple carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are the one nutrient the body can live without. There’s no such thing as essential carbs, however carbohydrates are still important for the body. 1 gram of carbs equals 4 calories. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. They are broken down into glucose (the actual fuel for the body). Carbs are easily used by the body for energy. All of the tissues and cells in our body can use glucose for energy. Carbs help the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly, can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy, are important in intestinal health and waste elimination. Carbs are divided into two different sources – simple and complex; this means how easy the body is able to turn them into energy. Obviously simpler carbohydrates (think about white rice etc) are more easily absorbed by the body as opposed to complex carbs (like sweet potato). Here is a list of complex and simple carbs
SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES – These are the small molecule carbohydrates or sugars
- Sugar Cane & Sugar Beets (The main commercial sources of sugar)
- Fresh Fruit & Berries (These contain mainly fructose, a low GI sugar)
- Honey (Honey contains a mix of glucose and fructose)
- Milk (Milk and milk products contain the sugar lactose)
- Prepared Sugars (Glucose/Fructose/Lactose/Maltose, etc. Found in drinks or free form)
COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES – These are long chains of simple carbohydrates, that breakdown to release sugars
- Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin & Squash
- Yams, Parsnips & Other Root Vegetables
- Corn, Oats Wheat & Other Grains.
- Wholegrain Flours, Breads & Pastas.
- Brans, Weet Bix & Shredded Wheat Cereals.
- Ancient Grains (Amaranth, Millet, Teth, etc).
- Basmati, Brown & Wild Rice.
- Raw Nuts, Seeds, Beans, Lentils, Couscous & Other Pulses, etc.
- Vegetables such as Carrots and Peas.
When is comes to consuming carbohydrates I recommend only consuming simple carbs after a workout. This way they will (nerd speak) spike insulin and help push protein into your muscles, which is important if you’re trying to gain muscle, or maintain the muscle mass you have when trying to lose body fat. Also if you are trying to lose body fat I recommend keeping your carbs low during the day if you’re working in an office or not doing a lot of activity. Carbohydrates are going to make up the majority of calories in your diet, so if you reduce the amount of carbs you have this is an easy way to assist you with losing weight.
How many carbs do you need?
After you have calculated how much protein and fats you need during the day then you can use the rest of calories you have left (which you should have figured out by the last blog post; if you didn’t read it click here).
So if I’m 70kg and i’m consuming 2100 calories a day I’m consuming 140g of protein a day (560 calories), 80g of fats a day (720 calories) meaning I have 820 calories to consume from carbohydrates. This means I can consume 205g of carbs a day.
Protein – 140g = 560 cals
Fats – 80g = 720 cals
Carbs – 205g = 820 calories
When you start looking at how many macronutrients you’re consuming during the day by measuring them through sites like myfitnesspal or nutrition data you’re going to get a good idea on how much of each macronutrient you’re consuming everyday. When you start to consume the right amount of macronutrients everyday your body is going to make much better changes and function better rather than just counting calories alone.
In the next nutrition topic I’m going to cover micronutrients and how they can also help with your body’s function; how you feel and how they can help you make even more progress.
What to do next
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