An Introduction to Macronutrients is one of those posts that has been felt in every layer of my life
as I have had to take responsibility for my menu plan and training
whilst away interstate to attend a girlfriend’s wedding
– then return to another week of managing our studio
as well as client sessions whilst “giving my all” to my progressive Functional Training schedule
and embarking on my NEW “Macronutrient Plan”
being at week 4/52 of my next transformation
to make Top 10 of the Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine Cover Model 2014 Competition.
As we mentioned last week there are three macronutrients being protein, fat, and carbohydrates and all perform essential roles in the human body. Macronutrients are the main components of our diet. Our bodies require other micronutrients as well, such as vitamins and minerals and these are needed in much smaller quantities. The main function of macronutrients is to provide energy, counted as calories.
While each of the macronutrients provides calories, the amount provided by each type of macronutrient varies:
– Carbohydrate provides four calories per gram,
– Protein also four calories per gram,
– Fat provides nine calories per gram.
For example: if the Nutrition Facts label of a given food indicates 12 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fat, and 0 g of protein per serving: the food then has (12g carbohydrate x 4 calories = 48 calories) + (2g fat x 9 calories = 18 calories) (for a total of 48 + 18 calories = 66 calories per serving).
Macronutrients also have specific roles in maintaining the body and contribute to the taste, texture and appearance of foods, which helps to make the diet more varied and enjoyable as well as defining your BODY COMPOSITION: “You are what you eat!”
So what’s more important? “Macronutrients” or “Calories In vs. Calories Out”
They’re both important!!!
Reality is, the over-riding factor for whether you gain, lose or maintain weight is “Calories In vs. Calories Out.”
Plain and simple, if you eat more calories than you burn in a day/ week/ month/ year, you’re going to gain weight no matter what combination of macronutrients – protein/ fat/ carbohydrates you eat.
The opposite is also true, if you eat less calories than you burn over the same period of time, you’re going to lose weight.
So if you’re a beginner, this is the number one principle you need to know. As I say “Simplicity In Consistency” – do start a Food Diary, it’s the most important tool in your arsenal and it’ll help you keep track of your calories as well as portion sizing and placement. I began mine from my first “Power Foods Diet” transformation and now have a new Food Diary for my next transformation to make Top 10 in the Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine 2014 Cover Model Competition.
As you progress in your dieting journey, as you get closer to your ideal weight (within 5kg of your target) your macronutrient ratio i.e. “MACRONUTRIENT PLAN” comes into play.
For example: Picture this – you’re a month into your weight loss program… You’re following a solid Functional Training program and you’re on a 1800 calorie per day diet. Where the 1800 calories COMES FROM WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
The macronutrients; protein, fat and carbohydrates have different physiological effects on the body. In essence, when and how much of each that you eat can make a difference in your body composition i.e. fat loss.
Let’s look at these 2 scenarios with 2 different macronutrient ratios:
1. 1800 Total Calories
40% of total calories from Protein
30% of total calories from Fat
30% of total calories from Carbohydrate
2. 1800 Total Calories
20% of total calories from Protein
10% of total calories from Fat
70% of total calories from Carbohydrate
As you can see, the total calories exactly the same at 1800 per day. However, for someone trying to lose body fat, choice A will be more effective than choice B due to how your body reacts to and assimilates the macronutrients.
In detail we will look at how each macronutrient affects your body composition:
THREE FUNCTIONS OF MACRONUTRIENTS
||Promote growth and development
||Regulate body functions
|Lipids (fats and oils)
(Illustration by GGS Information Services/Thomson Gale.)
Dietary fat intake has gotten a bad rap over the years, and from the last post there are “Good Fats” and “Bad Fats”. Eating fat does not make you fat!!! EATING FAT can be your BIGGEST ASSET IN LOSING FAT!
Both essential fatty acids and essential amino acids (i.e. protein) cannot be manufactured by the body, and therefore needs to be ingested through your diet. To get enough essential fatty acids, you need to make sure you aren’t going too low with your fat intake. Being low on fat intake is when you are below 20% of your calories. Dropping your fat below that amount can cause other negative side effects to your body too. If you’re eating a balanced real foods diet full of eggs, meat, fish, nuts, and seeds, you’re probably getting in your required essential fatty acids.
Besides being a source of energy, fat stores protect the internal organs of the body. Some essential fats are also required for the formation of hormones. Fats are the slowest source of energy but the most energy-efficient form of food as each gram of fat supplies the body with about 9 calories, more than twice that supplied by the two other macronutrients. Because fats are such an efficient form of energy, they are stored by the body either in the abdomen (omental fat) or under the skin (subcutaneous fat) for use when the body needs more energy.
So I hear you ask: “How does eating fat help you LOSE body fat?”
Eating fat can help you LOSE body fat in several ways:
1. Fat satiates you. This means a meal with a higher amount of fat and a lower amount of carbohydrate will stave off feeling hungry for a longer period of time. Fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrate.
2. Fat also stabilizes insulin levels. In contrast a higher carbohydrate meal will raise insulin levels quickly, and then soon after, your blood sugar levels plummet… bring on the dizzy spells, fuzzy head and lethargy… feels like you need to put more in your tank to just stay awake…
This is that phenomena where you feel like you’ve just eaten not too long ago, but dammit, you’re hungry! The truth is, your body has enough fuel, but the high-carb meal threw your system out of whack and you think it’s time to eat again. UGGH!!!
Visualise the fuel gauge in your car. Lets say you just filled the tank and you’re hitting the road. An hour into your trip, the fuel tank is on empty. Now you know there is fuel in the tank, but the gauge is telling you otherwise. If you go to fill the tank up again, fuel can spill out and go to waste.
Our body is smarter than that. Mistakenly sensing your body’s fuel tank is empty, you go to fuel up again by eating when in fact the body doesn’t actually need the fuel, so it’s going to store it for future use. Mmmm where would that storage area be? Unlike a fuel tank in your car the body can not spill-over the excess fuel, rather it becomes BODY FAT!
Understand this truth: by lowering your carbohydrates and increasing your fat intake at each meal, you avoid this fat storage scenario.
Protein is the other essential macronutrient. Be Fit Hub’s “Power Foods Diet” recommends 2.2 – 2.6g/kg of body weight in protein grams. This usually comes out to between 35 – 40% of calories, depending on whether you’re trying to lose weight, maintain, or gain.
Protein is GOLD! Every cell in your body is made of protein! Every biochemical process that happens in your body needs protein to do so!
Protein has a huge impact on your body composition as explained below:
1. Protein is needed to make muscle fiber. Muscle fiber is your body’s natural Fat Burning Furnace.
2. Protein satiates you in combination with fat. Protein and fat works wonders when you’re dieting and needing to reset your fat burn to grow lean muscle. Protein also takes longer than carbohydrates to digest so it leaves you feeling fuller, longer.
3. Protein has a high TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) rating. This means the body burns many calories simply in the process of breaking down the protein foods you eat– adding to your caloric deficit.
4. Protein is comprised of amino acids, which are used as the building blocks for your hormones and neurotransmitters. Having a healthy hormonal and neurotransmitter profile affects your mood in many positive ways, which include keeping you in a balanced state of mind while dieting (less cravings). They also keep your tolerance high, which means they bolster your “stick to it- ness”.
5. Protein should be eaten with every meal: breakfast – eggs, lunch – chicken and dinner – red meat. At Be Fit Hub we recommend the bulk of your total protein intake being consumed in liquid form surrounding your workout such as “Be Fit Hub Pure Whey Protein Powder.”
This brings us to the most controversial of macronutrients – carbohydrates. They are the main energy source of the body. Carbohydrates are chains of small, simple sugars that are broken down and enter the body as glucose. Glucose is essential for the body, as it is the preferred source of energy in our brain, heart and central nervous system.
No other nutrient has caused so much confusion.
Carbohydrate intake is relative to your goal and you can be successful eating hundreds of grams a day, and you can be successful eating zero grams per day.
The key is to find your individual level that you can live with – one that will ensure long-term consistency in your nutrition and deliver the body composition you desire.
I am not a supporter of extremely low-carb diets. I’m very active, and do a lot of high-intensity exercise as well as full body weights training. I need glucose to fuel my exercise and loads of protein and fat for lean muscle growth. Therefore, I typically eat around 100 -120grams/day. For someone that doesn’t do much activity at all, or has a sedentary desk job, their requirements will be relative to their output. Athletes may need more.
Food for thought…
If you recall the beginning of this post I mentioned micronutrients. These consist of your vitamins, minerals, and (for some) fiber intake. So on any given day you need to meet both your macronutrients and micronutrients requirements. Let’s now debunk any idea that you can attempt to meet your macronutrients for the day consuming pizza and cake… Yes you also have to consider your micronutrients. It is very important that you include a good amount of vegetables (sweet potato, broccoli and asparagus) and fruits (berries) in your diet along with hitting about 30-50grams of fiber per day.
If you take all of these above-mentioned factors into account, you will soon realize that creating a macronutrient-tracking based diet is a great way to maintain a healthy and well balanced “Real Foods” diet without completely blacklisting your favorite foods.
To get the best version of your Macronutrients Plan you do need to invest in either a Dietician, Nutritionist or Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach such as George and myself to define your unique macronutrient breakdown for fat loss essentially. “Power Foods Diet” is built on the template 40/40/20.
First and foremost, your macronutrient breakdown is obviously very goal dependent. Meaning, that these numbers would most likely be different whether one’s goal is primarily fat loss or muscle gain in contrast to the level of training you are at.
In the end, the wisest approach is to focus on how much of each macronutrient you’re eating per kilo of bodyweight. You could be eating 40/40/20 every day, but if you’re eating 10000 calories a day, it doesn’t matter.
By using percentages: 40% protein + 40% fat + 20% carbohydrates you’re working on a ‘relative’ scale (relative to your total calories)…
As I have discussed previously a calorie-based weight loss system doesn’t work for two principle reasons… Firstly, the different macronutrients produce different hormone responses that directly influence the metabolic rate and whether the body is in a fat burning or storing fat mode. Secondly, the amount of calorie i.e. known as the thermic effect of food required for the body to break down different foods varies greatly. For example: your body burns significantly more calories digesting a meal of animal protein and fibrous leafy greens than a meal of carbohydrates such as pasta with tomato sauce. Light bulb moment: Even fewer calories are required to digest processed foods like cookies, white bread, or potato chips.
Macronutrients Dictate Hormone Responses
The first part of the faulty calorie system of weight loss is that the macronutrient ratios of your diet does dictate hormone response. Carbohydrates, particularly those with a higher glycemic index, immediately increase the level of the hormone insulin known as an “insulin spike.” When you eat a lot of carbohydrates – as is the norm in calorie-counting diets in which a person eats low-fat, high carbohydrate foods – you will be consistently driving up your insulin levels. Chronically elevated insulin makes the cells resistant to the insulin, which drives up levels of the stress hormone cortisol and this in turn causes cellular aging. The combination of insulin and cortisol produce fat gain and diabetes.
If you were substituting protein and “Good Fats” for a portion of those carbohydrates, the protein would be used to restore tissue and build lean mass, while the fats would be used to strengthen cellular lipid layers to improve insulin sensitivity, restore brain health, and build hormones like testosterone. We all want “T” i.e. testosterone as this is vital for lean muscle growth.
And yes it all goes wrong if you eat trans fats, processed protein or carbohydrates, or foods with additives, dyes, and chemical sweeteners – as detailed below:
Calorie Restriction Alters Hormonal Response
Restricting calories to lose weight over the long term is more detrimental to your metabolism because it will turn your body into a hormone-induced hunger machine. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after putting overweight individuals on a ten-week calorie-restricted diet of 550 calories a day, they experienced elevated levels of the hormones ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide, which promotes fat storage. The hormone Leptin, that suppresses hunger and boosts fat burning, was profoundly reduced after the ten-week diet and unfortunately stayed that way for the duration of the one-year study.
Note: At the end of the ten-week diet all participants lost 30 pounds, but due to the way they had severely altered their metabolic hormone responses to food by restricting calories, they regained an average of 15 pounds in the next year.
The Thermic Effect of Food: Calories Are Stupid!
It’s primarily the macronutrient content of the food you eat that dictates body composition, but if you overeat every day (this is relative to the calorie requirement of your training goal), then you will get fat!
The thermic effect of any diet is the amount of calories required to break down food, synthesize enzymes, and perform metabolic processes and this also needs to be taken into consideration when creating your Macronutrient Plan in relation to your health and fitness goals.
Whole and Processed Calories Aren’t the Same Either
Whole calories from real foods are a cleaner fuel source for our body. The Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) and the thermic effect of eating whole “Real Foods” – is much higher than if you ate the exact same amount of calories from processed foods. A study compared the effect of a whole real foods meal with a processed foods meal that contained equal calories as well as equal macronutrient content.
The thermic effect of the whole real foods meal was almost double that of the processed food meal. Participants burned 50% more calories after eating whole real foods! Equally significant is that the participants who ate the processed food meal had their metabolic rates drop below their average RMR during the fourth hour after eating, while the whole real foods meal group never fell below the RMR. Also the duration of elevated energy expenditure from digestion in the whole real foods meal group lasted an hour longer than the processed food group.
What matters is how much you’re eating, not the relative amount of one macronutrient to another. The most important aspect of any Nutrition Program is the overall calories; how much you’re eating for your body. The most important elements are setting the right caloric intake, and getting adequate protein and essential fatty acids. As for carbohydrates they need to be from a plant base for most people on a mission for optimum fitness and for those working at an athlete/competitive level this may need a slight variance and inclusion of brown rice and oats to meet their macronutrient requirements.
To wrap up the key points regarding Calorie Count vs. the Right Combination of Protein/ Fat/ Carbohydrates:
* They’re both important, but as a beginner, keep it simple and focus on taking in less calories than you’re burning each day for weight loss.
* If your goal is to gain lean muscle you need to eat 300 – 500 more calories to fuel your training intensity as well as energy expenditure and muscle growth.
* Once you’re more familiar with proper eating for fat loss, start manipulating your carbohydrates and fat intake while keeping an eye on calorie count.
* Eat protein at every meal!
You need to manipulate your calorie intake with regards to the three macronutrients – Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates – in order to achieve your goals! Essentially when you know how many calories you need to intake and what the macronutrient breakdown of that should be according to your goal, then you can effectively construct your diet. Let the experts do this for you and guide you through this life-changing transformation to optimum cellular health and fitness.
George and myself love what we do and walk the talk and from this place authentically desire you to experience the happiest and healthiest version of you! xx