Managing Macronutrients

Managing macronutrients

Learn how macronutrients can help you reach your ideal weight.

According to McKinley Health Center in the United States, macronutrients are nutrients that are needed in large amounts. They provide calories or energy required for our growth, metabolism and various other bodily functions. There are three key macronutrients, namely carbohydrate, protein and fat.

Each macronutrient provides a different amount of calories. Carbohydrate and protein provide four calories per gram while fat provides nine calories per gram. So you can always calculate calories based on the amount of carbs, protein and fat marked on a food label.  For instance, if the label shows 40 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of protein and 0 grams of fat, the food product contains:

  Carbs          Protein      Fat

(40g x 4)    +  (12g x 4) +  0g =  208 calories

Everyday essentials

Carbohydrates power our bodies and when broken down to glucose, can be used by our tissues and cells for energy. Carbs can be stored in our muscles and liver — something like a spare battery — for when we need extra energy. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that 45 to 65 percent of our calories should come from carbohydrates.

Starchy foods such as grain and potatoes contain high amounts of carbohydrates whereas vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts contain less carbohydrates. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that we can’t digest and thus, it moves through our gut and helps move the by-products of digestion out of the body.

Protein promotes growth and it is integral for children, teenagers and pregnant women which is why 10 to 35 percent of our calories should come from protein. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, also help tissues repair themselves, act as enzymes that regulate and protect the chemical reactions in the body and make haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts and legumes.

Fat has been receiving bad press because it causes weight gain but some fat is essential for survival. The USDA suggests that 20 to 35 percent of our calories should come from fat. Fats are integral as a source of energy because it’s the most concentrated source at nine calories per gram. It also absorbs vitamins A, D, E, K, and carotenoids, provides cushioning for our internal organs and maintains cell membranes.

Now that you know what macronutrients are and how they help your body function, it’s time to explore a crucial question. What is the right amount of macronutrients that you should consume? Well, this depends on your fitness or weight loss goals. Do you want to lose weight, gain muscle or just maintain your weight? If you’re unsure of what you should do, especially if you have any kind of medical condition, check with a medical professional. Your doctor will be able to advise you on whether it is safe to lose weight or incorporate more of a certain macronutrient in your diet.

Reaching your weight loss goals

In order to gain muscle, you don’t need to consume just protein all day, every day. A diet that is too rich in protein may restrict too much carbohydrate and fat. This could result in nutritional deficiencies that can cause problems such as halitosis (bad breath), headaches and constipation. A high-protein diet can also cause kidney problems especially in people with kidney disease.

  • To build more muscle, Bodybuilding.com suggests a diet with a ratio of 40 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 25 to 35 percent protein and 15 to 25 percent fat.
  • As for maintaining your weight, a moderate diet consisting of 30 to 50 percent carbohydrates, 25 to 35 percent protein and 25 to 35 percent fat, is recommended.
  • For fat loss, a lower carb diet consisting of 10 to 30 percent carbohydrates, 40 to 50 percent protein and 30 to 40 percent fat could be beneficial.

Are abs really ‘made in the kitchen’?

In all of the diet suggestions above, the percentage of fat does not go below 15 percent because hormones are constructed out of cholesterol and various fat molecules. If a diet is too low in fat, it could throw your hormones out of whack and affect your growth, metabolism and overall mood. However, with that said, not all fats are the same. Healthy sources of fats such as avocadoes, eggs (yolk included) and oily fish like salmon, should definitely be part of your diet.

Whether you’re maintaining your weight, bulking up or trying to lose fat, obsessively weighing your food and counting calories just won’t work in the long run. Exercise still plays an important role in reaching your fitness goals. Just like with your diet, exercise should be customised to help you reach your weight loss goal.

Get moving and start losing!

It is a misconception that to achieve weight loss, cardiovascular exercises (cardio) and dieting is the way to go. According to WebMD, the resting metabolic rate is much higher in people who have more muscle mass. About 450 grams of muscle uses around six calories a day just to sustain itself whereas the same amount of fat burns only two calories a day. This means strength training that builds muscle, is important for weight loss

Aerobic exercises can help get your heart rate up but it won’t help in building large muscles. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are low to moderate intensity exercises that are alternated with high intensity exercises. One session is usually less than 30 minutes long. HIIT has been found to increase a person’s resting metabolic rate for 24 hours after the workout! An example of a HIIT session would be doing as many burpees as possible for 20 seconds, resting for 10 seconds and repeating this combination for four minutes.

Water isn’t directly related to fat loss but your body does need water in order to keep your metabolic rate up. Besides water, there are also plenty of juicy fruits and vegetables which naturally contain water and are healthier snacks compared to potato chips or carbonated drinks.

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