Do It For The Gram: Macronutrients - Protein, Carbs & Fats
by: Alan Miller
Calorie counting can be a drag if you have no idea what you are doing. Every food product has "Nutritional Facts" and you swear by those facts. However, knowing what those calories mean in grams is another story. Your life becomes easier knowing how many grams to consume from each macronutrient.
WHAT ARE MACRONUTRIENTS?
Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy to our body. Nutrients like protein, carbs & fats are needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions. Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed by our bodies in large amounts. There are three macronutrients:
While each of these macronutrients provides calories, the amount of calories that each one provides varies.
Carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram.
Protein provides 4 calories per gram.
Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
AAAHHH protein!!!!!! Protein is the most important macronutrient of them all being that it is the biggest key factor in preserving muscle while on a diet. Proteins are found in our muscles, bones, skin, hair and every other body part or tissues. Protein aids in building, maintaining, and replacing the muscle tissues in our body, which is vital for it to function properly. Without adequate amounts of protein, our body would start to break down muscle in order to get the protein that is needed. After we eat protein rich food, like a piece of chicken, it then enters our stomach and intestine and the body starts to go to work to digest and break down this big protein molecule into smaller units called amino acids. Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it. After Proteins get broken down into amino acids it is then released into the bloodstream where they may be taken up by muscle cells throughout the body so that it can function properly. There are 22 amino acids. The 22 amino acids are separated into two groups essential and nonessential.
Essential amino acids
Of the 22 amino acids, around 9 of of them are considered essential. Essential only means that they cannot be made by the body and as a result of that they can only be supplied from our diet and from the food that we eat. The essential amino acid list is as follows: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Non Essential amino acids
On the other end of the spectrum we have amino acids that are non essential. Non essential means that they can already be made by the body and therefore do not need to be supplied through a diet. The 11 non essential amino acids are as follows: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine
You're probably saying cells, tissues, blood stream blah blah blah just tell me how much protein to take already!! It is important to understand the process behind protein before you go out and start abusing how much you should take. It is recommended that one only consumes around 1-1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight. A 200lb male should roughly only consume around 200g of protein. Of course there are other factors to consider when determining your protein intake like body fat levels and whether or not you’re aiming for muscle gain or fat loss, but starting off with one gram of protein per lb should be just enough to preserve the muscle you already have on your body without going overboard. Some of you might be saying, "WHAT?! I’ve been having 300-400g per day because so and so from the gym told me to." This is exactly why it is important to understand the science of protein instead of listening to joe shmo at the gym who’s advice on taking excessive protein is only putting excessive work on your kidney.
Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables that we consume today . Though often in trendy diets, carbohydrates — one of the basic food groups — are important to a healthy life and should be incorporated into everyone’s diet.
Purpose of carbs
Carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and energy for working muscles. They also prevent protein from being used as an energy source and enable fat metabolism. Think of carbs like gasoline to our cars. our car requires a certain amount of fuel to make it throughout the day. Our bodies are the same way in that they require just the right amount of carbs, not too much and not too little to make it through each day.
Simple vs complex carbs
Simple carbs contain just one or two sugars. Simple carbs are the type of carbs that your body uses the fastest when digested. Examples of simple carbs include food items like candy, soda and fruits.
Complex carbs contain two or more sugars. Complex carbs unlike simple carbs take longer for your body to digest. Examples of complex carbs include potatoes, rice’s and whole grain breads. If you are looking for a carb source that will help keep your hunger satisfied more longer then complex carbs should be your choice.
Eat more fat to lose fat! For years now, fat has always gotten a bad rap. Everyone seems to think that if you eat fat you gain fat. This misunderstood macronutrient can actually provide a wealth of health benefits. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins. Without adequate fat, these vitamins couldn't be absorbed, transported, or used, and deficiencies would ensue. At 9 calories per gram, adding meals with fat will help keep you satiated for longer periods of time.
With this new knowledge in your toolbox, now you can make the changes you really have wanted. Remember, Joe Shmo is not the answer. Just like you are doing now, educate yourself and learn more so you can apply and test things. Soon you will know what works best for your body.