Updated: Jan 4
It is so easy today to find advice on what to put on your plate, where to buy and why trust them and not anyone else. It is surely easy to just do what someone else told you but isn’t it much wiser to understand what is they are telling you to put in your body and make a conscious decision if it’s right for you?
There are 3 main types of macronutrients required by humans: protein, fat and carbohydrate. Each of these macronutrients is very important and they all have a place in our diets despite the fact that many so-called experts try to oversimplify nutrition and tell you not to include any of these in your diet.
The fact is that everyone is different and based on our genetics, age, lifestyle and other factors our bodies have different nutritional requirements. There is no one diet fits all but as a general rule, we all need a good variety of food that gives us the nutritional values we need to stay fit and healthy. Read below what each macronutrient give you and what are some good sources of these:
Proteins are the building blocks for the tissues of our body and they repair our cells. They are also used to make enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Athletes need a higher amount of protein for the repair of muscle tissue and to build new ones.
"Proteins are fundamental structural and functional elements within every cell of the body and are involved in a wide range of metabolic interactions. All cells and tissues contain protein, therefore protein is essential for growth and repair and the maintenance of good health. Protein provides the body with approximately 10 to 15% of its dietary energy and it is the second most abundant compound in the body, following water. A large proportion of this will be muscle (43% on average) with significant proportions being present in the skin (15%) and blood (16%)."
(British Nutrition Foundation)
Based on factors like age, gender and lifestyle we all need a different amount of protein but what we all need from these are the 9 essential amino acids, each for their unique benefits to our health and wellbeing. These amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. These amino acids can not be created by the body and are essential for our health so they need to come from food. They each have their own unique benefits.
Good sources of protein would be organic meat, fish or poultry, eggs, dairy products nuts & seeds, beans, legumes and soy products like tofu.
Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy. Carbs are broken down into sugar in the body, which in its simplest form and this sugar called glucose needs to be at a certain level for optimal functioning otherwise the body won’t be able to function. If glucose isn’t used it is stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen so that energy production can be maintained. Every Gramm of glycogen is stored with another 3 Gramm of water. Altogether there are about 400g of glycogen stored in the muscles and 100g in the liver.
Low carbohydrate diets tend to make people lose weight quickly because of the minimal stores of glycogen and the loss of water that comes with it.
It is important to understand that there are good types of carbohydrate and bad ones too. Simple carbohydrates that are processed quickly cause a quick raise of blood sugar levels and more complex ones that are digested slowly so blood sugar levels won’t rise rapidly. In simple terms, we can call them sugars however refined flour comes under this category as well. Fibre-rich complex type carbohydrates can be called starches and fibres.
Two foods that contain the same amount of carbohydrates can have a different effect on blood sugar levels to determine how quickly carbohydrates are broken down and what effect will they have on your blood sugar we can look at a number called Glycemic Index (GI). If the GI of the food is 55 or lower to is considered low, 56 to 69 is medium and 70 or higher is high. Low GI foods are healthier and better options than high as they won’t trouble the Pancreas and the insulin receptors by quickly raising blood sugar levels as they will have to regulate the excess glucose and this can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Good Sources of low GI carbohydrates are wholegrain, rye bread, sweet potato, non-starchy vegetables and most fruits (although they usually contain some higher GI carbohydrates also).
Fats are important for cell functioning and they give more energy than carbohydrates and protein combined. Some fats are essential and need to be consumed via our diet. These essential fats are Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA and Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA. Including good sources of healthy fats are very important in order to make sure that we supply our body with omega 3, omega 6 and fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E. Fats also make up part of all of our cells membranes, brain tissue, nerve sheaths let alone they also cushion your organs.
Just like with carbs, fats also can be bad such as processed fats like burned oils in the frying pan. These bad types of fats deposit in our veins making the vessels narrower and potentially block them. This can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) to say the least, therefore, it is so important that we understand the difference between good and bad again.
Fats that come from plant sources like avocados are higher in unsaturated fats and fats that come from animal sources are higher in saturated fats. They also come with cholesterol which can be low or high density. These are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). If the ratio between LDL and HDL shows that LDL levels are too high in the blood it puts you at risk of CVD.
Good sources of fats that contain omega 3 and 6 are fish such as salmon, mackerel, nuts and seed such as sunflower seeds and walnuts.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that we need a good source of all macronutrients in our diet as they all have important functions. Usually, the issue isn’t simply just having too much or too little of certain macronutrients but a lack of micronutrients which are vitamins and minerals. Making sure we eat a variety of good sources from each food groups are key to better health and getting results out of your hard work in the gym. Make sure you also include 5-6 portions of fresh vegetables and 2-3 portions of fruits as they are rich in micronutrients and fibre.
For more information check out my website MakeYouBetter.org.