Trying to make sense of nutrition can be daunting, especially since most people tend to get their information from the latest and greatest diet or weight loss fad. However, here at Inspire Wellness we believe the the best way to live well, feel great, and maintain a healthy body weight are to eat a balanced, natural diet while maintaining an active lifestyle. The first step in creating a healthy diet is understanding the concept of Macronutrients, and how Macronutrient breakdowns can help, or hurt, your individual health goals.
Nutrients can be broken up into two main categories: Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Micronutrients, primarily vitamins and minerals, are required in small quantities by our bodies to perform crucial physiological functions and maintain our body's structure. Macronutrients are required in larger quantities and provide direct energy for the body. Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat are all considered Macronutrients.
Protein is another Macronutrient. Commonly associated with muscle growth, it actually has a wide range of uses throughout the body. Primarily, protein is used for tissue growth, repair, and replacement. However, protein can be used as an energy source if needed, though it is a last resort after carbs and fat. Calorie-wise, like carbs, protein contains 4 calories per gram. Protein is made up of a series of Amino Acids. When consumed, protein is broken down and these Amino Acids are transported throughout the body for countless uses. Protein and Amino Acids are essentially the building blocks of the body. You can think of them as the wooden frame of a house, used to create structure and support. However in this case they are used to build enzymes, hormones, antibodies, tissue, and more. Protein is crucial to maintain a healthy, strong body, especially when you are active. Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and legumes (i.e. beans) are all great sources of protein.
In general, 10-35% of your calories every day should come from Protein.
Fats, or Lipids, are NOT the evil, terrible thing we have been led to believe by most diets and TV "experts." Fats play a crucial roll in our body and when consumed properly can actually help with weight loss! Calorie-wise, unlike carbs and protein, fat contains 9 calories per gram. This difference is primarily what gives Fat a bad name; one gram of fat has over twice the calories than carbs and protein. As such, a diet too high in fat will lead to excess calorie consumption and, ultimately, weight gain. However, when included properly fat plays a beneficial roll in your diet and wellbeing.
There are three mail categories of Fat: Triglycerides, Phospholipids, and Sterols. Triglycerides are what we primarily think of when we consider fat, and they are the biggest player in our diet. Triglycerides can come in a number of forms, including Saturated, Unsaturated, and Trans-fat. Generally, Trans Fat and Saturated Fat have been proven to be unhealthy - with high levels of these (particularly Trans Fat) linked to the development of heart disease. Unsaturated fat, on the other hand, has been shown to benefit health and decrease the risk of heart disease and other conditions. Unsaturated fats have been shown to aid in recovery, anti-inflammation, joint health, heart health, and more! An easy way to differentiate between saturated and unsaturated fat (aside from reading the nutrition labels on your food) is that saturated fat tends to be solid at room temperature (i.e. butter) while unsaturated fat tends to be liquid (i.e. olive oil). Olive oil, fish, avocado, and nuts are all examples of foods high in healthy fat. Click HERE for more information on Good & Bad Fats!
In general, 20-35% of your calories every day should come from healthy Fat.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are generally the most common Macronutrient in our diets (and often the most over-consumed). Carbs include sugar, grains, and starches. Fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, and any sugary-sweet are all considered primarily carbohydrates. Calorie-wise, carbs contain 4 calories per gram. Carbohydrates can be found in three forms. The most basic form - consisting of one single molecule of carbohydrate - is called a Monosaccharide. The Monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, and galactose. Glucose is the primary energy source in the body. When two Monosaccharides join together, they form a Disaccharide. Maltose, Sucrose, and Lactose are the Dissacharides. Most table sugars are actually Sucrose, which is made from the joining of Fructose and Glucose. Some people have difficulty digesting the Dissacharide Lactose - a condition commonly known as Lactose Intolerance. The largest form of carbohydrates are known as Polysaccharides - formed by the union of many Monosaccharides. Glycogen, Starch, and Fiber are all considered Polysaccharides. Glycogen is the primary storage form of carbs in animals (including humans) while Starch is the primary storage form of carbs in plants.
In general, 45-65% of your calories every day should come from Carbohydrates.
Adjusting Macros for Performance Goals
Macronutrient distributions can be adjusted based upon your current health and fitness goals. If you are currently in a high-intensity exercise plan or have a significant performance or size-related goal, you are going to want to consume more carbohydrates than usual. Carbs - particularly glucose - are the primary energy source in our body. Above-average carb consumption is necessary to fuel high levels of activity and promote recovery.
In general, a Performance Goal would benefit from:
15-25% healthy Fat
If you are currently in a moderate-intensity exercise plan with a focuse on muscle growth and performance maintenance you are going to want a balanced diet. Moderate carbs are needed to provide adequate energy, while higher levels of protein will promote muscle growth. Higher fat intake will also help with muscle recovery.
In general, a Growth Goal would benefit from:
25-35% healthy Fat
A third common Macronutrient distribution adjustment is meant to target weight loss. Reducing carbs significantly below normal while increasing protein and fat intake has been shown in aid in fat loss (when done safely and paired with proper exercise and sleep). Carbohydrate restrictions are not recommended for extended periods of time, however. Remember, carbs are incredibly important for your body's functioning. Restricting carbs for a few weeks may help with jump-starting weight loss but always listen to your body, don't starve yourself, and eventually work your way back into a more balanced diet.
In general, a Weight Loss Goal would benefit from:
30-40% healthy Fat