I wanted to do a couple posts covering calories and macronutrients, what they are, how to calculate how many calories you need, how to set your macronutrient goals, and how to make adjustments so you continue to progress. This is officially Part 1. Obviously I recommend you work one-on-one with a registered dietitian to set you up with a full diet plan as your initial resource but if you want to take some first steps alone, look no further!
What are macronutrients?
Carbohydrates, protein, and fat. You cannot live without the consumption of macronutrients. These are what your body uses as energy! Different foods have a different mixture of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Some foods only have 1 macronutrient (ie chicken is mostly ALL protein) however most foods have all 3 macronutrients in them (ie nuts are a good source of protein but also have fat and carbohydrates).
Can you explain the different macronutrients?
Carbohydrates: These all break down into sugar (glucose) in the body. I think of carbohydrates as the nutrient that is used first. Most people think of ‘sugar’ as negative, however, all carbohydrates end up as glucose once digested, broken down, and absorbed. Sugar is the major source of energy for us! We NEED carbohydrates for brain function as well as for muscle recovery and growth, digestion, and anything and everything else to keep us alive.
Examples of carbohydrates are fruit, vegetables, legumes, sweet potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, and cereal. We can go into the difference between ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ carbohydrates and FIBER in another post.
Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.
Protein: Protein is the major structural component of all cells in the body. Protein breaks down into amino acids in the body. This process take A LONG time to study and understand. There are 20 types of amino acids that protein breaks down into. They all fit into a category of either essential, nonessential, or conditional amino acids. The key to know is that ESSENTIAL amino acids must be provided by your diet and your body does not produce them.
Examples of high protein foods are meats, poultry, fish, dairy (greek yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, cheese), eggs/egg whites, tofu, tempeh, protein powder.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram.
Fat: Fat is a major energy source for the body and is important for brain function, blood clotting, and controlling inflammation . Fat aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A,D,E, and K) and is critical to body function. Fat makes our skin and hair healthy. Fat breaks down into fatty acids and glycerol.
Examples of fat sources are nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados, oils (coconut oil :)), and butter.
This is a very high level overview but I wanted to help you understand the first step in WHY it is important to know what macronutrients are as you are consuming them every time you eat! Each macronutrient gets digested and absorbed in a process in our body and it is up to us to provide our bodies with the correct fuel and energy.
Fat provides 9 calories per gram. (Why fats are so energy dense)
Up next: CALORIES!