Macronutrients (aka ‘macros’) are big groups of chemical compounds in food that provide our bodies with balanced nutrition. There are 3 macronutrients that our bodies need for a healthy, balanced life: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each is equally important, each has a fair share of controversy about them and whatever your goal might be, you need a balanced ratio of all 3 to get you there.
Daily requirements of protein are around 1g per 1kg of bodyweight (e.g. a 60kg woman will require 60g of protein). That is if you’re pretty sedentary. If you have a physical job, partake in regular physical activity or are willing to build strength and/or muscle, you need much more than that 1.6-2g per kg of bodyweight (for the obese individuals, you’re looking at 1.6-2g per 1kg of lean body mass, meaning bodyweight minus body fat)
The role of protein is the building, recovery and regeneration of all the cells and tissues in your body. It is vital for a well functioning immune system, the manufacturing of hormones and digestive enzymes. And if there’s one nutrient you want to overeat, you better overeat protein as it has a high thermogenic effect – means it requires energy (i.e. calories) to be digested, essentially you are consuming less calories than it actually has and you are making sure your muscles have got enough protein to grow. The trouble is, it’s not as palatable as the carbs and fats are, that’s why you’ve never heard of a low protein diet 😉
Note: Protein can be dangerous for those with a very rare genetic condition – Phenilketonuria, when their body is incapable of breaking down proteins, so they become toxic for them.
The foods that contain protein:
Animal based – meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy
Plant based – legumes, pulses, quinoa, seeds and nuts
Carbohydrates (aka carbs) – probably the most ‘famous’ nutrient and the one with most controversy around it.
Daily requirements of carbs vary depending on your preferences. One thing is for sure, you shouldn’t eliminate them from your diet. The daily RDA is as much as 50% of your daily intake.
The role – Besides energy and brain power, they add crucial microelements (i.e. vitamins and minerals) to your diet, satiety and general satisfaction. Cutting them out of your diet can result in binging, mood swings, general misery really, for you and the ones around you. Not the life you want to have, so don’t do it 😀
The foods that contain carbs:
Grains, breads and cereals
Legumes and pulses (they are high in protein too, remember?)
Fruit and vegetables
Sugar, honey and syrups
Cakes, pies, sweets and pastries (these have fats too)
Daily requirements – again, it depends on your preferences, the absolute minimum is 10% of your calorie intake. I hope you eat more than that though, after reading the benefits it gives you. Not all fat is the same. The essential fatty acids is where most of your fats have to come from, so the Omega 3,6,9 containing foods. The saturated fat that has been demonised for years is no longer a threat, the trans fat however, is what you have to limit, that is the stuff that contains or has been cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; that is: all fried fast food, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, packaged baked goods. I suggest you bake your own goods or buy them from a place you know doesn’t use partially hydrogenated veg oil or margarine. It usually says on the label.
– brain function and development;
– cell regeneration and function (e.g. your nails, hair, skin suffer if you are deficient in essential fatty acids)
– vitamin and mineral absorption;
– insulation and organ protection;
– it’s very calorie dense and therefore satiating
– highly palatable foods, just like the carbs, that’s why the winning combo of fats and carbs are making us fat, we can’t stop eating them, because they are so addictively tasty.
The foods that contain fats:
Nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters
Fatty meat (fatty steak cuts, pork, chicken thighs etc.)
Dairy and egg yolks
Cake, pies and pastries
Now you know the major components of the food we eat and the role each of them plays. Hopefully you can now see that you shouldn’t disregard or value one nutrient over the other and should have a balanced diet made up of all 3.
The next question is why you should count them? And the answer it, you don’t have to. The carbs, fats and proteins make up your total daily calorie intake, and that’ s the number you should know if your goal is to lose fat or gain muscle.
This is how it works:
1g of carbs = 4 cal
1g of protein = 4 cal
1g of fat = 9cal
As you can see the fats are very dense in calories that’s why overeating on stuff like cakes and fast food takes us over our calorie limit very easily, without leaving much space for muscle building proteins and essential fatty acids.
My rule of thumb and something I teach my clients to do is to only count your calories and protein if your goal is to change your body composition. The reason for that is, if you overdo your calories, even if it’s only whole foods, you won’t lose fat, if you undereat protein, you will lose muscle instead of fat and end up looking skinny fat, not the look most of you are looking for.
So there you have it, if you find any of this confusing, please get in touch, I’ll help as much as I can.