Let's talk about "Macros."
This term gets tossed around a lot, but there’s still not a lot of people that actually understand what Macros are and what they’re used for. “Macros” is short for Macronutrients, because we’re millennials and can’t say full words (bc who has time 4 dat?!), and they are simply Protein, Fat, and Carbs. Everything you eat every day fits into one or more of these categories, and you need a balance of these categories to stay alive. There’s been a lot of #fakenews out there demonizing carbs or fats, and even protein, but the truth is that your body needs all three of these macronutrients in order to function properly. We’re going to look at each macronutrient, what it does, and what sources to get each from.
Protein is a building block for your muscle tissue, but it is also a big part of what makes up your hair, skin, nails, bones, and cartilage. When you break down muscle tissue (from exercise, moving throughout the day, or if you get injured), your body utilizes protein to repair the broken down tissue, and build more tissue to support it. Protein also aids in the production of certain hormones, and enzymes that the body needs to perform daily functions. As we age, our bodies need more protein (not less!) to combat the deterioration of muscle and skeletal tissue, as well as hormone production.
Some of the best sources of protein come from animals, where you can get the most of the essential amino acids your body needs to carry out necessary daily functions. Lean red meat, chicken, turkey, and fish are all great sources of proteins that will provide the most bang for your buck. We are always looking for high quality, wild caught or grass-fed sources of these proteins. Not only will they taste better, they are also the best for your body to digest. While you can get protein from non-animal sources, you would have to consume huge amounts of these other sources in order to get the same amounts of amino acids as eating a few ounces of red meat. So, all in all, it’s not ideal, but it can be done.
Fat helps your body store energy, insulate organs, and regulate hormone production. It aids in the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, and K, and it also boosts your brain function. If you’ve ever gone on a low-fat crash diet, you might have felt like you had brain fog, and this is why! There are four different types of fats; Saturated, Monounsaturated, Polyunsaturated, and Trans Fats. Your body needs all of them, just some more than others (AKA balance).
Saturated Fats are found in things like Coconut Oil and MCT Oil.
Monounsaturated Fats protect your heart, and support insulin sensitivity, weight management, and energy levels. You can find them in Avocado, and Olive Oil.
Polyunsaturated Fats are most commonly found in Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats. Omega-3s reduce inflammation while Omega-6s promote inflammation. It is important to have both in our bodies, because we cannot adapt/change/get stronger without a small dose of inflammation. The ideal ratio of Omega-3:Omega-6 is 1:6. The Standard American Diet ratio is currently way higher in Omega-6s, which is not ideal for our stress response. Good sources of Omega-3 Fats are fatty fish like Salmon, and flax seeds. Don’t go looking to add more Omega-6s into your diet- you get enough as a byproduct of intense exercise, as well as eating some types of meat, and if you ever eat in a restaurant, you’ll get them from the oils used to cook your food.
Trans Fats are best avoided in the diet, so they’re kind of the exception to the “you need all of these” rule, but they are sometimes unavoidable, especially if you are eating out in restaurants. Trans fats are a byproduct of the processing of oils so that they don’t go rancid or turn into solids, so really the byproduct of preserving something so it doesn’t spoil is not ideal for you to be consuming in your diet.
Carbohydrates provide your body with the energy it needs to perform all daily activities, including walking, breathing, eating, and exercising. By utilizing carbohydrates for energy, your body is able to devote protein and fats to other bodily functions where there is a greater need, like building muscle, brain function, and reproduction. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose before passing through the bloodstream to be stored either in the muscles or liver. If you eat enough carbohydrates, your body is able to utilize glucose as fuel to perform and recover from exercise, however if you eat too much without the proper activity levels, some of that excess glucose eventually will get stored in fat cells. This happens more often with highly processed foods, as they are super palatable (they’re really fun to eat) and lower volume (more calorie-dense), so it is a lot easier to over eat them. There are simple and complex carbohydrates, so let’s look at those:
Simple Carbs- these are basically just sugars, and are the most readily available forms of fuel for the body. There are 3 types of sugars that fall under this category- monosaccharides, disaccharides, and sugar alcohols, and these are mostly found in fruit juice and sweeteners like honey, sugar, and syrup.
Complex Carbs- these are more nutrient-dense forms of carbohydrates, that have a combination of sugars and fiber, which makes them a little harder to break down in the short-term, but will help keep you fuller longer. There are two types of complex carbs: polysaccharides and fiber. Usually you will find these two occurring naturally together in whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables (and starches), beans, and grains.
Putting Them All Together
Now that we know what each of the macronutrients are- and why we need and love them- we can start to look at how to put them all together to create meals that will sustain our energy levels, improve sleep quality and allow us to recover and manage stress levels.
Ideally you would work with a coach to figure out what the best protocol for you to follow is, because a coach can look objectively at your activity, stress, exercise, and daily energy needs, and is qualified to suggest a macronutrient breakdown that would be beneficial for you. But, I know that sometimes trusting someone to be in charge of your health can be scary, and while I’d rather you not waste your time and energy trying to figure it out on your own, sometimes you have to learn that lesson the hard way. SO, let’s look at how to build better meals to get you on the right path.
If you’re not sure where to start, I like to recommend that my clients eat 3 meals each day, with 2-3 snacks between meals. You should never be absolutely famished during the day, but right before a meal it’s okay to feel a little empty in your tummy.
Each meal has a protein, fat, veggie, and a carb. For most people, your protein and fat portions will stay the same at every meal, and your veggies and carb portions might range depending on the time of day, what you do for work and exercise, and how you feel throughout the day. If you want to learn more about building better meals, check out BUILD BETTER MEALS.
As always, if you have questions or want to chat about your goals, shoot us an email! email@example.com
If you are interested in Nutrition Coaching, check out www.thewca.fit for more info!