The Complete Guide To Macronutrients.
A proper diet doesn’t have to be hard and can actually be straightforward. What makes it difficult is the popular diet trends that tend to cause confusion. In this article I’ll break down the three essential macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates and fats into their simplest form and tell you how to figure out how much you should be consuming of each.
Reasons To Eat Healthy.
We now know a healthy diet will drastically reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, the world’s leading killers.
It will improve brain function, physical performance and even sexual performance.
Big picture we should all be incorporating a healthier diet into our lives. This is especially true if you have a certain goal in mind such as losing weight or building muscle.
Your nutrition plan is the foundation to your fitness goal. No matter how much cardio you do, or how long you stay in the gym, if you’re not eating the right foods you won’t see the results you want.
Between fears of high protein diets, high fat diets and any type of carbohydrate, eating has become a complicated mess that creates more anxiety than needed.
The first step is to find out what your daily caloric needs are (how many calories you should be eating everyday). You can do this by clicking on the calorie calculator on my home page.
Knowing your daily calorie total is the first step, the second step is breaking that total down into specific amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
This is because not all calories produce the same effect. 2500 calories from cookies and doughnuts isn’t the same as 2500 calories from chicken, rice and vegetables.
Customizing your diet will ensure that you create a calorie surplus that will build muscle without adding excess fat.
Or create a calorie deficit that will promote fat loss but keep as much lean muscle as possible.
I’m going to explain the three macronutrients, the best foods to eat for each and how to calculate your daily needs for each.
Protein is the most important macronutrient in a fitness plan.
Protein contains 4 calories per gram and after being digested it is broken down into amino acids which helps your body perform a countless number of functions.
- Repairs tissue (organ tissue, muscles, hair, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments and blood plasma)
- Involved in hormonal systems
- Makes up enzymes that regulate metabolism
- Involved in acid base balance to maintain a neutral environment in your body
I could go on about other activities protein does for the body, but the most important function in context to this discussion is how it rebuilds broken down muscles.
Every process that builds muscle or burns fat relies on the amino acids that come from protein.
Taking water out of the equation, protein is the most prevalent bodily substance and can be found in every one of the cells that comprises the human body.
If you don’t attribute the right amount of protein into your diet, building and maintaining muscle is impossible.
It’s also important when trying to burn fat because protein has the highest thermic rate of any nutrient. This means you’ll burn extra calories just from digesting it. It also keeps you feeling fuller longer than other foods, making it easier to regulate how much you eat during the day.
Certain proteins are better than others. You want proteins that have a grouping of amino acids that will trigger muscle recovery and growth. One of the most important amino acid is L-leucine, this is believed to cause protein synthesis in the body.
You also want proteins that have the highest percentage of being absorbed into your body after digestion, this is called protein bio availability.
For example eggs and milk are rated as more than 90% being absorbed but only 58% of beans are utilized.
Eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and brain nutrients that people don’t get nearly enough of.
Another great benefit of eggs are their versatility. Scrambled, fried and hard boiled are just a few ways you can prepare them. They can be made in so many ways that you can eat them regularly without feeling like you’re eating the same thing everyday.
Eggs are very high in protein, coming in second on the bio availability chart only being beat out by whey protein.
Egg whites are almost all protein, since the egg yolk is very high in nutrients you should mix whole eggs with egg whites to receive the maximum amount of protein and vitamins.
PROTEIN % 1 large egg contains 6 grams of protein, with 78 calories. 1 cup of egg whites have 26 grams of protein.
Skinless Chicken Breast
Chicken is a staple in any diet or exercise plan. It is a great source of protein, it’s also low in fat and sodium and contains zero grams of carbohydrates.
A serving size of skinless chicken breast is 3 ounces (about the size of the palm of your hand) which contains;
- Only 2 grams of fat
- 0 grams of carbs
- 19 grams of protein
Remember that the preparation method and any sauces or condiments you add can have a huge effect on the nutritional value.
The healthiest way to cook chicken breast is to bake it in the oven or saute it with vegetables.
Cut into strips or leave whole, place in a baking pan with a little olive oil, add cut vegetables and season to taste with garlic and other spices of choice. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 to 50 minutes until an internal temperature of 160 degrees is reached and there is no pink in the middle. There are endless ways to prepare chicken so that you don’t grow tired of it.
PROTEIN % The average chicken breast without skin is about 2- 1/2 servings, so that means you would receive around 47 grams of protein, with only 284 calories.
Lean Red Meat
Chicken and fish are well known bodybuilding staples but red meat contains the highest amount of muscle supporting nutrients of any protein source. It’s loaded with high percentage amounts of creatine, b- vitamins, iron and zinc.
It’s very important to pick the right cut, the wrong choice of steak can quickly go from a top-notch food to a diet crusher.
Consider a 12 ounce cut of ribeye trimmed of all visible fat still has 480 calories from fat alone. The total amount of calories will be around 600.
Can your diet handle this amount of calories in one meal?
You want to pick lean cuts of meat such as;
- Eye of round (protein to fat ratio 7:1)
- Sirloin tip side steak (protein to fat ratio 7:1)
- Top sirloin (protein to fat ratio 5:1)
- Bottom round (protein to fat ratio 4:1)
- Top round (protein to fat ratio 3:1)
- Extra lean ground beef is also a great versatile choice
Protein % One serving of cooked lean red meat (65 grams) contains 25 g of protein, 180 calories and 9 grams of fat.
Another high protein, versatile food group is fish and seafood, which also has dozens of options and different ways to prepare.
Tuna, salmon, halibut, snapper and tilapia, are the most popular choices that contain 26 to 29 grams of protein per 100 g serving. With swordfish and cod containing about 23 gram of protein at the same serving size.
Don’t overlook other sources of seafood including shrimp, lobster and scallops.
One 8 ounce glass of skim milk, also referred to as fat free milk, contains 8.5 grams of protein. nearly 40% of the 90 calories come from protein. Almost all of the remaining calories come from carbohydrates.
Skim milk is utilized by mixing it into protein shakes and incorporating it into cooking methods.
This makes for a protein rich snack. Nonfat cottage cheese has 24 grams of protein per cup, while nonfat Greek yogurt is just under 20. Both options are a great snack options high in protein and calcium.
Milk is made of two proteins, casein and whey. Whey protein is separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by product of cheese making. Whey protein is a complete protein containing all 9 essential amino acids.
This process isolates the whey protein into a powder form, at this point it is actually food in the same way chicken or fish are food.
Whey has the most abundant amino acid profile of all the protein options. It has a very high concentration of L-leucine and the highest bio-availability. It also raises the anti oxidant levels in the body.
Whey in a powder form has versatility and can easily be added to recipes, smoothies and protein shakes to make it into a quick and convenient protein source.
My top 3 recommendations for whey products are
- Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey
- Cellucor COR Performance Whey
- Elite Dymatize Whey
HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD I EAT DAILY
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
To keep this simple I suggest you eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight.
IS A HIGH PROTEIN DIET BAD FOR YOU
Protein has been unfairly blamed for many conditions including kidney damage and osteoporosis. However these claims aren’t supported by science.
If you have an existing kidney problem, a high protein diet will be strenuous and not recommended. Protein has never caused any documented issues in people with healthy kidneys.
In fact, a higher protein diet has been linked to lower blood pressure and help fight diabetes, which are two of the main culprits for kidney disease.
Simply put, once you put the research in. There are no documented cases in which a high protein diet has caused any negative side effects in an otherwise healthy person.
There are a lot of misconceptions about this particular macronutrient and since the 80’s we’ve been told to stay away from all fatty foods if we want to lose weight.
This is true in some ways, fats have 9 calories per gram. This is more than double of protein and carbs which only have 4 calories per gram.
Since fats are dense in calories they need to be monitored closely but it is important to eat the right amount, because they do play important roles in your body.
- Keep testosterone levels optimized
- Enhance brain and nervous system function
- Support your bones and joints
- Strengthen the immune system
The same rules apply to fats that apply to carbs, there are 2 different types of fatty foods and common sense will go a long way in being able to tell which are good and bad.
Good fats, which include monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats, come from plant based sources like nuts, seeds, vegetable oils and fish. These are all important to keep your body working properly.
Bad fats, also known as transaturated fats, are found in highly processed animal based products like meat and dairy. These should be limited in your diet. You should especially avoid processed meats like sausage, bologna and other treated meats.
HOW MUCH FAT SHOULD YOU EAT DAILY
You want about 25% of your total daily calorie intake to come from fats.
To equate this percentage:
First multiply your daily caloric intake by 0.25
This will tell you what 25% of your calories come to.
Now take that number and divide it by 9, since fats have 9 calories per gram. This will tell you how many grams of fats you should eat a day.
- (Daily calories) X (0.25) = X
(X) divided by (9) = Daily grams of fat
Here’s an example of using a daily caloric intake of 2500
- 3000 X 0.25 = 750 (number of daily calories that will come from fat)
- 750 divided by 9 = 83 ( grams of fat to be eaten daily)
The individual in this example would need to eat 83 grams of fat daily.
Simply put carbs are sugar, eating a spoon full of sugar or eating a piece of bread will have the same end result. No matter what type of carbohydrate you eat, your body will eventually break it down into glucose other wise known as sugar.
When you search carbs on the web you’re going to find articles that use words like monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, polysaccharides. Which are long fancy words for different types of carbs.
Or you’ll read about the Glycemic Index which is a scientific based chart ranging carbs from 0 to 100 depending on how fast or slow they raise your blood sugar levels in a two hour period after you eat them.
I’m not saying this information isn’t valuable.
If you have diabetes then the glycemic index is very useful If you’re a personal trainer or professional bodybuilder then breaking carbs down using a scientific approach may benefit you.
For everyone else who is just trying to understand enough to develop a proper diet, the good news is common sense is all you really need.
We are going to break carbs down into two groups.
SIMPLE AND COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES
Simple carbs are the foods you will mostly stay away from. Refined sugar products and processed foods, make up the bulk of this category.
- raw sugar
- soft drinks
Common sense will tell you not to include these foods in any diet plan unless during a cheat meal which is okay once a week.
You can also find simple carbs in fruits, which for the most part are healthy but like anything else in life need to be in moderation.
My recommendation is to get the bulk of your carbohydrate intake around 80% from starchy minimally refined sources that haven’t been over processed. This is where complex carbs come in.
Complex Carbohydrates are foods that haven’t been radically changed from their natural state . Foods in this category will only contain one or two ingredients.
Here is a list of 15 complex carbohydrates
- Oatmeal (old fashioned or steel cut)
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Multi grain hot cereal
- White potatoes with skin
- Ezekiel bread (a better source of wheat bread)
- 100% wheat bread (in case you can’t find Ezekiel bread)
- 100% whole wheat pasta
- Beans and lentils (great for healthy chili recipes)
- Cream of rice hot cereal
- Butternut squash
- Fresh beets
HOW MANY GRAMS OF CARBOHYDRATES SHOULD YOU EAT DAILY
The amount that is left over after you calculated how much protein and fat is in your diet will be allotted to carbs.
This might sound confusing but let’s break it down piece by piece.
Remember calories per gram of each macronutrient
- protein = 4 calories per gram
- carbs = 4 calories per gram
- fats = 9 calories per gram
In our example we’re going to use an individual who weighs 180 pounds and consumes 3000 calories a day.
Since this person weighs 180 pounds he is eating 180 grams of protein a day. Since protein contains 4 calories per gram we’re going to multiply 180 x 4 to get the daily amount of calories from protein, which is 720 calories.
You want 25% of your daily caloric intake to be from fat consumption. So from this example we take our 3000 calories and multiply by 0.25 that number is 750.
Now add the total calories from protein and fats up: this number is 720+750=1520.
We now take our daily calorie number (3000) and subtract the protein and fat calories (1520) from it;
This means 1480 calories a day should come from carbohydrates.
Remember carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. so if you divide 1480 by 4 you get 370.
Your end result is 370 grams of carbs will equal 1480 calories.
It’s easy once you break it down BUT if you find yourself still confused, just read through the article again and more importantly redo your calculation to make sure it checks out.