Have you ever heard of the term 'Macros?' You probably have. It's one of those fitness terms that gets tossed around frequently. Macros is short for macronutrients aka the big blocks of nutrients your body needs to survive and thrive: protein, carbs and fats. People also talk about fiber as a macronutrient, but it is typically lumped in as a carbohydrate.
There are also things called micronutrients (vitamins, minerals & other small nutrients) that are another whole topic of conversation. For today, we are going to stick to the Big 3. Below is a general overview of macros and best sources.
PROTEIN - Proteins are organic molecules comprised of amino acids. They are responsible for creating important enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies - without protein, we don't function.
The reason we tell you to eat protein frequently is because your body does not store protein like it does carbs and fats. Your body is continuously trading worn out proteins with fresh proteins, at a cellular level, therefore we need to be continually ingesting protein. Replacing worn out proteins with fresh proteins aids in growth and repair of the cells and muscles. Consuming protein also increases the hormone glucagon which helps control overall body fat. When glucagon is released, it causes your blood sugar levels to drop, allowing your liver to catch up and to start breaking down stored fat. Finally, protein promotes satiety. If you are one to find yourself with frequent cravings, up your protein intake and see how you fare.
When calculating your macros, 1g of protein = 4 calories.
Good sources of protein: beef, bison, buffalo, lean cuts of pork, lamb, wild game, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs & egg whites, dairy such as cottage cheese or greek yogurt, beans, lentils, legumes, tempeh, tofu, edamame, protein powders (all).
CARBS - Carbs are organic molecules classified by their physical structure: simple or complex. They are the primary source of immediate energy for your cells. Simple carbs are smaller, more easily processed and contain one or two sugar molecules linked together. Complex carbs take longer to process and contain large chains of sugar molecules. At the very base level all carbs break down to sugar; it doesn't matter if it's a Twinkie or brown rice.
When we consume carbs, our body breaks them down before our body absorbs the nutrients. The more complex (longer chain of molecules) a carb is, the longer it will take for your body to break down and digest. Once broken down, these sugars enter your liver to fill the body's energy stores, they then enter to bloodstream. When sugar enters the bloodstream, your blood sugar rises. Your body does this cool thing where it releases a hormone called insulin (if you are a diabetic, your body does not produce this, so you have to supplement) which naturally drops your blood sugar levels slowly over time.
Carbs are not bad for you. They are not solely responsible for weight gain. Carbs need to be treated with respect and portions need to be adhered to or you can easily over do them. There is a time and place for everything. Simple carbs should be centered around your workouts and in the morning when your body could use a large spike of insulin. The rest of the time you should focus on more complex carbohydrates because they take longer to break down and digest, leaving you fuller, longer, as well as the slower drop in blood sugar allows for a more effect fat burn.
When calculating your macros, 1g of carbs = 4 calories.
Good sources of carbs: whole grains, whole or sprouted breads (Ezekiel or Dave's Killer), steel-cut oats, corn (NOT A VEGGIE), beans, lentils, kefir, non-greek yogurt, potatoes, sweet potatoes, fruits (Yes, fruits are a simple carb).
FATS - Fats are organic molecules made up of long chains of carbon and hydrogen. This is important because the way these molecules attach to each other dictate what kind of fat it is. There are 3 main types of fats: saturated (animal fats, tropical oils), monounsaturated (olive oil, nuts) and polyunsaturated (Omega-3 & Omega-6). I'm sure you have heard that there are "good fats and bad fats," however, I like to think of it more of processed fats vs. unprocessed fats. Good fats are natural and further away from processed foods while bad fats are designed to be shelf stable, hydrogenated fats and trans-fatty acids.
Fats get a VERY bad rap. Fats do not make you fat, but they are very calorically dense and therefore a little bit can go a long way. Fats are used for energy but are also used in the production of hormones. If you do not get enough fats (especially women), some weird things with start to happen hormonally - I know women who have lost their menstrual cycle. Fat we consume is digested and either stored for energy or incorporated into body tissues and organs. Most of our important organs are fat-based. Your brain is a big fat mass that fires electrical signals to your body, the fat you ingest literally becomes part of you, and low fat intake can start to mess with some of these signals. This is the reason you have never come across a no-fat diet.
The most important fats are your Omega-3 fats. You get this from fatty fish. If you don't eat a lot of salmon, herring or anchovies, I highly recommend you look into supplementing with fish oil. You should pay even more attention if you are vegan or vegetarian because the majority of fat that gets ingested via those diets, our body does not process well.
The best course of action when it comes to fats: consume a mix of fat types. Don't fall into the trap that saturated fats are bad for you, focus more on whether the fat is processed or not.
When calculating your macros, 1g of fat = 9 calories.
Good sources of fats: avocado/avocado oil, cacao, cold-pressed nut and seed oils, fresh coconut/coconut oil, nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, olives/EVOO, Fish Oil, Krill Oil, Algae Oil, aged cheese, butter, whole-fat cream, whole-fat dairy, egg yolks, fattier cuts of animal proteins.
** Don't be afraid of full-fat foods. How do you take something non-fat and make it taste like full-fat? You add sugar and chemicals to it. You will be much better off and healthier sticking to full-fat foods.