You hear all this talk about “macros”, but what does it actually mean? Macronutrients are those which make up the majority of our diets, compared to micronutrients (e.g. vitamins and minerals) which are needed by our bodies in smaller amounts. In short, the term "macros" refers to the 3 main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Read on to learn what each one does for our body, and why it is important to have the right amounts to support and optimize our health and fitness needs!
Protein is responsible for:
Many people would agree that a high protein diet would be suited to any person looking to improve body composition, so it is important that you are consuming the proper amount and type of protein!
There are 20 different amino acids which are combined to make millions of different proteins, each with a specific function in the body. It is important to choose high quality complete proteins more often as they provide all the amino acids and are absorbed more readily. These are animal sourced protein including meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, tofu, tempeh and seitan.
Carbohydrates have gotten quite a bad rap lately with all the low-carb diets out there, suggesting that carbs are bad for us or are responsible for weight-gain.
Is this true? Are carbohydrates responsible for body fat gain? Should we avoid them?
The answer is NO to both!
The fact of the matter is that carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for your bodies - and brain's - energy needs. This is because our bodies use glucose and convert it to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which our cells use as energy. The closer the chemical structure of foods to glucose, the more readily our bodies can produce energy. Therefore, carbohydrates provide more instant sources of energy (relative to protein and fat), which is why they are ideal to fuel your workouts!
The other thing people need to understand about carbohydrates is that too many calories, of any type, can lead to fat gain. With carbohydrates, people tend to eat too many sugary carb-dense foods, which also contain fat. Therefore, it is important to choose your carbohydrate sources wisely to avoid added fats and/or too much sugar! And while it's true that you need carbohydrates for energy, you only need so much. In this regard, if you overload your energy intake, aka calories, and are not active enough to burn the excess calories, the unused fuel (glucose) will be stored and then eventually converted to fat. It's basic math: calories in > calories out = weight gain; calories in < calories out = weight loss; calories in = calories out = weight maintenance
The trick with eating carbohydrates is knowing exactly how, when and which carbohydrates to eat so that your body may use them for energy without later storing them as fat.
Just like carbohydrates are made to be our enemies with some fad diets, a lot of people are afraid of consuming fats. We love fats! They taste delicious (which is why they are in everything), and you'll be thrilled to know that we actually NEED fats too!
It's important to note that fat is a taste enhancer, but once it’s removed, the low-fat foods taste quite bland. Therefore, other taste enhancers – like sugar and salt – are usually used to compensate for the lack of fat and as discussed above, sugar will stall anyone’s weight loss and may contribute to diseases. Unless you are in complete control of the meal and its ingredients, make sure to look at the nutrition label so you know exactly what is inside - don't immediate fall for the "low-fat" marketing scam...low-fat doesn't always mean "healthier".
Body fat and dietary fat are completely different
So, WHY is fat important & WHY do we need it?
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