I think before we jump into macronutrients and the importance of each it is important to go over calories first. Simply put, a calorie is a measurement of the energy that we need to fuel our bodies.
A lot of emphasis gets put on “macros” but calories still take the lead on importance at the end of the day.
You have probably seen or heard many people talking about the “Calorie In vs Calorie out” equation and how you have to burn more calories than you are intaking and that is absolutely true due to the laws of thermodynamics, but there is also a lot more to this than just a simple a calories in vs calories out equation.
In order to come up with a proper macronutrient breakdown, you must first have a caloric target. From there your calories are broken down into 3 different macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates and fats, – the composition of these macros is where the magic lies.
Simply counting calories is a great start and it will enable you to lose or gain weight but in order to get you to your individual goals, the composition of your macros will play an incredibly important role in determining the composition of the weight loss or gain.
Things like muscle building, better energy levels, better gym performance, and even more education around your nutrition will come easier with the proper composition of macronutrients. I will dedicate another blog post to teaching you how to do this, but for today, we will stick to learning about macronutrient basics.
As I stated above macros are what calories are made up of. There are three – Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Every one of them plays an important role in our bodies that we will get to in a minute but first, we will go over how many calories are in each.
1g of protein = 4 calories
1g of carb = 4 calories
1g of fat = 9 calories
Let’s start off by saying that protein is KING and you should be intaking some sort of protein at every meal and here’s why:
First and foremost protein is a costly macronutrient to metabolize. It has the highest TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) out of all the macronutrients, meaning we burn the most calories just by digesting it! Did you read that correctly? You burn calories JUST by digesting protein. So from a fat-loss perspective getting in a sufficient amount of protein is going to be incredibly important.
Secondly, it is the most satiating macronutrient out of all three, it enables us to feel full and satisfied longer which in return will help with things like cravings and how it is so important to incorporate in all meals. To add to that, despite what you may have heard, it has been proven that it is actually physically impossible to overeat protein.
Third, when we work out even at low intensities we break down our muscles and tendons. Protein is what our body utilizes to rebuild and repair them. If you’re not getting in enough protein you are not going to be recovering as optimally as you could be.
Lastly, the most obvious one, building muscle. In order to gain muscle, we MUST be getting in the materials to do so. Protein is essential for this.
High protein foods:
Meats (chicken, lamb, grass-fed beef, bison, turkey, any sort of game meat, eggs, egg whites)
Seafood (salmon, tuna, shrimps, scallops)
Beans (Kidney, black )
Dairy (greek yogurt and low-fat cheeses)
Protein powder (whey, casein, pea)
Carbs actually aren’t essential for us human beings, meaning we could live without them if we had to, unlike protein and fats. But if you want to thrive in your daily activities I highly suggest getting in a sufficient amount. Reasoning being, carbs are our preferred energy source and they are stored in our muscles as glycogen(sugar). They play a huge role in fueling workouts and keep us feeling alert, strong, and performing well.
When you workout at high intensities you deplete muscle glycogen and carbohydrates are what replenish that glycogen and ultimately promote the proper recovery we need in order to get back into the gym feeling refreshed and ready to go.
Lastly, if you want healthy, happy hormones, carbohydrates are going to be essential for optimal hormone/thyroid function.
Types of Carbohydrates:
Fruits: Apples, Banana, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mangos, kiwis, oranges
Veggies: Spinach, carrots, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, sweet potato, onion
Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, cereal, bread, oatmeal, pasta
Other: White rice, corn
Unlike carbohydrates, fats are essential, we need them to survive.
Fats are also essential for our hormones as cholesterol is a precursor to our sex hormones and proper regulation. Again, if you are looking for happy, healthy hormones and want to survive and thrive in your daily activities, getting healthy fats in your diet is going to be crucial.
Fats also slow down digestion and help with satiety which ultimately helps in keeping you full and satisfied longer! Feeling hungry not long after you eat? Try adding in a little bit more fat to your meal.
Lastly, fat helps with transportation and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Nuts and Seeds
Meats (lamb, Beef)
There are two types of fiber: Soluble and In-soluble
Soluble meaning it combines with water. It helps slow down digestion which is important for regulating blood sugar levels. When they aren’t regulated you end up getting super high spikes and then they come crashing down, leaving you hungry and lethargic.
Soluble fiber also helps the absorption of food, which is going to help keep you full longer. This is key to reducing cravings.
In-soluble fiber meaning it does not combine with water. It speeds up digestion and the removal of waste so that we don’t experience things like constipation. It sits in our GI tract absorbing fluid and other products, in other words, it bulks up our stool and aids in having a healthy digestive system.
Ultimately, they help with gut health, preventing diseases, and help maintain weight.
A good reference point with fiber intake would be to get in 10-15g per 1000 calories.
High Fiber Foods:
Cereals or bars