It’s Not Just a Fad: Macronutrient Ratios

I’m sure by now you’ve heard that counting your macronutrient ratios is the key to success in your body composition goals. For some reason, that topic has really blown up this year, but many of us in the fitness industry have known that it’s the key to a successful diet for a long time.

Each of the macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrates, are all equally important to your health. One should not be given preference over another, and certainly you should never choose to eliminate one. Here’s why they are important for your body and how much you should be looking to get on the daily:

Proteins

What Are They?

In scientific terms, proteins are chains of amino acids that you literally cannot live without. There are nine essential amino acids that you body cannot produce on its own, and thus, you must obtain them through diet. There are eleven non-essential amino acids that your body produces itself, however, eight of those can be considered “conditional”, as they may have to be eaten to obtain enough of them when you are sick or stressed.

What Do They Do?

With these amino acids, your body produces proteins that are used to form and build body tissues, allowing us to grow, gain muscle, and heal. Protein allows us to move, carry out chemical reactions, and protein messengers provide communication from our body to our brain.

How Much Do I Need?

The average person who is sedentary needs about .9 to 1 gram per kilogram of body weight of protein daily to keep their muscles functioning. Those who are light active and not looking to gain muscle need about 1.2 to 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight. And those who are highly active, looking to gain muscle, or are pregnant should be consuming at least 1.5 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight a day.

Many weightlifters believe that consuming massive amounts of protein daily will benefit them in terms of their muscle mass and strength gain. Anything over 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight is excessive and can lead to harmful effects, including high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure, and colorectal cancer. Also, the body cannot process more than 25 grams of protein in two hours, so eating more than that in one sitting is not helpful in terms of building muscle.

Carbohydrates

What Are They?

By definition, carbohydrates are foods with sugars in them, and from them, your body produces glucose. There are two different types of carbs, simple and complex. Simple are digested quickly and are typically found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products, as well as table sugar. Complex carbs are digested more slowly and are typically starchy and fibrous, like potatoes, beans, and grains. Both types of carbs are important to the diet.

What Do They Do?

Glucose is your body’s number one fuel source, giving you the energy to go about your day. Carbohydrates are also needed to burn excess fat through the Krebs cycle and to build muscles through the process of MTOR, and thus are extremely important in terms of changing your body composition.

How Much Do I Need?

Because our bodies are highly dependent on carbohydrates as an energy source, we should be consuming about 50% of our daily calories from carbohydrates. When we consume less than 25% of our daily calories in carbs, we cause our body to go into ketosis, which is a form of ketoacidosis. This is dangerous because it causes ketones to build up in your bloodstream and creates an acid environment, harming the liver and kidneys.

People who are long-distance swimmers, runners, or bikers should have a higher carbohydrate range, about 60% of daily calories, in order to support their highly active lifestyles.

Fats

What Are They?

Fats are compounds made up of short, medium, and long chain fatty-acids. In the foods we eat, most fats are triglycerides, meaning that there are three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule. There are two main types: saturated and unsaturated.

What Do They Do?

There are two types of unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, and both are beneficial to your health. They increase your good cholesterol and lower bad, they protect the heart, and they produce your body’s hormones. Our body needs these fats to deliver vitamins A, D, E, and K to our different systems, they help protect our organs, and they aid in proper brain functioning.

When you start to eat a lot of saturated and trans fats, you also start clogging your arteries, increasing your bad cholesterol, and working your way towards heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. These are the types of fat that cake on to your organs and usually shows up as hard visceral fat. It not only ruins your appearance, it ruins your overall health.

How Much Do I Need?

After you have calculated your protein and carbohydrate needs, you can figure out how many calories are left over for fat.

Example: I’m 130 pounds. I’m active and looking to gain muscle. I need about 2000 calories a day to maintain weight.

50% of calories for carbohydrates = 1000 calories = 250g carbohydrates (4 cals per gram)

1.5g per kg of bodyweight = 130/2.2 = 59 kg = 89g protein (4 cals per gram)

2000 calores – 1000 carb cals – 356 protein cals = 644 fat cals = 71g fat (9 cals per gram)

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