Nutrition Coaching ~ Macronutrients

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories (energy.)

Calorie: the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water to 1 °C.

Nutrients: substances needed for growth, metabolism, and for other body functions.

Since “macro” means large, macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts. There are three macronutrients: Carbohydrate, Protein, Fat.

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Carbohydrates

Types of Carbohydrates
They may all be broken down and turned into glucose, but all carbohydrates are not created equal. Some are more nutritionally dense than others; different types are digested at different rates and have different impacts on our blood sugar.

Complex carbohydrates

Largely found in whole grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
• They contain longer, more complex chains of sugars and generally also contain some fiber, protein and/or healthy fats, as well as important vitamins and minerals.
o The presence of fiber, protein and fat slows digestion and therefore absorption of those monosaccharides, resulting in a more gradual insulin response as well as increased satiety–both very good things.

Simple carbohydrates
Come from healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy, but also
• Less nutritionally dense foods like refined grains (white bread, white rice and traditional pasta), processed snacks and crackers, sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas.
• While fruits, vegetables and dairy offer good stuff like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and water, refined grains, sweets and sodas on the other hand, lack all of these extra nutrients, which is why they should be limited in the diet.
• Not only do they lack the extra nutrients, but simple CHO will spike insulin more rapidly and leave you still feeling hungry.

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Carbohydrate Metabolism

After eating a meal—CHO are separated from dietary fiber and broken down into 3 monosaccharides (simple sugars)- glucose, fructose, & galactose. These are then absorbed in the small intestine—–enter into the blood stream—(unleaded fuel example), cells only take up CHO in the form of glucose—liver converts fructose and galactose into glucose.
Glucose is transported through the blood stream and is:
1. Immediately taken up by cells and turned into energy
2. Stored as glycogen by the liver and skeletal muscles. Glycogen in muscles is turned back into glucose for energy during exercise and liver glycogen is what maintains our blood glucose levels during short fasting periods, like while we sleep.
3. Converted into fatty acids and triglycerides for long-term energy storage, if consumed in excess

Protein

Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, recover from a tough workout, feel more satiated at mealtime or simply maintain good health, eating adequate amounts of healthy sources of protein is important.

• A crucial component of every cell in the body, protein is used to build and repair tissues (like skeletal muscle, bone, hair, fingernails, cartilage, skin and blood)
• Makes enzymes and hormones.
• Like carbohydrate and fat, protein also provides energy, but because it has so many other important functions and can’t be stored, the body relies heavily on carbohydrate and fat for energy. This leaves protein free to be used for maintaining healthy tissues, enzymes and hormones.

Sources
• Complete proteins have all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids your body can’t make)- these include mostly animal sources- turkey, fish, eggs, beef, chicken
• Incomplete proteins are foods with protein that are generally missing 1 of the 9 EAA. They are usually plant based- legumes, nuts, seeds, etc.

Tips for Making Healthier Protein Choices
• Eat more plant-based proteins. In addition to being great sources of protein, foods like beans, peas, quinoa and lentils, as well as low-fat dairy and eggs, are also rich in other nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
• Choose lean cuts like pork and beef tenderloin. A general rule of thumb when shopping: cuts that have round, chuck, or loin in the name are usually lean. Some cuts may take a bit longer to prepare (try marinating or braising) but if prepared right, they’re equally as delicious as some fattier cuts. Since ground meats are typically high in fat, look for the leaner options, like 90/10 ground beef, which contains 90% lean meat and only 10% fat. And if you’re a steak or burger-lover like I am, feel free to indulge every-so-often, but limit red meat to once or twice per week since it is high in saturated fat.
• Beware when buying ground chicken or turkey. Unless it says 100% ground turkey breast (or chicken breast) on the package, the meat has likely been ground up with the skin and fat, which means that turkey burger may not be any healthier than one made from ground beef.
• If you enjoy fish, aim to eat 3-4 ounces of it twice per week. Frozen or fresh, fish can be a great source of protein. Some–like salmon–are even rich in Omega-3s, a healthy, unsaturated fat.

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Protein Metabolism

Shortly after a meal,
• Proteins are digested into amino acids. These amino acids, or protein building blocks, are absorbed by the small intestine and then distributed to cells in the body.
• The cells take what they need and rearrange amino acids to make new proteins or repair older ones. Because the body doesn’t store protein, once our basic needs have been met, any excess is either used or stored as energy.
• Amino acids may be converted into glucose, and subsequently glycogen, if the body is short on carbohydrates. They may also be converted into fatty acids and stored as fat.
• It’s important to get enough protein throughout the day but it’s also important not to go overboard. Eating excess protein, just like carbs and fat, can lead to undesired weight gain if calories in exceed calories out.

Fat

Fats in the 1990’s got a bad rap and started the craze of the low fat/high CHO diet. Fortunately scientist and researchers caught up with the data and realized there are actually many benefits of fat and that they may not have earned the bad reputation they were labeled with.

Types of Fat
There are four main types of dietary fats–trans fats, saturated fats, mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
Trans Fat
• Most trans fats are synthetically made during food processing.
• To make trans fats, perfectly healthy unsaturated fats are blasted with hydrogen molecules so they look and act more like their saturated counterparts.
• These fats are more stable which means the food products they’re added to will last longer on supermarket shelves, spread easier and are easier to cook with.
• Have been shown to not only increase our bad (LDL) cholesterol, but decrease our good (HDL) cholesterol–a double whammy.
Saturated Fat
• Mostly solid at room temperature.
• Animal derived saturated fat- like red meat and whole milk.
• While some plants like coconuts and avocados are also rich in saturated fats, it’s important to remember that different fats behave differently, even when grouped in the same family. It’s the animal-based saturated fats that we should be most concerned about when watching our intake of these fats because these have been found to increase LDL cholesterol.
Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fats
• These fats are generally recognized for their potential health benefits.
• They’re found in many vegetable and fish-based foods like plant-based cooking oils (i.e. olive and grape seed oils). Ground flaxseed, avocados, olives, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon or mackerel.
• These fats to be liquid at room temperature and work together to moderate things like inflammation, blood clotting, muscle contractions, as well as improve blood cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

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Tips to Maximise Fats:

1. Choose more plant and fish-based fats.
2. Start reading ingredient lists. Avoid those that refer to any ingredient as partially hydrogenated – it’s code for trans fat! Keep your eye out for the biggest culprits–partially hydrogenated oils are commonly found in foods like peanut butter, baking mixes, commercial baked goods like cookies, crackers and cakes as well as some margarines, lards and fried foods.