So you’ve made the move to counting your macros or you are thinking about it, which is a great start to a healthier, leaner, stronger, you! You’ve heard the words: carbs, protein, fat – all sound familiar….but what exactly are they are why are they important? Let’s chew the fat.
Carbohydrates are one of the main types of nutrients. They are the most important source of energy for your body. Your digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar). Your body uses this sugar for energy for your cells, tissues and organs. It stores any extra sugar in your liver and muscles for when it is needed. Carbohydrates are called simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure.
Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, milk, and milk products as well as table sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc. They also include sugars added during food processing and refining.
Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. Many of the complex carbohydrates are good.
Do I need carbohydrates? Yes! Without it, you are not giving your body enough of an energy source your body will then use the protein (inefficiently) for energy instead of growth and repair of muscle tissue.
Proteins are the building blocks of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids. You need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. Amino acids are found in animal sources such as meats, milk, fish, and eggs. They are also found in plant sources such as soy, beans, legumes, nut butters, and some grains (such as wheat germ and quinoa). You do not need to eat animal products to get all the protein you need in your diet.
Do I need protein? Absolutely without it, your body is not able to sufficiently grow and repair cells. You won’t be building much muscle without enough protein in your diet
Fat serves many important roles in the body at the cellular level. It’s important for heart health and an essential source of energy. There are 2 main types of fatty acids (FA’s): Omega 3 FA’s & Omega 6 FA’s. We get plenty of omega 6 fats from vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower and soybean oil. We get omega 3 fats from oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and other sources like flax, walnuts and chia seeds. The difference is big between the 2 though – omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory and omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory. The population as a whole eats too much of one and not enough of another – can you guess which? The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 should be about 6:1 at the very least in order for our body to function optimally. The reality is that the western diet has a ratio of about 15:1. This is thought to be one of the reasons for increased heart disease, cancer and various autoimmune.
Do I need fat? Fat is certainly an important component to our cells and provides the necessary source of energy. Be sure to include foods though that is rich in omega 3 fats such as the ones listed above. You can make easy switches, for example, eat walnuts instead of almonds or for a homemade salad dressing, use flaxseed oil instead of your usual oil.
So, the bottom-line? Eat from a variety of sources and don’t skip out on one macro over another. Each provides a valuable source of nutrition and if you are looking to get leaner and stronger, you can’t deprive yourself of the trifecta!
Tejal Parekh, MS, RDN, LDN Registered Dietitian Lean Machine Nutrition