The Basic Facts About Macronutrients
Nutrition is simultaneously the most important factor to human health and also the most misunderstood. To be sure, you can easily obtain a massive amount of advice from credentialed experts on the question of what to eat. However, much of this advice is contradictory and most is very confusing. At Optimal Evolution, rather than seeking to add another voice to the noise, our objective is to inform and empower our clients to make decisions about their own nutrition. Understanding the basic science of what is in our food helps our clients to make more informed decisions. One way of understanding how food interacts with our bodies is to understand the macronutrients which make up our food. These macronutrients each have distinct characteristics and therefore are required in varying amounts for different individuals. Foods with high amounts of protein are highly satiating and great for building and sustaining muscle. Foods with high amounts of carbohydrates are good sources of short-term fuel for physical challenges. Foods with high amounts of healthy fats (more on this to come) are great for long term fuel and sustained satiety.
Foods which are high in protein are a great way to stay full and build or maintain muscle mass. Protein the macronutrient most essential to muscle development. In our estimation, protein is the macronutrient most deficient in the standard American diet. Ideally, we recommend organic sources of protein from animal products for both athletes and the general population alike. Examples of foods high in protein are lean ground beef, chicken breast, and Fish (we recommend wild caught). Some may find that certain dairy products are effective sources of protein for them (especially raw milk and yogurt), however many individuals are actually sensitive to dairy without realizing it and may find that eating the amounts required for recommended daily intake will upset their digestive system. Recommended daily intake is typically between 0.8-1.2 grams per lb of bodyweight depending on your goals and activity level. We recommend consulting a coach for specific dietary recommendations.
Although often demonized, carbohydrates are a great source of short-term fuel for exercise and recovery. Most of the confusion and debate around carbohydrates stems from the massive amount of carbohydrates present in processed foods such as sugar, bread, pasta, and baked goods. To be perfectly clear, carbohydrates are not bad and do not make you fat. There are some We recommend whole fruits and vegetables as great sources of carbohydrates, especially pre and post workout. Examples of whole foods high in carbohydrates are pineapple, banana, apples, blueberries, sweet potatoes, squash, and honey. Amounts of carbohydrates required will vary greatly depending on the individual. A great rule of thumb is to plan to consume most of your carbohydrates around exercise and to otherwise use protein sources as the main source of nutrients during the day.
The third and final macronutrient, fat, is probably just as misunderstood as carbohydrates. Fat also does not make you fat and the most modern research shows that fat from organic animal-based foods does not contribute to increased cholesterol or clogging of arteries whatsoever (Malhotra A, Redberg RF, Meier P. Saturated fat does not clog the arteries: coronary heart disease is a chronic inflammatory condition, the risk of which can be effectively reduced from healthy lifestyle interventions. Br J Sports Med. 2017 Aug;51(15):1111-1112. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097285. Epub 2017 Apr 25. PMID: 28442474.) Recently, the popularity of the keto diet has led to increasing awareness around the benefits of healthy fat as a fuel source during long periods of activity or fasting. Specifically, fat can sustain the body during periods when carbohydrates are not available or during long athletic pursuits such as triathlons, ultra-marathons, or multi day hikes. For individuals pursuing general health and wellness, most of the fat consumption in their diet will be a byproduct of protein consumption, i.e. The fat from ground beef, dairy, and fish. Other dense sources of fat from whole foods are avocados, almonds, eggs, cheese (hard cheese and only for those who can tolerate it), cashews, and macadamia nuts.
Perfecting the amounts, timing, and kinds of food which best serve the goals of an individual is truly a lifelong pursuit. This pursuit is supported through working with a knowledgeable and experienced fitness coach; however, the most important factor is learning to understand your own body and how it interacts with the foods you consume each day. Knowledge of macronutrients empowers you to make informed decisions about what foods to eat each day. Our hope is that the basic information about macronutrients inspires you to keep notes of what you eat each day and how your body responds to it. When you are ready to seek guidance in your health and fitness journey, the experienced coaches at Optimal Evolution and ready to guide you down the path.