Long before I ever got into fitness there were two habits I never got into and I’m glad: 1) Weighing myself (that usually happened at the doctor’s office or at my in-law’s house) and 2) Counting calories. The NOT weighing myself thing probably saved my sanity and the counting calories thing? Well, it was just TOO MUCH WORK! I had friends that did it and well, they were MISERABLE! I remember learning about MACRONUTRIENTS or “MACROS” in Nursing School, but back then in my early 20’s all I could think of was BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, BORING!
I learned that the 3 macronutrients were Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat and that each one had a certain caloric value.
1g of Protein=4 calories.
1g of Carbohydrates=4 calories.
1g of Fat=9 calories.
1g of Alcohol=7 calories.
Again, my mind said B-O-R-I-N-G…that is until I met my trainer. He didn’t care how much I weighed or how many calories were in my lean ground turkey. He did, however, care about how much my FOOD WEIGHED and what each of them were comprised of in terms of their macronutrients. I consider myself pretty savvy, but I have to admit, I was a bit intimidated at first. Why did it matter what my food was comprised of?
One KEY POINT to remember: A CALORIE is “a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body” IT IS NOT A FAT CELL or an EVIL VILLAIN
Proteins: help build and repair muscle, slow digestion, and aid in weight loss. The body requires more energy to burn or digest protein (more than any other macronutrient), thus effectively burning more calories, gram for gram, through the digestion process. Proteins also help produce antibodies (which are a type of protein) to fight off infections.
Carbohydrates: Our bodies use carbohydrates for energy (no they are not evil). The problem with the American diet is not that we EAT carbohydrates, it’s that we get MORE THAN WE NEED or that we usually eat them from PROCESSED FOODS instead of from sources like WHOLE GRAINS, VEGETABLES and FRUIT.
Making energy isn’t the only thing your body does with the carbohydrate nutrients in your diet. Carbohydrates are converted to GLUCOSE and glucose is the ONLY THING our BRAINS can use for fuel!!!
Carbohydrates also protect your muscles.
When you need energy, your body looks for glucose from carbohydrates first. If no glucose is available because you’re on a carbohydrate-restricted diet, your body begins to pull energy out of fat stores.
This is where people begin to run into problems and think YES, I’ll cut out all my carbs and my body will burn through all its fat stores! WOOHOO!
However, there’s a catch (isn’t there always?) Our bodies don’t mobilize energy out of our fat stores in our butts or anywhere else…NOPE…if it did, we wouldn’t all be looking for the fat-loss “Holy Grail”. Instead the body utilizes fat stores in the liver FIRST. If it burns through all the fat stores in your liver and still needs more energy, it will go elsewhere…and NO, it doesn’t target our thighs, hips or bellies to get it either! After using up all the fat stores in the liver, the body targets its own muscles next. (Can you see where I’m going with this)? Your body will hang on to that “muffin top”, those “saddle bags” or “cottage cheese thighs” and eat away at your precious muscle first, saving your fat stores till the very end (and by that time you’ll be in need of medical attention)!
Another KEY POINT to remember: Think about how you feel when you’ve had an intestinal virus and can’t keep anything down, it’s not getting sick that makes you feel weak, it’s the lack of carbohydrates.
Fats: store energy (just think about it, fats provide us with 9 calories worth of energy compared to carbohydrates and proteins)! Fat insulates our bodies and protects our vital organs. Fats act as messengers, helping proteins do their jobs. They also help control growth, immune function, reproduction and basic metabolic function. Fats are much maligned in American culture, but the truth of the matter is, we need them in our diet as much as we need carbohydrates and proteins.
Too little protein and your body can’t build or repair muscle. Too little carbohydrates and you won’t have enough energy to get through your work outs, much less your day. Not enough fat and believe it or not, your weight loss and fat loss will stall.
We each have different requirements when it comes to how much of each macronutrient we need.
These requirements are based on a few different factors: height, weight, age, activity level and personal goals (fat loss, muscle growth, weight gain, weight loss etc).
In order to figure out exactly how much you need of each, without having to take an Algebra I refresher course, check out the infographic on Pinterest that will give you some basic guidelines on both portion size and the types of foods you should be including in your diet.
You can also use one of various macronutrient calculators found online if your goals are specific or consult a Nutritionist for additional help.
Regardless, try not to follow fad diets or fall into the trap of “quick fixes”. Make healthy choices when you eat, eat a well-balanced diet and continue to exercise, so you can look and feel your best.