How to use macronutrients to optimise health sustainably
From low-carb, fat-free to keto, almost every day a new diet book is released attempting to reinvent the wheel when it comes to nutrition. Too often the term ‘macronutrients’ is used to convince people to cut out particular food groups and, yet, they miss the mark almost every time, leaving the reader once again in the dark about which nutrients will truly serve them lasting well-being.
Carbohydrates, fats and protein – these three food groups (macronutrients) are the bricks and mortar that build your house and keep it from tumbling down. The human body relies on these macronutrients for energy and nutrition to keep it alive, while micronutrients are made up of the essential minerals and vitamins required to stay healthy.
In order for the body to be nourished for optimum health, it requires a variety of different macronutrients as one alone simply won’t cut it.
An understanding of the foods we consume is crucial when creating a lasting and successful diet. When it comes to our metabolism, consistency is paramount. To have a positive effect on one’s metabolic health, a consistent macronutrient ratio where an individual’s energy intake is in equilibrium with energy expenditure enables the metabolism to adapt and support overall health.
There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to the different nutrient requirements of millions of people. But, a strong place to start is assessing which ratio will nourish you well enough to preserve muscle mass to burn fat more efficiently and maintain a healthy weight.
Though this is person dependent, a good rule of thumb would be to split your macronutrients by 50% protein, 35% for carbohydrates and fibre and 15% allocated to fat. This ratio, in principle, is a baseline point of which can be adjusted accordingly to meet individual goals and what is realistic.
For now, let’s take a deeper dive into why these macronutrients are the keys to your treasure chest of health and how you can implement them into your diet.
Protein is power
From improving body composition and recovery to increasing lean body mass and satiation, choosing to opt for a high protein diet has significant health gains. Both dependent on activity levels and what is an achievable and sustained protein increase, a person should aim to eat between 1-1.8 grams of lean protein per kg of body weight. To do so creates a metabolic fat loss advantage in comparison to diets that fall substantially short on protein intake recommendations.
While bodybuilders often operate in a league of their own when it comes to protein intake, protein still matters for the everyday person, too. High protein diets deliver essential amino acids that provide our brain, nervous system, skin, blood, and oxygen with the energy structures to truly operate at optimum health.
A diet where protein is priority increases the production of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). These consist of leucine, isoleucine and valine, which are critical for a number of reasons. The most important being that they are not metabolized at all by the liver. In doing so they enter the bloodstream at similar quantities to how they are ingested, offering greater stimulus for the body to respond to.
Leucine, in particular, is unique in its ability to enhance protein synthesis, whereby the body forms new body proteins in muscle to augment weight loss more efficiently while maintaining lean muscle mass. This is especially crucial in working against metabolic stress in the process of ageing and obesity.
Now, one thing should be made clear when looking to meet these protein requirements: you don’t need to break the bank and eat a plate of steaks each day! Protein as a food group is made up of a variety of produce that can be flexibly cooked to nourish you while serving your macronutrient requirements. Protein-rich foods include:
- Poultry – chicken and turkey.
- Legumes – lentils and beans.
- Soy-based products – tempeh and tofu.
- Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens.
Carbohydrates aren’t the enemy
Carbohydrates often get a bad wrap as enemy number one to quality nutrition. The truth is, not all carbs are made equal and, for the purposes of utilising carbs for their benefits, we will place focus on the benefits of dietary fibre. As part of the carbohydrate family, dietary fibre aids regular digestion by providing gut motility to carry a high density of micronutrients through the digestive system.
The role of dietary fibre can also be recognised as being beneficial by sparing dietary and muscle protein from being oxidised and utilised for energy. In effect, this has a synergistic effect with protein by allocating amino acids solely for muscle-building and retentive purposes. This type of fibre equally translates into promoting feelings of fullness to reduce binge eating while lowering blood pressure and gut inflammation.
Opting for complex carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, root and green, leafy vegetables will set you in good stead for a healthy gut – your second brain. That way, you can ensure you can access the fibre and macronutrients that offer overall wellness.
Fat for fuel
Unsaturated fats provide the body with major energy sources. They allow you to absorb minerals and vitamins efficiently to reduce inflammation and prevent issues such as blood clotting, heart disease and high cholesterol.
For long-lasting well-being, polyunsaturated fats are absolutely critical, given that the body cannot produce it – unlike other fats. Implementing omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, such as salmon, avocados and flaxseed, has been linked to greater brain and heart function. Low-fat diets go against a mountain of research backing its importance as a macronutrient and to deny its role will compromise a holistic and beneficial diet.
How to use macronutrients
While most of us are strapped for time when it comes to counting macronutrient ratios with total precision, it doesn’t prevent a solid chance to eat more intuitively and with the knowledge that your body is being nourished correctly to support your lifestyle.
In order to hit the goldmine with your nutrition, it’s important to assess your portions across a week to ensure they contain a solid balance of all the different types of macronutrients to keep your body fit for the fight inside and out. It’s key to remember that, to enjoy the benefits of more energy and vitality through this approach, finding your own ratio that works best for you and can be consistently executed is truly what will unlock your prime nutritional needs.
Stephen is CEO and Co-Founder of Nourish Fit Food, a meal delivery service offering quality, healthy and fresh food that is congruent to body shape goals. Visit nourishfitfood.co.uk or follow @nourishfitfood.
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