Carbs, fats & proteins
Updated: Mar 12
Our food sources can be grouped into 3 main types - Carbs, Fats, and Proteins. Most people have heard of them and have a fair idea what they are, but there can be confusion when we are trying to establish how much to eat in our daily food plan. More commonly known as 'Macronutrients', it is important to establish if we are deficient in or excessively eating any of these food groups.
The cast of the 2011 hit TV show Geordie Shore used to have a saying "No Carbs Before Marbs", referring to the starvation of Carbohydrates before going on holidays in order to lose weight. While this was seen as funny at the time, many people still follow this diet as a method of losing weight and putting their body under severe strain and possibly malnutrition in the process. A carbohydrate-deficient diet may cause headaches, fatigue, weakness, difficulty concentrating, nausea, constipation, bad breath and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
All Carbohydrates are broken down into Glucose (Sugar) and used as the main fuel source to provide energy to the body. No Fuel = No Energy so it is important if reducing our intake of this food source to make sure we don't eliminate it completely. Simple carbohydrates are easy for your body to breakdown for energy or glucose. They have 1-2 sugar molecules and are found in items that are usually sweet such as honey, nectar, molasses, milk/yogurt, and a wide range of fruit. Fruit does contain a natural sugar called fructose, however, fruit also contains many vitamins and essential minerals required by our body.
Complex carbohydrates take more time for your body to breakdown. They are long strands of sugar molecules strung together and typically have a savory taste. They are found in foods such as starches and grains: rice, pasta, bread, and starchy vegetables (potatoes, peas, corn). Other plant based foods such as non-starchy vegetables (beans, nuts, and seeds) contain carbohydrates, but in lower amounts. Complex carbs normally contain fiber unless they have been processed, where the grain has been stripped of its bran (outer coating), which gives us white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. These types of carbs become easier for your body to digest. Even though they are not sweet they will release glucose quickly just like a sweet simple carbohydrate.
Protein allows your body to grow, build and repair tissues, and protect lean body mass (your muscle mass). Protein is composed of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 2 types of amino acids: non-essential and essential. Non-essential amino acids are not required to be consumed through the diet as your body can actually make these. Essential amino acids are required through your diet. Protein rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, egg, milk, cheese, or other types of animal by-product foods. These protein sources contain all of your essential amino acids. This does not mean you have to eat animal foods to be healthy. You can get the proper amino acids from eating a variety of plant protein sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy as well as lower amounts in grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Eating fat gets a bad reputation as it is high in calories (9 per gram compared to 4 for protein) but our body requires a certain amount of fat in our diet for a number of reasons. Fat allows you to store energy, cushion organs, make hormones, absorb fat soluble vitamins, and helps with cell membrane integrity. There are three types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat.
Trans fat - Most trans fat comes from hydrogenating unsaturated fats. This produces a hydrogenated oil. These can be found in margarine, shortening, baked goods, doughs, and fried foods. If you see trans fat on the label it should be avoided.
Saturated fat - In large amounts, saturated fat is known to increase cholesterol levels and can increase your risk for heart disease. Decreasing the amount of saturated fat in your diet can be beneficial. Saturated fat is found mostly in animal sources with high fat contents such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, cream, butter, full fat cheese, and dairy. Roughly 5% of your daily calorie intake should come from saturated fat; meaning if your calorie needs are 2,000 per day, only 100 kcals should come from saturated fat. It is recommended that you decrease saturated fat intake and lean towards more healthy fats, known as unsaturated fats.
Unsaturated fat - Unsaturated fats are known as the healthy fat as they can decrease your risk for heart disease. These healthy fats originate from plant sources such as avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olives, and oils (olive, canola, safflower etc.). They can also be found in animal sources such as fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring.
HOW much should i eat??
It is generally recommended to eat the following macronutrient split to achieve optimum results:
PROTEIN: 10 - 30%
CARBS: 40 - 60%
FATS: 20 - 30%
The amounts can be adjusted depending on your own personal needs (adding up to 100%). Just remember that if we are decreasing one then we most increase the other in order to compensate. It is important NOT to remove any of them completely as the human body is an extremely complex system, and starving it of nutrients in one particular area may lead to vitamin/nutrient deficiencies down the line.
You can track your macronutrient intake using MyFitnessPal | MyFitnessPal.com and if you would like help in any way feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org