My favourite topic of all time food! (drools).Edible Material comes in many shapes and sizes, enriched with nutrients or grease, filling bottomless holes or leaving you craving more! Down to serious business, macronutrients! Which you may have already heard of as its more common name, macros. We discussed earlier how to calculate and track your calories, and today’s blog will help you to take it a step further by looking into your macros, which are nutrients needed in large quantities. Food is divided into 3 macronutrient categories; protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each of these macros contain different amounts of calories;
- 1 gram of Protein contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories
Sources of protein includes lean meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Many tissues in our body are predominantly made of protein; teeth, hair, skin, tendons, anti bodies, enzymes and hormones. Protein is required in the body for repairing damaged cells, growth, and of course, to aid building a lean mean muscle machine! Protein has a high thermic effect, meaning it increases the calories you burn whilst your body digests it. Eating a diet rich in protein will also decrease your hunger as it will keep you feeling fuller for longer as a result of its high satiety levels. From the above, you can see how important protein is for your body to do what it does. To ensure you aid these factors and benefit from them, your diet should include a fairly high amount of protein, especially for those of you who are hitting the gym. But do not get confused with the myth that protein builds muscle, as you can only build muscle by putting your body under the correct stress. Protein enables your body to adequately recover from the stress, however, too much protein will overload your liver and kidneys. Be careful in what protein you consume as some animal sources are high in saturated fats. So how much protein is high enough? We will get to that soon.
Carbohydrates is the bodies favoured source of fuel and is the only source of fuel the brain uses. So if you think carbs are the enemy, think again! Your brain will switch off without them, no matter how much caffeine you pump into your body (leaving you with the shakes, crazed wild eyes, wired hair and foaming at the mouth). However, over eating carbs will indeed result in weight gain, it is synthesised into fat once your cells have reached its full saturation level.
In western society a fully functioning insulin sensitive ; which is good, (insulin resistance is bad!) person can hope to absorb 42 units of glucose which equates roughly to 420g of glycogen into the cells. This will make more sense in further blogs – look out for a blog on insulin.
You want the majority of your intake to come from complex carbs, preferably unrefined (potatoes, veg, whole grain products) and a smaller portion from simple carbs (sweets, jams, fruits). Unrefined carbs are those in their natural state, they give a slower more sustained insulin response whereas, refined carbs (white rice, white bread, cakes) have had some of their original properties removed and produce a faster insulin response.
The last macro is fats, which in the correct portion are extremely important in your diet. Your body requires the intake of fats for a number of reasons; which include ; regulation of hormones, cell membrane formation and the transportation of vitamins. But be careful, there are good fats (unsaturated) and bad fats (saturated). Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature and saturated fats are solid at room temperature. They are classified as bad fats because they increase the amount bad cholesterol which can build up in our blood vessels. Another fat to be careful of consuming in large amounts are trans fats. These are unsaturated fats which have had hydrogen added to them in order to increase the shelf life of products. Trans fats are to be eaten in a little moderation as possible. They have a more adverse effect on cholesterol than saturated fats. They increase LDL (bad) cholesterol whilst decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Due to the high calorie count in fat, it’s easy to over eat this macro, gain weight and be at risk of heart disease.
When deciding on what ratio of macros to eat, it is entirely up to you. As you’ve read, a diet high in protein is favourable, however, 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is sufficient for muscle growth and it’s easy to count. For example, if someone weighed 58kg/128 pounds they would aim to eat 128 grams of protein per day. After the protein has been figured out you can fluctuate fats and carbs depending on your preference and what works for you on a day to day basis. A good base line is to keep fats no more than 35% of your total calorie count for the day. For example, if your total calorie intake for the day was 2000, you wouldn’t want any more than 600 calories to come from fats. This way of calculating your macros means you don’t have to be too strict with your diet, miss out on all the foods you love or social events but you still get the precious (Golem voice) protein your body needs to grow!
Just remember, everything eaten in proportion is ok, you don’t have to swear off the fun, mouth watering, day dreaming worthy foods.