Macronutrients 101: Protein, Fat, Carbs

Macronutrients 101: Protein, Fat, Carbs

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Macronutrients are the building blocks of food.  They are the structures that make chicken, fruits, vegetables, milk, and everything else that can be eaten.  The body then breaks these structures into smaller units and uses them for various processes inside the body.

The 3 macronutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrates (carbs).

Your body needs all three macronutrients to function properly.  Eliminating one or the either from your diet can cause complications.

Continue reading if you’d like to know what these compounds do, where to get them, and how much.

Macronutrient: Protein

Gaining and maintaining lean mass is important for long term health, fat loss, and overall feeling good and looking good. 

Protein (the first macronutrient on the list) provides the essential amino acids to allow our body to build and maintain lean mass. Inadequate intake (not eating enough) of protein can impair immune function, reduce muscle mass, and decrease your level of fullness between meals.

Eating protein

There are thousands of resources of how much, what kind, and when you should eat protein (trust me, google protein and you can see for yourself).

I want to simplify this so you can take action today!

Before you start counting grams, calories, sources and hunting free range cows down with a bow and arrow (caveman style), you have to be good at consistently eating it.  Sounds too easy right. I don’t have enough fingers on my hand to count how many times I’ve evaluated someone’s diet and they’re not being consistent with their protein intake. Ladies, if you want tighter arms, a nicer butt, and toned legs you’re going to have to be consistent with protein intake. Most guys want a big chest, great looking arms, and hopefully, you’re working on your legs as well. Guess what?  Consistent protein intake is a must for you too.

Don’t care about the aesthetics?  All that matters is performance…

That’s cool, you still need to get adequate protein so you can repair and recover so your performance improves.

Do this

Practice eating protein with all of your meals throughout the day. A portion size can be considered your own palm size (length and width).

It’s that simple. I recommend that you practice eating protein with ALL of your meals, including your snacks throughout the day.  This step may seem very simple and easy to do but that’s the point.  If you can experience success here, it will be easier to add on other habits as you move along.  Think about it like a snowball rolling down the mountain.  The snowball starts off small but slowly begins to build layers.  Soon it becomes an unstoppable force.  You too will build layers that will have you experiencing results for a lifetime.

Bonus

Just so you’re not confused, use the list below to guide yourself throughout the day.  As long as you have one of these foods with each meal, you’re good to go!

Protein dense foods:

• Dairy- Plain Greek yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat string    cheese, whey protein

• Animal/Meats- Beef, chicken, fish, wild game, pork, eggs

• Legumes- Mixed beans

• Nuts/Seeds- Mixed nuts, mixed seeds

• Grains- Mixed grains (corn+rice), quinoa

Macronutrient: Fat

The second macronutrient is fat. At some point or another most of you have heard that low-fat food is good for you, you’ve probably even been told to cut out all fat from your diet and tried it.  However, studies show that eating a low-fat diet is both misunderstood and potentially dangerous. 

This is because cutting out all fat from your diet, or minimizing it to the point of lowest intake, can prevent you from having enough healthy fats needed for hormone production and other bodily functions.

Let me break this down.

Fat is essential to our body.  It helps us make hormones and maintain bodily functions. Too much fat (specifically saturated) can increase health risks and potentially make us “unhealthy”.  As this awareness grew in the public, many companies took fat out of their products and replaced it with refined grains and sugar.  This was all an effort to reduce saturated fat intake and appeal to a low-fat conscious society.

The body uses fats to build hormones and having a healthy balance (ratio) between saturated fat and unsaturated fat allows our body to be happy and run smoothly. Most people intake a higher ratio of saturated fat than unsaturated fat. The offset ratio causes imbalances in the body’s hormone levels and can lead towards increased risk for health complications.  The same is true for having an extremely low fat intake.

So what’s the solution?

The first step to make an improvement of your fat intake is to improve the ratio. By having more unsaturated fat in your diet you can improve the ratio and start seeing the benefits.

How do you increase unsaturated fat?

Adding healthy, unprocessed fat sources to your diet can dramatically improve your fat ratios.  One or two servings of the following foods would be ideal with a meal. Use your thumb size as a guide (length and thickness).

Unprocessed fat sources

Almonds

Peanuts

Avocados

Fish

Walnuts

Flax Seed

Macronutrient: Carbohydrates

Carbs, carbs, carbs. People seem to hate them one day and love them the next.  If it’s your cheat day then you and carbs are best friends, but once your favorite pants start to tighten among the waist then you’re ready to kick carbs out on the street.

If you haven’t guessed already, the third macronutrient is carbohydrates (carbs).  This macronutrient is found in foods like grains, pasta, cereals, bread, fruits, and vegetables.

Why do you think people have this love/hate relationship with carbs?

Frankly, I’m not too sure either. What I am sure about is that most people can see significant results from simply improving their carb sources.

Before you start counting your carbs or cutting them out completely from your diet, you need to understand that carbs are essential for your bodily functions, health, and even energy.  Carbs are broken down into simple sugars in the blood and are used for energy and energy storage.  They are the body’s first choice for energy.

Improving your carb sources would be more beneficial than eliminating carbs. This means you need to find real whole food sources that you enjoy. This will help to limit and avoid processed carb intake. Don’t worry, the goal isn’t to avoid processed goodies for the rest of your life.  That wouldn’t be fun.  The truth is that reducing health risks and improving body composition will require you to improve your carb sources for the majority of the time.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “so what can I eat”?

Below I’ve given you two lists of foods. One is a list of real whole food sources for carbs, and the other is a list of processed carbs to limit or avoid.  Use these lists to help you with your new goal for two weeks.

Real Whole Foods Carb Sources

• Beans

• Potatoes

• Whole grains (brown rice, millet)

• Whole oats

• Quinoa

• Lentils

Processed Carb Sources

• Soda

• Alcohol

• Sugar

• Candy

• White flour

• Sugary drinks

• Sugary cereal

 

It’s a short list but you get the idea. Use this list as a guide when making your carb choices. Also, when serving carbs, use a cupped hand as a serving guide. Men can start with 2 servings per meal and women can start with one.

The Summary

Our body needs a combination of protein, fats, and carbohydrates throughout the day.  Luckily, all these come from the very foods we already eat.  Making sure that we get a variety of these sources and the right portions will help dramatically improve our health and fitness results.  

Getting good quality sources of protein, fats, and carbs is step one in learning how to lose fat and build muscle. That doesn’t mean you’ll never enjoy a slice of cake or bowl of ice cream again. But the takeaway is that the quality of your food matters.

  • written by Jesus Acuña

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