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January 29, 2020 5 min read

Macros for Newbies: The Importance of Macronutrients for Your Health

A balanced diet requires the consumption of macronutrients, in fact, they are the basis of a healthy diet. Macronutrients are represented by 3 large groups: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These 3 substances are responsible for energy intake and vital metabolic processes such as training of muscle tissue and DNA synthesis.

In this article, you will find everything you need to know about macronutrients.

 

How much energy do macronutrients provide?

Energy refers to the ability of each macronutrient to generate an action (work) in the body. It is quantified in calories (kcal). The importance of energy is that there must be a balance between caloric or energy intake and caloric expenditure, this represents the amount of energy necessary for your body to fulfill the basic functions.

Women between 25 and 50 years of age require on average 1900-2000kcal daily, and men between 25-50 years require on average 2400-2500kcal daily. If you'd like to calculate your exact macronutrient requirement, visit our free calculator here

A caloric intake below your requirements produces a deficit. That can be great if your goal is to lose weight; however, if your goal is to maintain your weight, you must modify the intake of your macronutrients. If there is a caloric intake above the expense this translates into an increase in weight due to the excess of energy, this accumulates in the form of adipose tissue. (1)

The balance between the calories consumed and the metabolic rate will determine whether there will be loss or weight gain.

The calorie deficit (consume fewer calories than your metabolic rate) will make you lose weight

Excess calories (consume more calories than your metabolic rate) will make you gain weight.

 

The number of calories provided per macronutrient:
Carbohydrates: 4 kcal per 1 g
Protein: 4 kcal per 1 g
Fat: 9 kcal per 1 g

 

Carbohydrates: "To Keto, Or Not To Keto"

Carbohydrates are the largest energy providers in terms of physical and mental activity, they represent the first source of energy for the body, especially for the brain, this happens because they are substances of easy absorption, the goal of carbohydrates is to generate glucose to be used as the main energy substrate for metabolic functions,

Carbohydrates that are not transformed into glucose are stored in the liver in the form of glycogen, this will be available during prolonged fasting periods and will serve as a source of glucose through a transformation process called gluconeogenesis.

 

Classification of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are classified according to the number of carbon chains present in their conformation.

Monosaccharides: These are called simple sugars; they are represented by sugars and refined pasta and flour.

  • Disaccharides: They are the result of the union of 2 monosaccharides; they are represented by sucrose, lactose, maltose, the human body has enzymes responsible for the digestion of these sugars when there are absence or deficiency of these enzymes, pathologies such as intolerance to lactose.

 

  • Oligosaccharides: They are also the result of the union of several monosaccharides, but in their structure, they have alcohol molecules, they are an important part of the membrane and cell signaling processes.

 

  • Polysaccharides (or complex carbohydrates): They represent the longest binding of monosaccharides; their main function is the energy reserve and provides stability to cell membranes.

 

Polysaccharides are called complex carbohydrates because they can be broken down into simpler carbohydrates such as disaccharides, some common polysaccharides are amylopectin (vegetable starch), glycogen, inulin. (2)

Recent studies indicate that carbohydrate intake in an average adult should be between 40 to 65% of total daily calories.

Ideal carbohydrates should be complex because they take longer to break down and be absorbed; this can lead to lower insulin elevation, longer satiety due to its high fiber content, and, therefore, better control between the proportions of food consumed and the time intervals between each meal. (3)

 

Complex carbohydrates that you can consume to improve your diet

  • Fruits: Plums, avocado, figs, pears, and grapefruits
  • Vegetables: Spinach, chard, leek, artichokes, cabbage, paprika, asparagus, beans
  • Legumes: Peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas, alfalfa, couscous, soy
  • Cereals and grains: Quinoa, corn, barley, brown rice, oats, wheat germ.
  • Tubers: sweet potato, potato, pumpkin.
  • Whole-grain products: Especially those products derived from whole grains such as cornmeal, oatmeal, bran, whole wheat flour, muesli, sorghum.

 

Limit the consumption of simple sugars

Simple sugars are refined and ultra-processed products, their nutritional value is poor, high in calories, and little satiating effect.

It is not necessary to eliminate the consumption of sugar from your life, but you can reduce its intake to a minimum, leave them only for special occasions such as outings or celebrations.

 

Common simple sugars are:

  • Refined sugar
  • Refined flour
  • Sweet
  • Soft drinks and juices of processed fruits.

 

Proteins

Proteins are formed by linked chains of amino acids. The human body contains a total of 20 different amino acids.

Amino acids fall into three categories: essential, semi-essential, and non-essential. The organism is not able to form amino acids by itself; therefore, it must be provided through the diet.

Proteins are macronutrients because they are vital; they are responsible for fulfilling metabolic, endocrine, and immune functions, they also make up the different support tissues such as skin, connective and cartilaginous tissues, muscle fibers, hair, and nails.

60% of the proteins are stored in the muscles. Proteins are not a quick source of energy; their main function is to form support structures and participate in biochemical reactions.

Like carbohydrates, there is a standardized daily protein requirement; proteins must represent approximately 30% of your daily diet; these must be proteins of high biological value. Want to read more about a high protein diet and its safety? Check out our recent article here

For every pound of weight, your body needs 0.36 grams of protein. That is why, for an adult of 154 pounds, his protein requirement will be approximately 70 grams of protein. (4)

 

High-protein foods

Foods of animal and vegetable origin have proteins of high biological value.

The difference is based on the capacity that they have to be used by the organism, being those of high biological value the most useful.

  • Proteins of high biological value: Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, and red meat.
  • Proteins of low biological value: Legumes such as beans and chickpeas, nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts, whole grains such as rice, and whole-grain pasta.

 

Fats

Lipids (fats) are in solid condition (butter, coconut fat) or liquid (vegetable oils). Fats represent 20% of the daily nutritional requirements are present in 3 forms: Phospholipids, Triglycerides, and cholesterol.

The human body needs unsaturated fats to regulate the metabolism and to maintain the elasticity of the membranes. Unsaturated fats also improve blood flow and are important for cell growth and regeneration.

Healthy oils, nuts, some fruits, and bluefish provide essential fatty acids such as Omega 3 and 6 that are involved by lowering cholesterol levels and lipid deposits at the arterial level, also provide fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E and K.

Fats can be of animal and vegetable origin; it is recommended to consume those of natural origins such as those found in blue fish such as trout, mackerel and tuna, and vegetable origins such as avocado, nuts, and olive oil.

Fatty foods should not be suppressed from the diet; they represent an indispensable portion of a balanced diet due to their participation in cell membrane stability, brain activity, skin maintenance, and hormonal synthesis. (5-6)

 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218769/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459280/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4224210/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28298271
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fat/art-20045550
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28854932

 


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