I've written a few articles that go into nutrition and macronutrients in more detail, but top-line: what are macros and why should you know, or care, about them? Well, taking 3 minutes to understand the basics of what you eat could help you get healthier, achieve your goals (whether they be training or physique related) or simply enjoy your favourite foods without feeling guilty.
Food can be divided into three categories, or macronutrients:
- carbohydrates (carbs)
Forget what you may have heard about any of them, as the amount of confusion (and frankly, bullshit) that's found it's way into the mainstream about nutrition is worrying. Eating protein won't turn you into the Hulk or break your kidneys and carbohydrates don't make you fat.
These macros contain calories:
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
- 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
The 3 macros each have different functions and all are essential for optimal performance. That's important guys... optimal performance - not survival. Protein and fat are essential, in that you need them to repair and maintain your body. Carbohydrates are your body & your brain's go-to source for energy but you can survive without carbs - just don't expect to have bundles of energy or to train well.
The building blocks of the human body, protein is used to build tissue (cells, bones, muscle etc), produce hormones & enzymes and numerous other functions. I recommend taking in 1.2-2g of protein per kg body weight. Good sources of protein include fish, meat, eggs, dairy, lentils, whey, tofu, quinoa.
Fats facilitate hormonal function and act as your body's messengers. They're essential for the storage & transport of certain vitamins & are essential in cell & nerve operations. Don't skimp on fats - look to get .8-1g of fat per kilo body weight. Sources of fat include oily fish, seeds & nuts, eggs, avocado and dairy.
All carbohydates, whether potatoes, donuts or brown rice, are broken down into sugar. Once broken down, these sugars provide your body and brain with their primary source of energy. Someone who is physically active will need more carbs than someone who leads a sedantry lifestyle. Sources of carbs include rice, grains, potatoes, sweet potato, fruit, bread, soft drinks and most confectionary.
Why does all of this matter?
Knowing what your food is made up of allows you to make better decisions when it comes to health and performance. Ask yourself, how much protein you've had today? (actually work it out right now...is it enough?). Did your training session this morning feel crap? Well, have you given your body the fuel and the rest it needs to perform? The truth is, if you're aware of what you're eating you're more likely to be able to control your weight and can fine-tune according to your goals. Understanding what you're eating is key. Take my burger from yesterday's bbq for example (see picture, don't be jealous).
- Patty = 30g protein, 15g fat & 5.5g carbs.
- Bun = 6g protein, 1g fat, 2g carbs
- Cheese = 5g protein & 7g fat.
- Totalling ~490cals.
If you're aiming for 50g fat per day, bear in mind that nearly 1/2 your daily fats are contained in that burger - which is fine, as long as you realise this and "budget" your remaining macros accordingly. If I'd skipped the cheese, I'd have "room" for some chocolate later (and still be within my target range), but I figured the cheese would make the burger even tastier! It's this consideration that allows you to make decisions that will directly impact your body composition and health. If you tone down your training then it's likely you don't need as many carbs as you did when you were hitting the gym 6 days a week. On the flip side, if you've decided to absolutely smash it for the next few weeks, consider what you're going to do to ensure you've got the right nutrients going in.
As a side note, it's important to realise that when you eat 100g of chicken, you're not eating 100g of protein - it's probably more like 30g, as most foods have a high water content. Same goes with other macros and foods - 100g of sweet potato doesn't equal 100g carbs (it's actually only 21g).
Alcohol is a sneaky fourth macro. It contains calories (7 per gram) but it doesn't contain any nutrition whatsoever - it provides what are considered "empty calories". Once it's in your system, your body will immediately switch to alcohol as it's energy source, which has knock on effects throughout your body - some positive, some negative. A Krispy Kreme donut provides fat, protein and carbs (which, as we know from above all offer value to your body) as well as some fibre, iron, calcium, vitamin C. So, it mightn't be "healthy" but at least it has a nutritional value - something which alcohol does not. That said, when consumed in moderation, alcohol is perfectly fine. Remember your "budget" though - where people fail with booze is realising that the calories from alcohol, combined with their food intake, can easily have you in a calorie surplus for the day and, over time, this surplus will lead to weight gain.
No, not that kind... the conclusion! It's too easy to see food as "good" or "bad". This can lead to you avoiding your favourite foods unnecessarily. As long as you make sure you're fuelling your body the right way for you, there's no reason to avoid tucking in to a pizza or a Krispy Kreme now and again. Try to aim to eat "clean" 80-85% of the time - eating whole foods like meat/fish and veg - to make sure you're getting in your nutrients & vitamins. The remaining 15-20%... as long as it aligns with your goals then relax and treat yourself!
Contact me to program your training and nutrion plan, improve your health and build the body you want.