Most of us at this stage realise food isn’t just food! Food is how you deliver nutrients into your body and we need these nutrients to feed the cells and enable various metabolic systems. Our cells are living things that enable us to breathe, grow, lose weight, gain weight, get smarter, heal ourselves from injuries outside, and inside like disease.
The body is a non-complaining machine (generally) , quietly going about its job of extracting and utilising nutrients. If there is a shortfall of nutrients delivered, the body rarely complains until it has used up all its reserves. This could takes days, or months. This is why some diets seem to be the magic pill, making you feel terrific for a few weeks or months or even a year or so, and then, boom…no more back up, and you feel bad. The link to feeling bad to your diet is rarely linked because you only remember how good you felt in its beginning stage. The stage where it was making do as best it could. Much like your car...
If you put that ethanol petrol mix, the car isn’t going to run well for years to come, gradually breaking down and underperforming. However, if from the day you bought the car from the dealer, it had only super premium unleaded in it and has had regular services, the car will run well, economically and the engine will stay in good shape for as long as you desire to have the car. Our bodies are far more important than cars and yet we generally don’t give the quality of food going in more than a passing thought. Imagine if you took a little more care on your diet quality? What do you think your body and face might look like? Stronger, vibrant, lean and positive.
So how do you ‘eat well’? There’s many ways, and means of doing this and everyone on Instagram has their ‘perfect’ diet everyone should follow, but this isn’t true. We are all individuals, humans yes, but we are all made up slightly differently, otherwise we would all look exactly the same and react exactly the same to all foods.
The biggest key in eating well is balance and for that reason this first post is on macronutrients (macros).
Focusing on macros is a very simple way to ensure you are eating a broad spectrum of nutrients and bringing yourself close to your optimal nutritional state without overcomplicating things.
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients (macros) are nutrients the body needs in large amounts. These ,with phytochemical and micronutrients, are what the body breaks down from food to use as building blocks for all its systems and processes. When people refer to macros they generally are referring to carbohydrates, protein and fats (alcohol is another, but thats for a later post)
Making sure you get a balance of each of these macros is an easy and fairly stress free way of eating for optimal health.
The carbohydrates we eat are broken down into glucose molecules that whiz straight into muscles and the brain, supplying us with energy. The type of energy given is dependant on the type of carbohydrate you have eaten. Some will give you super quick energy (think giving candy to a child and watch them outrun Usain Bolt), and the inevitable crash as the energy bottoms out, leaving you searching for another quick energy source. Others, the complex variety like legumes, resistant starches and vegetables, will give you energy that is slower and longer lasting with little to no crash.
You can see it makes sense to have the later and not the former. You’ll note that I mentioned resistant starches. Resistant starches are those that have undergone a slight protein change and are able to be digested better by the body. Resistant starches will provide slow release energy therefore less negative impact on your sugar and insulin levels
Carbohydrates are often called the body’s preferred source of fuel. This is basically true. The body will preferentially use carbohydrate energy, aka glucose, over MOST other sources. When glucose energy is depleted, it will look elsewhere and depending on what is available will preferentially use excess protein for fuel, even breaking down muscle to get it, turning the protein into glucose or use fat for fuel (ketones). This energy preference is a generalisation as metabolism is a little more complicated, but for our purposes today, it is accurate enough.
Now what about fruit, natures sweet?
Fruit is a faster energy source, but unlike other fast sources like lollies, the digestion of fruit is also aided by the micronutrients and enzymes contained within the fruit itself. This is a good reason why you should eat an unpeeled apple and not just the white inner flesh. The peel contains those enzymes and nutrients needed to breakdown the fructose sugars contained in the apples flesh. Most fruit is like that. It is still sugar however, and sugar will always impact the body, so it’s a good idea to stick to one or two serves a day or less.
Although we really shouldn’t play favourites in the macronutrient world, protein is mine. We need protein to survive and thrive. Protein makes up our nails and hair and a large proportion of our muscles, organ tissue. Protein helps to build and strengthen the body. It’s harder to store it as fat as it tends to be used up and any excess excreted through urine. It takes more energy for the body to digest protein than other macros. Another wonderful advantage of protein is that it makes you feel fuller quicker and this satiating effect is very handy when you are wanting to drop a few kilos. Many of us do not eat enough protein, unless you are on a carnivore diet or living on protein shakes.
Proteins are molecules made up of peptide chains that form into amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids in the body and of these 9 are essential ones, meaning the body can not create them and we need to get them from food or supplement sources. The 9 and the amounts of each needed daily are:
• 14 mg/kg of histidine
• 19 mg/kg of isoleucine
• 42 mg/kg of leucine
• 38 mg/kg of lysine
• 19 mg/kg of methionine + cysteine
• 33 mg/kg of phenylalanine + tyrosine
• 20 mg/kg of threonine
• 5 mg/kg of tryptophan
• 24 mg/kg of valine
Meats are the best source for a broad range of amino acids which is great for us omnivores and not as much for the vegetarians and vegans. Plant based eaters can however, with careful planning, get the amount required (although this is a little harder and a broad spectrum amino supplement would be worth a consideration especially while you are on the Fitness Life 8 Week Transformation)
The amount of protein per day is very individual but as a basic starter you would go for as many grams of protein as you weigh in kilos. So 70kg weight = 70 gms of protein a day. If you are over 65 years old, that amount almost doubles as protein isn’t digested as well when we are older so we need to put more in (and lift weights), and this help us to stave off osteoporosis and the muscle loss associated with age. For the older adults I recommend a digestive enzyme taken before each protein meal to aid the body’s digestion and assimilation.
If looking at the grams of protein sounds too hard , no problem! Use the palm of your hand as a size guide and have one serve of protein each meal (two for men or those looking to bulk up)
Fat is not a bad thing at all.
The brain is largely composed of fat. No fat, no brain. Brutal but simple. Hormones are created and balanced using fat molecules too. We need fat to form our nervous system and to transport fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E and K. It also feeds our body with 2 essential fatty acids the body can’t make, omega 3 and 6. Fat is a supplier of energy, and that’s where many of us come unstuck. If we consume too much energy that is not burnt off, and fat being energy dense it is easy to do, the energy ends up depositing itself in various places around the body.
When we think fat, we tend to think of saturated and unsaturated fats which are fatty acids. Triglycerides are formed when 3 fatty acid chains join together with a glycerol molecule. Triglycerides are largely responsible for the fat gained in the body and are the forms to be avoided.
Foods are made of a combination of these fatty acids. No food is just one or the other, although one type can predominate. Eggs for example are around 39% saturated, 43% monosaturated, and 18% polyunsaturated. Research shows that what you combine your fats with can impact whether the fats will have a detrimental health affect or not. Generally saturated fats should be eaten with more complex carbs such as vegetables and a larger proportion of unsaturated fats to maintain balance in the fatty acids intake.
Good fat sources are:
Serving sizes are generally about the size of your thumb, 3 or more times a day.
Putting macros into your meals
Do not over complicate your meals. The above is just to encourage you to choose to eat a wider variety of food sources. The most important thing is to eat whole foods first. Just focus on that. Then tweek the whole foods to make sure you have enough protein, vegetables, some good unsaturated fats and a little saturated fat. Try to add a new vegetable each week and eat protein from a different source. This way you
can be fairly sure of obtaining a variety of micronutrients for your bodies building blocks.
This infographic from Precision Nutrition lays out desirable choices and less desirable. Have a look and see where your current choices sit, how you could make them better and use the serving size suggestions in your challenge booklet.
As always, please reach out and ask if you have any questions. Diets don’t have to be complicated BUT we are all a little different and affected by our lifestyle choices, genes, and environment, so there is no one universal way to eat for optimal health and further down the track you may be inspired to discover the best way for you to eat. If you want to delve further into a more personalised way to eat, contact me for an appointment.
Those on the FitnessLife 8 week challenge, I salute you!
One of our longest serving coaches at FLS Vashti has spent some time this week putting her experiences and thoughts about "Macros" onto paper.
Vashti's experience in the fitness industry is not only vast but filled with incredible successes. She is a qualified cert 4 fitness coach, nutrition coach level 1 and currently studying a Health Science degree in Nutrition and fitness.