There are so many misconceptions about macronutrients nowdays, that people can not tell what's real or not. The term macronutrients is the collective term used to describe proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. We've all heard these terms before and I know that once you read those words, you already had preconceptions of what each one entailed.
“I do not need protein, only bodybuilders need protein.”
“I can not have carbs or fats, they'll make me gain weight.”
Any of these ring a bell? Many of the thought you might have about these macronutrients came from each one being given a bad name. Let's get to know them a little better before we jump to any more conclusions.
PROTEIN IS NOT JUST FOR BODYBUILDERS
People, especially women, are afraid to eat more protein because either they do not want to “bulk up” or they just do not think they need that much. In reality, you should be eating a lean, complete source of protein with every meal. The main objective of the body is to find energy sources for itself. It will attack any part of itself that needs more energy (in terms of calories) to survive and BECAUSE muscle is so calorically dependent and takes a lot to maintain, the body will break it down first to use the glycogen in the muscles for energy and reserve the calories the muscle would use for other purposes. Protein helps in the prevention of the muscles going into that catabolic state (break of muscles) by providing them with the amino acids that they need to sustain themselves.
Not only do proteins help with skeletal muscle, but they are responsible for the integrity for other parts of your body, like your skeletal system and even connective tissues. Proteins are involved in almost all the processes that occur in your body. They play important parts in getting your metabolism up and running, digestion, and creating antibodies for your immune system to use. It helps with the absorption of the other two macronutrients, allowing them to be used up for their main functions instead of being stored as body fat. Protein can even be used for energy if completely necessary, but this process is extremely inefficient and the body will only do this as a last resort. One belief that people have about protein is that it will make them fat, but it all really depends on the quality of the protein that you are eating or what you are eating them with. Another big misconception about protein is that too much of it can lead to kidney problems. This is only true in someone who ALREADY has a pre-existing kidney condition.
Calorically speaking, proteins generally actually have the same amount as carbs, the difference is that while carbohydrates cause a spike in insulin, protein digests slower and has a higher thermic effect than carbs so it keeps your insulin levels steady all day instead of giving you a high and then crash later on. The problem is, most people are not getting the proper amount of protein that they need to maintain the muscle they have. So in other words EAT MORE PROTEIN, but make sure you stick with the leaner meats (ie. Chicken / turkey breast) and try keeping fattier meats (ie. Certain parts of beef and pork) to a minimum.
CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY
One of the biggest myths that people have is that carbohydrates are bad in your diet. While it's true that the process of converting carbs into body fat is fairly simple, the key to preventing that process from occurring is by using up those carbs. The major use for carbohydrates in the body is a quick source of energy, they begin breaking down even as you are chewing them to be converted into glucose for the body to use. Once broken down for use, carbohydrates are used to keep blood sugar levels up giving you more energy. They help with the prevention of the breakdown of muscle by providing the body with the fuel it need instead of looking for the glycogen stored in muscles as its source of fuel.
The biggest problem is that people eat more carbohydrates than they actually need. There's no doubt that carbs are delicious and are a lot cheaper to eat than protein, but there is only so much you can eat before your body starts storing much of it as body fat because it does not need as much as you're giving it. Most people also eat carbs without protein, which, as stated before helps with the absorption of carbs and allows you to keep your lean muscle mass intact.
One thing people do not realize though is that carbohydrates are actually helpful in trying to build muscle. You always hear after a workout that you should eat protein, but with that protein you should eat a source of carbs. And I do not mean go crazy and eat more carbs than protein but getting in the carbs will cause the absorption of protein to be more efficient. Insulin has an anabolic effect in that when insulin levels increase, the body's ability to shuttle nutrients into the muscles becomes easier allowing more nutrients in. So when you consume that serving of carbohydrates with your protein right after a workout, the consequent insulin spike causes more protein to be shuttled into the muscle giving it more opportunity to build and repair the muscles.
Carbs can be a very useful ally when trying to replace fat mass with lean body mass. But knowing how much your body can take in and use properly is the key to making sure that you use it for it's intended use. When eating carbs, the amount and quality is key to making sure that happens.
FATS ARE GOOD FOR YOU
Like carbohydrates, fats are given a bad name because of the ease in which they are converted into body fat. When people think about losing or cutting weight, they immediately look to decrease their fat intake or get rid of it completely. But let me bring you back to 8th grade biology. Do you remember how we learned about the cell? All their different layers and processes they go through? Do you remember what the outer layer of EVERY cell contains? That's right! A LIPID BILAYER (just play along even if you did not remember). So every cell in your body consists of not one but TWO layers of fat around them to separate them from other cells and to act as a barrier for protection. So whether you like it or not, fat is an essential part to your diet. Fats help with a lot of the processes of the body also, like growth, vitamin absorption, and the regulation of other bodily functions. In addition to those, fats help satisfy your appetite and keep you satisfied longer. This happens because they take a longer time to digest and are also a source of energy, so while carbs are the quick source, fats are used for later use.
Again with fats, you need to look at the amount that you intake and quality of the fat you are eating. You are going to benefit much more by eating an avocado or nuts than eating French fries.
CARBS VS. FATS
For each meal, the protein intake can stay reliably consistent, but you have to make sure that you watch your carb and fat ratio per meal. When consuming fats in one meal, the amount of carbs should be lowered, and vice versa. Since they are both used as sources of energy, if you provide your body with too much of each, your body will not be able to use it all up for energy, so the reminder gets stored as body fat. Your body can only use up so much of each macronutrient before it stores it away.
TRIAL AND ERROR
The biggest thing that you are going to have to do is see what works for you and what does not. you can figure out numbers for exactly how much your body might need but your body may process things so much different. So increase your intake of protein, and test out how different fats and carbs work with your body. A general measurement you can use is consuming 0.5 g of carbs and at least 1 g of protein per pound of lean body mass. Start off measuring these first and seeing how your body reacts to it. With fats remember that they are more calorically so so look at the serving size (how many grams are in one serving and how many calories they are) and proportioning them inversely with your carb intake per meal. Remember energy levels after you eat them, if you're feeling nauseous, basically any sort of physiological changes, but keep testing things out because the number of carbs or fats someone takes in may work for them, but it may not always work for you . Do the best you can for your body.