Hey Angels and Alphas!
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re working toward a fitness goal.
Now I don’t need to be a fortune teller to tell you that, but let me elaborate a little bit.
Whether you’re in the gym all day and you’re tracking all your food down to the last calorie, or you’re just someone who likes being active and learning more about fitness and nutrition, there is a goal in front of you that has to do with keeping your body fit and healthy.
And it’s that goal that brought you here. To a blog post in which I’m going to dive deep into the essence and function of the three major macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Even though you know how important both exercise and nutrition are important when chasing a goal, I believe we can agree on two things:
No amount of dieting is going to balance out a lack of physical activity, and no amount of physical activity is going to offset a lousy diet.
So even though technically they’re equally important, I’m keeping the focus on nutrition for this post!
The reason I’m digging into this topic is that healthy eating is nowadays an extremely overcomplicated and misunderstood mess.
People are afraid of high protein and high-fat diets, and let’s not even get started on the carbohydrate hate floating around in the fitness world. (But we will get to it.)
That’s why today, I want to give you a new perspective on the topic of healthy eating.
Right now, I’m going to deconstruct proteins, carbs, and fats, so I can hopefully give you a better understanding of what your body truly wants and needs.
Once you know that, there’s going to be nothing else standing between you and a healthy, sustainable, goal-inspired diet.
Let’s get started!
Proteins are essentially chains of linked small molecules called amino acids.
Protein is the second most abundant nutrient in our bodies (the first being water), and it provides our body with 4 calories of energy per gram.
While the fitness community has spent all their time bashing carbs and fats, proteins have become the most spoken-about nutrient among athletes, bodybuilders, and just about anyone who has ever stepped foot in a gym.
And that’s understandable!
Protein is like the glue that holds your body together. (And the body of every living creature for that matter).
When we eat protein, these amino acids split apart and get absorbed in the small intestines where they are rearranged and sent into the bloodstream. These newly reorganized proteins carry out most of our body functions.
There are twenty-two amino acids your body needs, but only nine of them cannot be produced by the body. That’s why if we want to achieve our healthiest, best-looking figure, prioritizing these nine essential amino acids is a must.
This is where your diet comes in!
The nine essential amino acids you must consume through food or supplements are; Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Tryptophan, Threonine, Valine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, and Methionine.
And honestly, it’s not even about eating a ton of protein – it’s about eating the right type of protein. Because without the right amount of each essential amino acid, your body will end up wasting the protein you intake by not consuming it properly and throwing it out.
Your body uses the calories from protein by utilizing them for energy, allowing them to carry out vital body functions, or just storing them as fat.
When you’re lacking carbohydrate or fat calories for fuel, your body is going to start using protein calories for energy. When you are sufficiently carb-ed up, your body is going to use protein calories to carry out specific functions like replacing old cells, building muscle tissue, and growing your hair and nails.
These amino acids are also directly responsible for your muscle growth and metabolic rate as they help the body produce hormones that regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
If your diet is low in essential amino acids, your body simply cannot carry out its protein-related functions!
There are foods out there that are known as complete proteins – they contain each of the nine essential amino acids. They include animal products like milk, fish, cheese, eggs, chicken, and beef, and a few plant-based ones such as quinoa, soybeans, and buckwheat.
Incomplete proteins are foods such as most plant products. They are the reason vegan/vegetarian diets often combine different incomplete proteins to fill the entire spectrum of essential amino acids they need to consume. Things such as grains and vegetables often complement beans and nuts in vegan diets.
Higher protein diets have been linked to better muscle development, faster and more productive recovery, stronger tendons, more gains in strength, weight loss, better sleep, and many more.
In short, all protein is good for you – but complete proteins are just awesome.
Addressing kidney problems…
Experts like to scare people away from high-protein diets by saying they cause all sorts of kidney related issues.
This, however, is not a concern for people who do not have preexisting kidney conditions. In the off chance that you do have one, your doctor has already told you a million times how much protein you need to be consuming.
But if you’re still worried, check out this study that concludes that the average training person should consume at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to get an advantage. Simply put, if you’re going to be overeating on any one macronutrient, protein is probably the safest choice.
Pro tip: Aim for an average of 2.5 grams of protein every day for every kilogram of your desired body weight.
Carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules that break down into smaller versions called glucose, glycogen, cellulose, and etc.
Carbs, just like protein, contain 4 calories of energy per gram.
And let me tell you – your body loves these little sugary molecules!
A lot of nutrition experts will tell you carbohydrates are your body’s favorite way of getting energy, but carbs play a much, much more profound role in our overall nutrition.
Nowadays, every single diet seems to focus on carbs. (Especially weight-loss diets).
Carbohydrates have been demolished by the media and fitness personalities, and it looks like they’re competing with fats on which nutrient can get the worst reputation.
All jokes aside, carbohydrates are complicated.
Of course, some carbs are good for you! But when someone hears the word “carb,” they most often think about highly processed fast foods that are only called food because you can put them in your mouth. And yes, you can process any food over and over until it becomes unhealthy, but carbohydrates are taking the entire blame for the obesity epidemic, and that doesn’t do them justice.
It’s just that people love eating them!
For now, let’s take a look at the different types of carbohydrates, so you get an idea of what you need to be consuming more, and what you need to be consuming less of.
Carbohydrates are classified into two main categories: simple and complex.
There are also fibrous carbs that are found in fruits and veggies, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to discuss the carbs that have an actual impact on our weight. Carbs from veggies are unlikely to have an adverse effect on your figure.
Simple carbohydrates are often super tasty. They include honey, syrup, table sugar, soda, cakes, cookies, beers, candy, and so on.
They are the carbs most often referred to as “bad carbs,” and should be avoided outside of cheat days and moments of weakness.
They provide an immediate boost in blood sugar, but that boost is short lived and leaves your body craving more of these carbs in order to sustain its blood sugar levels.
And that’s the problem!
Complex carbohydrates include bread, cereals, pasta, oatmeal, beans, fruits, veggies, and many more.
The general belief in the fitness community is that complex carbs are better for you, but that isn’t always the case.
What makes complex carbs significantly different from simple carbs is the fact that they’re digested at a much slower rate. This slower pace of digestion provides your body with a stable, linear flow of energy whereas simple carbs give your body short bursts of it.
So it’s not really about the type of carb you eat. The only thing that matters is how quickly your body can break it down into glucose and turn it into energy, and how your blood sugar levels are going to react to it.
The best way we currently have to rate the quality of carbohydrates is via their glycemic index (GI).
The GI refers to precisely those two things – the speed at which foods break down for energy in your body, and how much they boost your blood sugar.
But although eating low-GI foods is better than eating high-GI foods, the end result isn’t going to be much different if you’re still consuming the same amounts of calories.
Simply put, complex carbs are a better option because they “burn” more slowly.
What you need to remember is that you need carbohydrates to stay healthy. Don’t let these fad diets keep you from loading up on carbs before an intense workout.
Even though low-carb diets have shown to provide some health benefits, few of them relate to weight loss and gym performance.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proved this when they compared low-carb and high-carb diets in a study and concluded that there were no significant differences between the two when it came to muscle retention, fat loss, and your metabolism.
Pro tip: Determine your carb intake last. Prioritize fats and proteins. Remember: the right amount of bad carbs is always better than the wrong amount of good carbs.
Fats are fitness’ scapegoat.
This onslaught of bad media has people buying into the “low-fat” craze, thinking what they’re buying is actually healthy, just because the label says it’s “low-fat.”
But ironically, everywhere where fat consumption decreases, obesity rises.
The positive effects of fat are rarely brought up, and I think it’s time we change that!
I’m not going to go all “scientific” on you, but really…
Fats have 9 calories per gram – they give us more than twice the energy that proteins and carbs give us. This makes them a super-efficient energy source for the body.
Fat plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of our nervous system. Every neurochemical signal in your body (for example when your brain tells your arm to move) happens because of fat. They help men produce testosterone, and they keep our hearts and muscles healthy.
On top of that, fat has an impact on your blood pressure, blood clotting, and the inflammation going on inside your body.
It’s also more satiating than carbs and protein, it protects your organs, balances your core temperature, and even regulates hormone production.
To sum it all up, fat is necessary for the healthy and productive function of your entire physiology.
Right now, I want to share with you a little bit about the different types of fats, and why you should make an effort to include all of them in your diet. (Not trans fats though.)
Let me just start off with this – studies have linked high saturated fat consumption to heart disease, but the majority of these studies have been disproved when researches went back and looked at the entire data.
Because of these old, biased studies, the media and different health organizations started pointing the finger at saturated fats as the reason for a variety of health problems such as heart disease.
Data has come up that disproves their claims, but it’s often completely disregarded.
Just to give an example, research was done off the coast of New Zealand in an area called Tokelau. Residents there consumed a diet consisting of over 50% saturated fat, yet they top the world rankings in cardiovascular health. This, along with other cases and data, is entirely ignored by the media.
They’ll tell you all about the newest low-fat products, but will undermine the fact that even the chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard publicly stated that saturated fats are not the cause of obesity and heart disease.
Saturated fat is an excellent energy source for your body – not to mention, it’s extra satiating and keeps you full for a long time. Don’t let biased media and fitness personalities tell you that these types of foods are bad for you.
If saturated fat were bad for you, your body wouldn’t naturally store carbohydrates as saturated fat.
So if you’re not a vegetarian, stop running from red meat, eggs, and dairy!
Fun fact: research shows that diets high in saturated fats usually come with lower total calorie intake.
Avocado lovers assemble!
Monounsaturated fats are most often found in high-fat fruits, nuts like almonds and cashews, butter, and olive oil.
They help your body deal with bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and some researches even link them to fat loss.
Just like monounsaturated fats, these are labeled good fats and help your body lower bad cholesterol.
They’re found in salmon, fish oil, sunflower oil, quinoa, and more. They contain the famous EFAs – essential fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6. They’re crucial to our physiology and can’t be produced by our own bodies, yet they’ve been largely processed out of the food we eat.
They’re called “essential fatty acids” for a reason. They’re known to improve heart health, support mental health, fight inflammation, decrease liver fat, promote bone health, and much more.
Make sure you’re getting enough of them.
Trans fats are a wolf in wolf’s clothing. Honestly, nothing good can be said about them. Think deep-fried foods, French fries, pies, pizza, margarine, anything along those lines.
A lot of meats and animal products contain traces of trans fats, but the majority of trans fats we consume are chemically produced by a process called partial hydrogenation. I’m not going to go into the nasty details, but when it comes down to it, trans fats are a result of overprocessing our foods so they can stand on store shelves for a longer time.
If you’re serious about your diet and fitness goal (or just don’t like eating garbage) avoid trans fats.
Pro tip: Based on your individual preference and activity level, aim for 20 to 45% calories from fat.
Where does that leave us…
In this article, you learned everything you need to know about proteins, carbs, and fats.
All of their essential functions, how to differentiate between the good and the bad, and even the reputation they have in the fitness community.
If you’re looking to make a few adjustments in your diet, now is the time! Just by learning about the things you consume, you get a better understanding of how your own body works, and you’re already one step ahead of your diet.
So ditch the trans fats for their healthier alternatives, give a little more attention to those complete proteins, and keep an eye on those simple carbohydrates…
I guarantee you’ll see the changes immediately.