be weightless

Log In

Member Login Area

Login Help

10/7 2014
10/7 2014

Understanding the Macronutrient Puzzle

Posted By: Julie Felsher Tags: Nutrition

Did you know that humans can live without food for 4-6 weeks, without water for 3-5 days and without air for 3-4 minutes?

The dictionary defines macronutrient as " a substance (as protein or carbohydrate) essential in large amounts to the growth and health of an animal."   Macronutrient focus is usually around protein, carbohydrates and fat and how each of these categories are used in the body.  I'd argue that there are two additional macronutrients that are often over looked.   Water & Oxygen.  I'd also argue that understanding the macronutrients individually is important BUT . . . we can't overlook how these things work together.  They're a team!

CARBOHYDRATES are the primary source of energy for the body. 

When people think of carbohydrates, they often consider bread, pasta and cookies.  Many believe that carboydrates are "bad."  NOT TRUE!  Carboydrate is essential for energy, fat metabolism, and communication within the body.  Guess what . . . plants are carbohydrates!  Vegetables, whole fruits, grains and beans are all reallly great sources of COMPLEX carbohydrates which simply means they are made up of at least 3 units of sugar.  Think of a puzzle.  The more peices it has, the more complex it is.  The more complex, the longer that puzzle takes to complete.  

SIMPLE carbohydrates are just one or two of those sugar puzzle pieces which means that sugar gets absorbed very quickly into your system.  If you think of carbohydrate as fuel for the body, doesn’t it make more sense to eat more of that complex puzzle, with all of the pieces, as it would last a lot longer and not leave you wanting more?

The other often-misunderstood component of carbohydrates is fiber.  We need adequate fiber in the diet to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut, boost immunity, move waste efficiently and even pull toxins from the system.  Soluble fiber (meaning it dissolves in water) has been shown to lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. We get that valuable fiber by consuming complex carbohydrates in the form of PLANT FOOD! 

We get soluble fiber in foods like beans, grains, bananas, berries, broccoli, mushrooms and even nuts (just to name a few.)  Insoluble fiber does NOT dissolve in water, which means it goes right through the digestive tract.  I like to think of this kind of fiber as little scrub brushes cleaning up the system.  It adds bulk to our stool, eases constipation and aids in weight loss.

Great sources of insoluble fiber are whole grains, bran, skins of fruits and vegetables, green beans, celery, cauliflower and avocados (again, to name a few).  It is recommended that adults take in 45-50 grams of fiber per day so it’s time to stop fearing carbohydrates and start enjoying the many health and weight loss benefits to eating complex carbohydrates!

PROTEIN is the building block of our entire body.

From hair & nails, muscles, skin, eyes all the way down to the cellular level, your body is literally made of this macrocnutrietn.  Protein informs metabolism, hormone and body chemistry and intitates a signal within the body to release stored fat.  So it makes sense if we want to heal or shift the body, we need to pay some attention to protein.  

Protein is can influence appetite, muscle growth, fat storage, organ function, vision, mood, healing, and metabolism, among many other things.  

Protein is built from amino acids which can be either essential or non-essential.  Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and yet the body needs them so we must get them from our diet.  The body can produce non-essential amino acids so long as we take in the right food sources for it to do that important job.  

Some great sources of protein are meat, fish, eggs, quinoa, nuts, lentils, dairy products and lots of vegetables.  Many people overestimate their need for protein, especially with popular high-protein diets beging touted in the media.  The body can only use so much at one time and excess protein consumption is stored as fat in the body.  It’s recommended that your daily protein intake be between 8-10% of your total calories.  

FAT is critical for health, survival and weight loss.

As much as our culture seems protein obsessed, we are just as FAT phobic.  Everywhere you look, fat free alternatives to foods are available.  We’ve been taught that fat makes us fat and sick and this is a very important thing to un-learn.  Fat is part of every cell in our body. Our nervous system depends on fat.  And fat transports nutrients & regulates our body temperature (among other things.)

Where we get in trouble is when we consume artificial or modified fats.  Fats from whole foods like coconut, fish, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds is highly beneficial – even critical for health and survival.  

There is much to discuss when talking about fat but there are 2 things that come up frequently that are critical.  The first is Omega 3 and Omega 6.  People hear about the need for Omega 3 but may not understand what that really means.

In our modern culture, many people consume high amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids.  These fats are found in processed foods, soy, seeds and some nuts.  Omega 3s are found in flax & pumpkin seeds, chia, hemp, green leafy vegetables and fish.  What is more important than how much of these fats we take in is the RATIO of omega 3 to omega 6.  

The current ratio for many Americans is as high as 20:1 when it should actually be between 2:1 and 4:1.  That’s a HUGE difference.  An imbalance in the ratio of these fats leads to inflammation in the body (the root of so many symptoms and illness) obesity, resistant weight loss and even diabetes.  

Your body depends on a balance of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  Move closer toward this balance by taking in more fish and less meat, more flax, chia and walnuts and less peanuts and consider taking an Omega 3 supplement like hemp oil or a high quality fish oil.  .  

The other thing people worry about when it comes to fat consumption is cholesterol.  Cholesterol has gotten a bad wrap with so much media attention focused on drugs that reduce cholesterol.  We need some cholesterol or we would be dead.  Sex hormones, production of vitamin D, and the balance of inflammation all depend on cholesterol in the body.  

When looking at cholesterol we want to make sure that we have plenty of GOOD (HDL) and less of the BAD (LDL.)  We can boost good cholesterol by consuming good quality fats, exercising regularly and increasing our intake of fiber.   

The body depends on a blend of carbohydrate for energy and fiber, protein for building, repair and cellular function and fat for protection, regulation and balance. 

Don’t forget about air and water as valuable nutrients as well.  For the body to function properly, to be able to use protein, carbohydrates and fat, it needs water.  Water lubricates the joints, balances temperature, carries toxins out of the system, and is necessary for the transportation of nutrients to every cell in our body.  When people are dehydrated, they can tend to overeat because the body is simply not able to get the nutrients it needs from the food taken in so it asks for more.  Taking in half of your body weight in ounces of water is a great way to make sure that you stay hydrated and functioning optimally.  

Of course, none of this matters if we aren’t able to breathe.  Breathing supplies our blood with oxygen so that we can utilize the energy from carbohydrate and fat in the body with our muscles, cells and brain that are built from protein.  Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is sometimes referred to as the "rest & digest" system.  Taking your time to breathe during meals enhances digestion so that you feel more satisfied from the food you eat.  

Now, go outside, breathe some of that fresh air and let you body to the brilliant work it's designed to do!