What’s the scoop on MACRONUTRIENTS

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So you’ve put together a weekly fitness plan to get yourself in shape for the summer. Great! Maybe you want to put on a bit of muscle, lose a little fat, or maybe you just want to maintain your current figure. Whatever it may be, you’re on the right track. But you’re still a little confused on what exactly your body needs in order to reach your goals. 

 

We’ll break it down a little further for you so we can take you from point A to point B in the easiest and simplest way possible. Let’s start with understanding exactly what macronutrients are. MACRONUTRIENTS are composed of three different subcategories: carbohydrates, protein, and fats — just like water, all three are essential for our bodies to function optimally.

 


CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are molecules composed of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, and they are the ‘preferred’ fuel source for our bodies – but not the only one. They are broken down into glucose, a simple sugar, and absorbed into the blood, where they provide us with the energy we need to get through our day.

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Without delving into a bunch of scientific explanations of what these are, simple carbohydrates are made of one or two linked sugar molecules that are broken down and rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, providing us with a quick source of energy. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are composed of many sugar molecules linked together, and are more difficult for the body to break down and absorb. Therefore, they provide a steadier stream of energy, as well as a good dose of dietary fiber.

So, who cares about carbs and why do we need them? Well, let’s start with a few important reasons

1. The body burns glucose for fuel, which is a product of carbohydrate breakdown. 

2. They are used as a food source for good bacteria in the intestinal tract, helping to prevents dysbiosis (an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the GI tract)

3. They contain fiber, which regulates elimination processes and removal of toxins (we’ll talk about this a little later)

4. They provide the body with stored energy; excess carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, which is broken down into glucose whenever we are in need of sugars to supply the body with energy.

It’s important to understand that while some people include carbohydrates in the diet, others choose not to. The “good carb, bad carb” debate is a tricky one, but each of our needs are different, and we must listen to our bodies and fuel ourselves accordingly. If you choose to make carbohydrates a part of your diet, it’s important to choose wisely. As a general rule, opt for complex carbohydrates over simple ones — think whole grains, root vegetables, brown rice, etc. Complex carbs – particularly ones with a low glycemic index – will prevent a rapid spike in blood sugar and a subsequent crash.

Here are a few good options to choose.
• Most non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, onions, green beans, cabbage)

• Starchy root vegetables (sweet potatoes, rutabaga, turnips, celeriac, carrots)

• Whole grains (if including gluten in the diet)

• Quinoa, brown rice

• Legumes (chickpeas, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils)

• Lower-sugar fruits (citrus fruits, stone fruits, apples, figs, bananas)  


PROTEINS

Protein is a non-negotiable part of our diet; it’s the building block on which all of our muscles are built. However, not all protein needs to come from animal sources. Plant-based proteins are a popular, and often less expensive, choice to fulfill your daily requirements. Let’s take a look at some of the important functions that proteins play a role in 1, 2. 

1. Repair and maintenance — the building blocks for many tissues of the body and are involved in their maintenance and repair

2. Energy — provide a secondary source of energy

3. Hormones — involved in the formation of hormones that control body responses (for example, insulin controls our blood sugar)

4. Structure — provide support for the body (keratin, collagen, elastin)

5. Enzymes — control the rate of chemical reactions in the body (for example, digestion)

6. Storage — storage proteins hold amino acids in the body for later use

7. Antibodies — specialized proteins that are involved in defending the body from foreign invaders (antigens) via travelling through the bloodstream

8. Movement — contractile proteins are used to contract muscles and allow our bodies to move

9. Transportation — carry molecules around the body (for example, hemoglobin is used to carry oxygen through the bloodstream)


Amino Acids Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. When it comes to breaking down the structure of protein, there are a few key things to know. There are 3 types of amino acids: essential, nonessential, and conditionally essential. This means that our bodies can produce some amino acids from precursor molecules, but cannot produce others.

Essential amino acids are the amino acids that our bodies cannot produce on their own and therefore must be obtained through food. The nine essentials include phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, histidine, lysine, and the branched-chain amino acids isoleucine, leucine, and valine. 

Non-essential amino acids are aminos acids that can be formed in the body from other molecules, and are therefore not needed from dietary sources. The five non-essentials include alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid/glutamate, and serine.  The last group of amino acids we have are called conditionally essential amino acids. These are amino acids that can normally be synthesized by the body, but under certain circumstances may be needed through the diet (for example, during times of stress or illness). The seven conditionally essential amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, taurine, and tyrosine.


The three types of amino acids are important to remember, especially if you’re a vegetarian. This is because plant-based protein sources are not generally ‘complete proteins.’ A complete protein is a source that contains all nine essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts. An incomplete protein is one that’s missing or low in one or more of the essential amino acids. To make a complete source of protein, we must combine sources that balance each other out in amino acids — one source that is low in an amino acid, with another that is high in that same amino acid. For example, legumes and grains often have complementary amino acids, so we can combine them to create a complete protein

1. Beans +

• Brown rice

• Nuts and seeds

• Grains

• Corn

 

Brown rice +

• Beans

• Peas

• Nuts and seeds

 

Other grains +

• Peas

• Peanuts

• Legumes

• Leafy greens

Other complete sources of animal protein to include in the diet are organic, grass-fed or pastured (if possible) meats like chicken, turkey, beef, and pork. Wild-caught seafood like salmon, halibut, sardines, and mackerel provide a good hit of protein, as well as important omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Organic eggs are also a good source of protein and fats to include in the diet, and are incredibly versatile. 

While it is best to get our nutrients through whole, minimally processed foods, sometimes we just don’t have the time we need to cook an entire meal. In those cases, we can use all natural protein powders. NATUREAL offer a Natural Whey Protein Powder, derived from high-quality proteins and amino acids to enhance stamina for peak physical performance. Combined with your liquid of choice, and handful of fruit, and some greens, it gives you a high-protein, nutrient dense meal for on the go.  


FATS / LIPIDS

There’s an ongoing debate playing out about whether fat is bad. Studies are showing that fat is not the enemy, but rather a vital component of our diet that plays a key role in the prevention and treatment of many diseases. However, you need to pay careful attention to the kinds of fat you’re consuming.

Want to know why fats are such an important part of our diet?

1. Fuel — burned for energy when glucose stores are diminished

2. Insulation — act as thermal protection and shock absorption

3. Membrane components — part of the cell membrane and myelin sheath (nerve impulse conduction)
4. Hormones — foundation for many endocrine hormones, including cholesterol

5. Body signaling — eicosanoids, derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids, are used in cellular activity

We’ve all heard that there are certain types of fats that are harmful to the body, and certain types that are beneficial. There are two main types of fats we’re going to focus on here: saturated and unsaturated.

Saturated Fats

Fats are comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules. When all the carbons are taken by a hydrogen atom, the fats are said to by saturated. These include short-chain fatty acids from butter, dairy products, coconut oil, and palm oil; medium-chain fatty acids, which are strictly man made; and long-chain fatty acids from animal and milk products. 

Unsaturated Fats

Comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen as well, unsaturated fats differ in that they are missing two or more hydrogen atoms, causing a double bond between two carbons and rendering the molecule unsaturated (not completely full of hydrogens). There are three main subcategories of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated omega-3, and polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids.

Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, almonds and almond oil, avocado, and macadamia 3. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like safflower and sunflower oil, hemp, soy, sesame, borage oil, walnut, and animal products. The two well-known subcategories of omega-3 FA’s are those we often take in supplement form, as fish oils. EPA and DHA are crucial to obtain through food or supplements, as we cannot produce them ourselves. They are found in coldwater fish like mackerel, sardines, salmon, halibut, and trout. EPA and DHA are used for different functions in the body, so the ratios may differ depending on the need. For example, you may want to take in more EPA if you’re looking to reduce inflammation, aches, and pains, whereas you would increase you DHA if you’re supplementing for brain health 4. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in foods including flax oil, hemp oil, and walnuts. It’s important to keep in mind that omega-6 fatty acids are generally consumed more frequently than omega-3, so it is crucial to maintain the correct balance — aim for a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, but not higher than 3:1. 

Why are EFAs so important? They are responsible for body functions that keep us alive. These include:

• Facilitating oxygen transfer into cells

• Hemoglobin production (component of red blood cells)

• Cell membrane components

• Recovery from fatigue

• Conversion of lactic acid (prevents muscle cramps)

• Cell division

• Component of DNA

• Prostaglandins (control inflammation in the body)


WRAPPING UP

So, while there are only three macronutrients, they aren’t as simple as just carbohydrates, protein, or fat. In order to properly fuel our bodies, we must understand the purpose of each of these macronutrients and how different choices will have different impacts on our bodies and the way we function. 

 

 

 

 

 

References
1 IHN (2017). Nutrition and Health: The Fundamentals [Course notes]. Toronto, ON: The Institute of Holistic Nutrition, FN001.
2 Paula, E. (2017). Six Primary Functions of Proteins. Retrieved from https:// www.livestrong.com/article/511643-six-primary-functions-of-proteins/.
3 Dolson, L. (2018). A Guide to Monounsaturated Fat Sources and Their Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfit.com/monounsaturated-fat-2242011.  
4 Omega-3: EPA vs DHA. (2017). Retrieved from https://ottchiropracticnw.com/omega-3-epavs-dha/.
5 Omega Fatty Acids – Proper Ratio Is Key. (2018, January 22). Retrieved from https:// www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/omega-fatty-acids-proper-ratio-key/. 

 

Tiffani Smith