The Guide to Macronutrients and Why They are Important to Staying Fit

Ah jargon. The impenetrable wall of words we construct around our interests, hobbies, and jobs to help either specify and broaden our interaction with the subject of choices, OR MAKE OURSELVES SOUND REALLY, REALLY SMART.

You have your ubulus muscle that connects to the upper dorsinus. Be impressed.

Now, if you have problems actually BEING smart, we can definitely make you sound smart. At least in front of a bunch of sweaty gym monkeys. THOSE are the folks you want to impress.

One of the worlds that gets tossed around fairly frequently around the sweaty monkey temples (gyms) is the term Macro, as in As long as it meets your macros, or I didn’t meet my macros for Tuesday, I’m going to go self-destruct with some Ben and Jerry’s.

My thoughts every time a client doesn’t keep a food log.

Macro is short for macronutrient, nutrition jargon dumbed down to sweaty monkey level because it only has two syllables. Much like ice cream. It refers specifically to:

PROTEIN

Large biological molecules, or macro-molecules, consisting of one or more long chains of amino acid residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within living organisms, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, replicating DNA, responding to stimuli, transporting molecules from one location to another, and being the general building blocks of what much of our cell structure is made out of its needed to repair cells and make new ones.

Protein foods are broken down into parts called amino acids during digestion. The human body needs a number of amino acids in large enough amounts to maintain good health. Amino acids are found in animal sources such as meats, milk, fish, and eggs. They are also found in plant sources such as soy, beans, legumes, nut butters, and some grains (such as wheat germ and quinoa). You do not need to eat animal products to get all the protein you need in your diet.

Amino acids are classified into three groups:

Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied by food. They do not need to be eaten at one meal. The balance over the whole day is more important.

Nonessential amino acids are made by the body from essential amino acids or in the normal breakdown of proteins.

Conditional amino acids are needed in times of illness and stress.

A well-balanced diet provides enough protein. Healthy people rarely need protein supplements. Vegetarians are able to get enough essential amino by eating a variety of plant proteins.

The amount of recommended daily protein depends upon your age and health. Two to three servings of protein-rich foods will meet the daily needs of most adults. The following are the recommended serving sizes for protein:

2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish (a portion about the size of a deck of playing cards)
1/2 cup of cooked dried beans
1 egg, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 1 ounce of cheese

FAT

There are numerous types of fat. Your body makes its own fat from taking in excess calories. Some fats are found in foods from plants and animals and are known as dietary fat. Dietary fat is a macronutrient that provides energy for your body. Fat is essential to your health because it supports a number of your bodys functions. Some vitamins, for instance, must have fat to dissolve and nourish your body.

Research about the possible harms and benefits of dietary fat is always evolving. And a growing body of research suggests that when it comes to dietary fat, you should focus on eating healthy fats and avoiding unhealthy fats. Simply stated, fat is made up of varying amounts of fatty acids. Its the type and amount of fatty acid found in food that determines the effect of the fat on your health.

There are two main types of potentially harmful dietary fat — fat that is mostly saturated and fat that contains trans fat:

  • Saturated fat. This is a type of fat that comes mainly from animal sources of food, such as red meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Saturated fat raises total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat may also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Trans fat. This is a type of fat that occurs naturally in some foods in small amounts. But most trans fats are made from  oils through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. By partially hydrogenating oils, they become easier to cook with and less likely to spoil than do naturally occurring oils. Research studies show that these partially hydrogenated trans fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and lower healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. This can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Most fats that have a high percentage of saturated fat or that contain trans fat are solid at room temperature. Because of this, they are typically referred to as solid fats. They include beef fat, pork fat, butter, shortening and stick margarine.

The types of potentially helpful dietary fat are mostly unsaturated:

  • Monounsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found in a variety of foods and oils. Studies show that eating foods rich in monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. Research also shows that MUFAs may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be especially helpful if you have type 2 diabetes.
  • Polyunsaturated fat. This is a type of fat found mostly in plant-based foods and oils. Evidence shows that eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) improves blood cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of heart disease. PUFAs may also help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. One type of polyunsaturated fat is made up of mainly omega-3 fatty acids and may be especially beneficial to your heart. Omega-3, found in some types of fatty fish, appears to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease. It may also protect against irregular heartbeats and help lower blood pressure levels. There are plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, the body doesnt convert it and use it as well as omega-3 from fish.

Foods made up mostly of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, such as olive oil, safflower oil, peanut oil and corn oil. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines and herring. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed (ground), oils (canola, flaxseed, soybean), and nuts and other seeds (walnuts, butternuts and sunflower).

CARBOHYDRATE

Carbohydrates are one of the main dietary components. This category of foods includes sugars, starches, and fiber.

The primary function of carbohydrates is to provide energy for the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. An enzyme called amylase helps break down carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar), which is used for energy by the body.

Carbohydrates are classified as simple or complex. The classification depends on the chemical structure of the food, and how quickly the sugar is digested and absorbed. Simple carbohydrates have one (single) or two (double) sugars. Complex carbohydrates have three or more sugars.

Examples of single sugars from foods include:

Fructose (found in fruits)
Galactose (found in milk products)

Double sugars include:

Lactose (found in dairy)
Maltose (found in certain vegetables and in beer)
Sucrose (table sugar)

Honey is also a double sugar. But unlike table sugar, it contains a small amount of vitamins and minerals. (Note: Honey should not be given to children younger than 1 year old.)

Complex carbohydrates, often referred to as starchy foods, include:

Legumes
Starchy vegetables
Whole-grain breads and cereals

Simple carbohydrates that contain vitamins and minerals occur naturally in:

Fruits
Milk and milk products
Vegetables

Simple carbohydrates are also found in processed and refined sugars such as:

Candy
Regular (nondiet) carbonated beverages, such as soda
Syrups
Table sugar

Refined sugars provide calories, but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Such simple sugars are often called empty calories and can lead to weight gain.

Also, many refined foods, such as white flour, sugar, and white rice, lack B vitamins and other important nutrients unless they are marked enriched. It is healthiest to get carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutrients in as natural a form as possible for example, from fruit instead of table sugar.

Getting too many carbohydrates can lead to an increase in total calories, causing obesity.
Not getting enough carbohydrates can cause a lack of calories (malnutrition), or excessive intake of fats to make up the calories.

Most people should get between 40% and 60% of total calories from carbohydrates, preferably from complex carbohydrates (starches) and natural sugars. Complex carbohydrates provide calories, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Foods that are high in processed, refined simple sugars provide calories, but very little nutrition. It is wise to limit these sugars.

To increase complex carbohydrates and healthy nutrients:

Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Eat more whole-grain rice, breads, and cereals.
Eat more legumes (beans, lentils, and dried peas).

Here are recommended serving sizes for foods high in carbohydrates:

Vegetables: 1 cup of raw vegetables, or 1/2 cup cooked vegetables, or 3/4 cup of vegetable juice
Fruits: 1 medium-size fruit (such as 1 medium apple or 1 medium orange), 1/2 cup of a canned or chopped fruit, or 3/4 cup of fruit juice
Breads and cereals: 1 slice of bread; 1 ounce or 2/3 cup of ready-to-eat cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or cereal; 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, lentils, or dried peas
Dairy: 1 cup of skim or low-fat milk

Anyway, so those are the Macros not to be confused with the Micronutrients, which are all the little things that you need less of that you find in a multivitamin supplement. Generally, Macronutrients are recommended in GRAMS whereas the Micronutrients are recommended in MICROgrams. Hope that cleared up some jargon, for ya.

 

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