The term Macronutrients or Macros is frequently used in losing or gaining weight, building muscles or just living healthy. If you are new to eating healthy and achieving body goals, you might have come across the term. But what does it mean? What do you need to know about it? How can it help you reach your body goals? What are the benefits?
To begin with the definition: Macronutrients are nutrient/food sources your body requires in large amounts for daily functions like; energy, muscle/tissue and cell building and recovery, and many other internal functions. Macronutrients are CARBOHYDTARES, PROTEIN AND FATS. Each have their functions and mechanism. I will describe each Macronutrient in detail below and give examples, benefits, as well as recommendations to assist you in achieving your body goals and overall wellbeing.
Protein is an essential macronutrient for your body. It makes up the building block for major organs, muscles, skin and hormones. Your muscles need protein to repair and grow. Protein has many other benefits like:
- Reduction of appetite and hunger levels.
- Increase in muscle mass and strength.
- Enhances metabolism
- Enhances fat burning.
- Good for bones.
Your body also uses more energy to breakdown/digest protein, which assists in burning fat.
The following are great sources of protein:
- Lean meat and poultry: (Chicken fillet/breast, Beef, Turkey, Fish, Egg whites, Game meat, etc.)
- Supplements: (Whey concentrate and isolate protein powder, Casein protein powder, Plant based protein powder, Branched chained amino acids (BCAAs).
- Some grains and beans are also good sources of protein; however, they also contain carbohydrates, therefore, you must be careful with overall portion size. These are: lentils, black beans, red kidney beans, quinoa and more.
For simplicity, please focus on the top two sources of protein (Lean mean, poultry and supplements.
In general, and as a rule of thumb always make sure you consume at least 20 g of protein with every meal of your day (breakfast, lunch and supper). With supplements it will be easier to measure 20 g, but with meat u can use the palm of your hand to estimate portion size, with eggs you can consume 2 whole eggs and 3 egg whites. So, make sure there is a source of protein in all the meals you consume.
Carbohydrates are complex, they are simply sugars and starches found in fruits, vegetables and grains. For simplicity we will separate carbohydrates into good ones and bad ones. This is based on the glycemic index (GI) ranking of the carbohydrates. It is a relative ranking used for carbohydrates, on how they affect your blood glucose/sugar levels. Low GI carbohydrates (<55>55) carbohydrates are the opposite of low GI carbohydrates. 55>
Don’t be frightened by the technical terms, I will simplify it to basic terms everyone is familiar with.
The following are sources of carbohydrates:
Wholefoods (whole-wheat, bran, rye), brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes (yam), green leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, peas etc.). As well as all fruits in moderation (1 fruit a day is enough).
Highly processed foods: white bread, baked goods (cake and biscuits), sweets, chocolates (except for dark chocolate in moderation), pizza, white pasta, high sugar cereals.
In general, and as a rule of thumb consume 30 – 40 g of good carbohydrates with all your meals. For example, this means 2 slices of whole wheat or rye bread, 1 medium sized sweet potato, half a cup of oats or brown rice.
Yes, fat is essential. Like carbohydrates, there are good and bad fats. Without going into the technicalities, I will just give examples of good and bad fat.
Good fats are called unsaturated fats in scientific terms. They are liquid at room temperature and have the following benefits:
- Improve blood cholesterol levels.
- Decrease inflammation.
- Stabilize heart rhythm.
These can be found in foods like nuts (almond, pecan, hazel, peanut), avocado, oils (canola, olive), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, chai, flax) and fish.
Bad fats are called saturated fats in scientific terms. They are found in all animal foods and few plant foods like palm kernel and palm oil.
Bad fats can be found in the following foods: Animal products (sausages, bacon, hamburgers, salami, pork, beef), cookies and desserts (baked goods), pizza and cheese, fried chicken, butter and dairy products.
It is always best to consume good fats, however, we cannot avoid consuming bad fats completely (unless one becomes vegan), as we consume them in meat and dairy products, which is why you must make sure you eat lean meat (which has less bad fat) and avoid deep fried foods, desserts and snacks.
In general, and as a rule of thumb make sure you consume 10 – 20 g of fat with every meal you consume. This is 10 – 15 almond nuts, half an avocado, handful seeds, or 2 whole eggs.