If you have been a member at our gym for more than a minute, I am sure you have heard someone talk about Macros. I have to admit I used to laugh at all the “macro talk” . Then Ted started tracking his macros and got pretty lean, so decided to give it a try. Weird thing happened……it made a HUGE difference in my progress.
So, what are these macro things everyone is talking about?
Protein is one of 3 major macronutrients, Carbohydrates and Fats are the other two (which I will go over next) your body needs. This means protein is a nutrient you need a lot of for body functions. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.
Protein is an essential nutrient that is an important part of every cell in our body. Protein is used by the body to make and repair tissues. Protein is what makes up most of your hair and nails. It is also a major component to building bones, muscles, and skin
Protein and your progress
When I have people do a body composition scan, the most common trend I see with our newer athletes is their weight may go down, but their body fat percent doesn’t change but their skeletal muscle mass decreases. This means that the weight they have lost is muscle and not fat. We want this the other way around. Muscle helps to burn fat and calories faster than fat does, so, ideally we want more muscle mass to speed up our weight loss, or fat loss progress. When I ask about nutrition I find that the amount of protein they are consuming is very low.
How can eating protein really affect my muscle loss?
Our bodies do not store protein like they do fats and carbohydrates. So, when you burn through all the proteins you have consumed your body will find alternative sources, like your muscles. Therefore, it is very important that we eat enough protein every day for proper body functions.
Protein rich foods
There are so many ways to get protein through our diet. Meat, chicken, fish, seafood, and pork are major sources of protein. You can also get protein through animal by products such as cheese, milk, and eggs. There are even many great sources of protein that do not come from animals like lentils, nuts, legumes, soy, and tofu just to name a few.
There are many great protein supplements out there but that is exactly what they are, supplements. The majority of your protein sources need to come from the list in the above paragraph and you can use supplements to fill in the gaps.
Carbohydrates are typically the main source of energy your body needs and uses, with them making up 40 -60% of your total calories per day.
Simple and Complex Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates are made up of one or two sugars. Fructose, which you find in fruit, and galactose, which you find in milk products are called monosaccharide. Mono meaning one. Disaccharides, such as lactose (found in milk), sucrose (table sugar), and maltose (found in beer and some veggies) are made up of two sugars.
Complex carbohydrates, or polysaccharides, are made up of three or more sugars. These make up your more starchy food. Beans, lentils, rice, corn, and whole grains are examples of complex carbohydrates
Candy, sodas, sweets, and cakes are made up of sugars. Unfortunately these sugars are processed and refined and are considered “empty calories”. They are referred to as empty calories because they hold no nutritional value and are responsible for weight gain when consumed in excess.
Fiber, another type of carbohydrate, is found in the cell walls of plants and is necessary for healthy digestion. There are many fruits and vegetables that are very high in fiber.
A good carbohydrate will have a lower calorie content while still maintaining high amounts of nutrients. They should also have a good amount of fiber. Good carbs are low in sodium, fats, and contain no refined sugars. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals are considered good carbohydrates.
Bad carbohydrates are high in refined or processed sugars but low in nutrients. They are typically higher in calories as well. White breads, donuts, candy, and soda are all examples of bad carbohydrates.
Why do I need to eat so many carbs?
Carbohydrates are the fuel your body stores and uses first for fuel. If you deplete your carbohydrate storage then your body will switch to using protein as a fuel source. You do not want this because we need protein for muscle growth and repair.
Fat is a macronutrient required in our diet. Fats are important for energy, organ protection, skin health, and helping other nutrients do what they need to do. Without fats we could not live, but they are also what is killing most Americans. In order to understand why this is we need to understand the different types of fats.
Saturated fats are solid at room temperature and when consumed in excess they can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Unsaturated fats, which are considered “good fats”, are liquid at room temperature. There are two kinds of unsaturated fats, mono and polyunsaturated.
Monounsaturated fats are found in olives, olive oil, nut oils, and avocado. Polyunsaturated are found in fish, eggs, and some nuts. Polyunsaturated have omegas, like omega-3, in them which may help with reducing joint inflammation, increase brain function, and reduce cholesterol levels.
Trans fats are a man made product. They do not occur naturally. Trans fats are NOT essential for living, quite the opposite in fact. Trans fats increase bad cholesterol (LDL), decrease good cholesterol (HDL), and increase the risk of diabetes.
Trans fats are found in fried foods, processed and prepackaged foods, margarine, and shortening. They are used because they are cheap. If the label says partially hydrogenated oil anywhere on it then it contains trans fats.
So, the take home message is that we should not be afraid of fats, just the wrong kind of fats. Always read labels and limit the amount of trans fats to a minimum, or better yet, not at all.
Now that we know what Macros are it is time to start tracking them! If you would like a little help getting your macros set up you can make an appointment to have a coach help get you started.