Making Sense of MacrosJun 18, 2019
More and more you hear people talking about their macros. (Micros are not getting as much attention but are equally, if not more, important! Stay tuned for more on them!) Does it have you scratching your head and wondering what they are talking about? Don’t worry! We’ve all been there. I, too, had to google it years ago (before getting my CNTP) to figure out what people were talking about. So let’s break it down in easy-to-digest terms.
What are Macronutrients?
The macronutrients (aka macros) are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. They are the nutrients our bodies need in the largest amount and are energy-yielding. They can be consumed in varying amounts depending on your lifestyle/needs/what feels best for you. (We’ll chat more about this in future posts). But let’s discuss each of these macros a little more in-depth.
1st of all, fat is not bad! Fat is important! Fats are needed for making hormones, brain development, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), and long-term energy production. Fats are classified as triglycerides, phospholipids, or sterols. Fats can also be classified due to their degree of saturation - monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated. Polyunsaturated fats are further categorized as Omega-3 or Omega-6 fatty acids. The type of fatty acid content in food affects its’ stability. All fats can become unstable when exposed to oxygen, heat, and light. The oxidation results in free radicals that can produce inflammation. Saturated fats are the most stable and resistant to oxidation, whereas polyunsaturated fats are the most unstable and can lead to the creation of free radicals which damage cells.
Fat Food Sources Include:
- Fatty Fish
- Full-Fat Dairy
Just like fat, carbs are don't bad! Carbs are super important! Carbohydrates generally provide the most energy needed for life. Carbs produce energy as the sugars and starches are broken down to form glucose. Carbs are classified as simple or complex. Simple carbs are monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, or galactose) or disaccharides (a combination of 2 monosaccharides). Complex carbs are polysaccharides (a combination of mono- or di- saccharides linked together) Complex carbohydrates are a source of fiber. Fiber is essential for gut health as it remains undigested until it reaches the colon where it is broken down by bacteria and forms short-chain fatty acids. Glucose is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles for later use.
Carbohydrate Food Sources:
- Whole Grains
Proteins are linked to amino acids and can also provide energy. There are 20 amino acids, 9 of which are essential (must be obtained from the diet). A complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids. Animal sources provide a complete amino acid profile whereas plants proteins need to be combined to provide a complete amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of bones, tendons, skin, hair, blood, and muscles, and more! The sequence and shape of the amino acids determine the function of the protein. Amino acids influence genetic expression. These genes can be turned on and off due to dietary and lifestyle triggers. Protein is also needed for fluid balance, transportation of lipids, oxygen, iron, calcium, and copper, pH regulation, immunity, proper blood clotting, and energy metabolism.
Protein Food Sources:
- Meat (Lamb, Beef, Pork)
Each of the macronutrients yields energy in the form of calories. The calorie level varies between the macronutrient per gram of weight
- Carbs = 4 calories/gram
- Protein = 4 calories/gram
- Fat = 9 calories/gram.
Your body requires all of the macronutrients, in varying quantities, to operate. I encourage clients to play around with their food intake and see how their body responds. Flexibility and sustainability are what I strive for! Keep in mind that you also want to be getting your micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from your food sources. Variety is key!