This page is dedicated to the explanation of the mandatory macro nutrients that each of us needs on a daily basis in our diets. These macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein and fats. I will discuss the basic need and breakdown of each just to give you all a basic overview
Carbs are, in my opinion, the most important macronutrient to our diet. Carbs=energy!! We tend to associate this negative connotation with carbohydrates when in reality they are the body’s main and preferred source of fuel that provide energy for everyday functioning and exercise. The body directly uses the monosaccharide glucose (a carb) in order to generate energy for muscular contraction and neural processes, both very important components when it comes to performing muscle contraction for workouts and everyday living. Glucose can be free in the blood or stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. These stores are readily available to be used during exercise and to drive the metabolic pathways that create ATP (energy) needed to generate muscle contractions and movement. If you are performing high intensity or long duration exercise without replenishing carbohydrate stores your body will look elsewhere to get the calories in order to create energy. The time it takes to use fat verses carbs is much less efficient and if your body has its way it will always choose the path of least resistance, which in this case would be to use carbohydrates first. Down side of this is that your body has vast and basically unlimited fat stores verses very limited muscle glycogen and live glycogen stores. So would it be more beneficial to take in a higher fat and less carbohydrate diet in order to optimize fat stores and train to use fat instead of carbohydrates? Well technically it is beneficial to train your body to spare carbohydrates and use fat during aerobic exercise when glucose can be spared, but by taking in a low carb diet you would further deplete your body of its main source of fuel, creating a less than optimal training environment for your body. Your body’s muscles can be fueled by fat for a long period of time but chances are with excess volumes of training and high intensity training a low-carb diet will leave you feeling lethargic and sluggish.
All of that being said it is a good goal to aim for about 40-55% of your daily caloric intake to come from good sources of carbohydrates (like whole-grains, fruits, sweet potatoes etc). Every gram of carbohydrate has 4kcal/gram. So if there is 24 grams of carbohydrates in something your are eating the number of calories in that food from carbs is 24×4 so 96 calories from carbohydrates. Another example: If you are consuming 2000 calories a day and wanting to eat 55% carbs you would multiply .55 x 2000 then you would need to eat 1,100 calories of carbs, so divide that by 4 and you get 275 grams of carbs you need to consume!! On days where you are performing high-intesnsity exercise you may find you need to increase your carbs to replenish what you lost!
In the case of carb depletion, the body turns to fat and protein in order to supply ample energy for movement and to maintain homeostasis. Fat and protein, unlike carbs, cannot readily be used for immediate energy. Fat has to be broken down from its storage form of triglycerides to the form of glycerol and free fatty acids through the process of lipolysis. After this the bodies bioenergetics systems still cannot readily use the free fatty acids without another process called beta-oxidation. Fat is a great source of fuel for long-term and low-intensity exercise but cannot sustain you for high-intensity bursts of exercise. Fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates so to speak. That means, in order to burn fat you must first burn carbs. This does not mean you should stay away from fats, in fact your body needs healthy fats in order to function and protect your bodies internal organs.
All of that being said it is a good goal to aim for about 20-35% of your calories from good fats such as almonds, almond butter, peanut butter, avocado, extra-virgin olive oil etc. Unlike carbs fats actually have 9kcal/gram. So if you eat something with 12grams of fat you have to multiply this number by 9 so you would be consuming 108 calories from fat. So again, if you consume 2000 calories/day and want to consume 20% from fat, multiply .20×2000 and get 400 calories from fat divided by 9 to get that you need to eat 44 grams of fat a day. It is important to make sure that these fats are good fats such as polyunsaturated fats or monounsaturated fats verses trans fat and saturated fats.
Protein can also be used as a source of fuel but is rarely used and not efficient to use. The process of using proteins as fuel is not beneficial to the body. The body can use protein for muscular contractions, however, if you are working out to increase muscle tone or muscle strength it is not most advantageous to break down your proteins and create glucose from amino acids (specifically Alanine, a protein building block) through the process of gluconeogenisis.
All of that being said it is a good goal to aim for about 10-35% of your calories from protein depending on your fitness goals. If you are trying to bulk and put on a lot of muscle you will want to reduce carbs and fats and increase protein but in general most people do not need as much protein as they think they do. Like carbs, you get 4 kcal/gram of protein. So if you are eating a 2000 calorie diet (55% was CHO, 20% was fat, so 25% is left for protein) then 2000x.25 gives you 500 calories from protein or 125 grams of lean protein to eat. You should consume protein from lean sources such as chicken, turkey, or lean beaf. So other non-meat sources that are good include: beans, quinoa, cottage cheese, greek yogurt, etc.
This is just an overview and you have to play with your macronutrients and find what is best for you. Some people need more carbs and some people need more fat, it is a case by case thing that you need to discover for yourself. I hope that this overview is helpful to guide you on your way!!!