Do you know your macro’s?

Well yes I think I do thanks for asking.

‘Macro’s’ seem to have undergone a trendy transformation. Back in the day on my lecture notes they were referred to by their full name – macronutrients. Now they are the subject of huge debate with much tussle and rivalry between the top three: carbohydrates, fat and protein.

Let me tell you, those lectures were loooooong. The science of macronutrient interaction is a complex one. I do not want to make the mistake that so many blogs do of over simplifying the subject and making inaccurate statements such as carbs cause insulin release and insulin makes you fat. Er hello? Which metabolic regulation papers are you reading?!

So jargon and trending aside let’s put the macro’s under the microscope and get a few things straight.

 Carbs

You got to feel sorry for them… where did it all go wrong?!

Carbs are the preferred fuel for the body – muscles are primed to use it and store it so it can be rapidly converted to energy when you need to run away from a tiger or catch a bus. And yes insulin is required for it to travel into these cells. Carb comes in many forms and its complexity is also its downfall as many tarnish all carbs with the same brush. Some may say there aren’t any tigers where I live and I always drive so why do I need it?

Somebody’s carb requirements will vary from ~130g right up to ~700g a day! Working out where you fit in that spectrum is important to have a healthy relationship with this nutrient and ensure you’re fuelling, not over fuelling your body. A car needs less petrol to travel from one end of the street to the other than it does to travel up the M1. Similarly your body requires less fuel when you’re sat at a desk all day, than it does if you’re planning to climb a mountain. The brain also requires fuel to function – ~120g of it to be precise.

Average individuals looking to maintain weight should be on around 200-400g a day depending on their sex, weight and activity levels.

Those with impaired insulin function or those looking to manage their weight would benefit from controlled amounts. Highly active individuals would require far more, hence such a broad spectrum. Seek advice if you’re unsure where you fit in.

Metabolic processes are in place to make carbohydrate if you don’t eat enough of it – otherwise you die. That doesn’t mean these metabolic processes should be relied upon because google told you not to eat it. Very low carb diets (~50-70g per day) force your body to use fat or protein as a fuel – this is not a good long term weight management strategy believe me.

Simple sugars occur both naturally in fruit and dairy products but are also added to a plethora of foods to enhance taste, texture and shelf life. These ‘free sugars’ carry little else with them apart from quick release energy. More complex carbohydrates with ‘longer chains’ and ‘bonds’ or those tied up in fruit and dairy carry other valuable nutrients with them – fibre and b vitamins, calcium to name a few. These are vital for health and mental resilience and absolutely should not be ignored. Those that shun carbohydrates completely are at potential risk of nutritional deficiencies and have probably already fallen asleep reading this because they’re so tired.

Fat

The bad guy for many years it seems to be growing in popularity again – perhaps saturated fat isn’t the enemy after all – pass the butter and let me get some of that coconut oil I hear you say…

Fat is essential – every cell in your body, of which you have a trillion is made up of it so we need around 70g a day.

If you’re confident you have a healthy balance of fats in your diet – unsaturated fats from vegetable and plant oils, avocado’s, nuts and seeds, then small amounts of saturated fat are unlikely to cause you a problem. The reality is though that no matter what type of fat it is, it still contains 9 calories per gram. So you don’t need a lot of grams of it for those calories to add up.  Low fat products are still a good investment, providing they’re not replacing the fat with sugar – a quick scan of the label will tell you that.

Protein

The popular kid on the block – gaining in popularity and the food industry has cottoned on with more high protein products coming to market. The body can’t store protein so how it’s utilised in real time is what matters.

So where’s its value? Satiety for one. Those looking to lose and maintain some weight loss or those that generally struggle with hunger, would benefit from a balanced intake of protein across the day. A typical diet maybe be low in protein at breakfast, mediocre at lunch and high at dinner – not the best way to use protein to your advantage. Instead aim for around 20g per meal.

Regular, intensive exercise, whether that be resistance training daily or endurance exercise puts extra protein demands on the body – but even then amounts of protein required will vary depending on the size and sex and activity patterns of the person in question. Working in a job where you spend most of your time on your bottom and having a gym membership card that comes out of your wallet twice a week does not equate to the same thing and high protein intakes, particularly at the expense of carbs are unnecessary not to mention expensive!

In conclusion, be smart about your carbs, regular with your protein and sensible with your fat! Hopefully I’ve helped you to know your macro’s a little better and you’re all equipped to deal with roaming tigers. Phew. Job done for now.

 

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