Food for Thought Friday: Macronutrients— What are they, why do you need them, and more!

Today’s Food for Thought Friday delves into the topic of macronutrients. If you’re an athlete or a bodybuilder, chances are you’ve heard of macronutrients! If you aren’t though, the concept of macronutrients might be all new to you. This video covers what macronutrients are, why you need them, how much of them you need, and where to get them from! A must-watch for anyone who hasn’t heard of macronutrients before, and a great refresher for those who already have! Enjoy!

What are macronutrients?
– Macronutrients are nutrients our body needs in large amounts!
– 3 types: carbohydrates (4 calories per gram), protein (4 calories per gram), and fat (9 calories per gram)

Why does out body need carbohydrates?
– USDA recommends 45-65% of your calories come from carbohydrates
– Carbohydrates are our largest macronutrient!
– Body’s best source of fuel that is most easily used for energy
– Carbohydrates turn into glucose which is needed by the muscles, brain, central nervous system, kidneys, tissues, cells

– Simple carbs (simple sugars such as in fruit) vs. complex carbs (brown rice, whole grains, etc.)
– Carbohydrates are mainly found in starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts.

– A note about fiber: fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t fully digest
– Fiber helps the GI tract
– Fiber reduce risk of colon cancer, heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol
– Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products

Why does our body need protein?
– USDA recommends 10-35% calories come from protein
– Amino acids are the building blocks of protein
– Essential (our body needs to consume these directly since the body can’t make them) vs. nonessential (our body can make these our of other amino acids)
– Animal sources of protein contain all of your essential amino acids
– Plant sources do not, so vegans and vegetarians need to carefully monitor diet!

– Protein is important for tissue repair, immune function, maintaining lean muscle mass, forming hormones/enzymes
– Can be utilized for energy when carbs are not available!

-Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables.

Why does our body need fat?
– USDA recommends 20-35% calories come from fat
– Fat get a bad rep, but some fat is needed in our diet!
– Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, help body absorb certain vitamins, cushion internal organs, maintain cell membranes, brain tissue is fatty

– 3 types of fat: saturated, unsaturated, trans
– Saturated (meat, butter, lard) vs. unsaturated (olive oil, avocados, nuts, canola oil)— molecular bonds are filled with molecules vs. unfilled
– Trans fats (snacks, junk food, fried food, margarine) tend to be molecularly altered, so avoid these!
– Saturated and trans fats both increase heart disease risk, as well as raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol
– Choose unsaturated fats, as they decrease heart disease risk, raise good cholesterol, and lower bad cholesterol

In summation:
– Carbohydrates: 45-65% of calories in diet
– Proteins: 10-35% of calories in diet
– Fat: 20-35% of calories in diet
– Some links to figure out your suggested caloric intake: Mayo ClinicHealth Central, and Bodybuilding.com.
 – My personal recommendation, since some people are more carb-sensitive than others, is to begin at the highest percentage of recommended carbohydrate intake, then adjust according to how your body reacts, lowering (within a safe range) if necessary.

– It’s good to know these numbers as you begin eating healthier, but calorie counting and macronutrient counting isn’t a permanent lifestyle choice for most people! For most people (except athletes specifically), I recommend monitoring these when you first begin trying to eat healthier, for as long as you need to until you can get a rough idea of how many calories and how much macronutrients you should be consuming!

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