Welcome to Day 3!
On Monday, we spoke about calories.
Today we’re going to speak more about macronutrients and micronutrients.
What is a Macronutrient?
Macronutrients are types of foods, that are required in large amounts in the diet. They are Protein, Fat and Carbs. They have calories, whereas micronutrients do not.
- Protein has 4 calories per gram.
- Carbs have 4 calories per gram.
- Fats have 9 calories per gram.
The macronutrient makeup of a food determines how many calories it has.
A calorie is not necessarily a calorie (aside for weight loss or gain)
The way different foods affect you is not always the same, even when calories are equal. There’s more to food than simply energy, after all. All food is made up of macronutrients. Some are basically a single macronutrient (e.g. 100% protein) and others are a mixture of 2 or 3 of the macronutrients.
- Protein is more filling.
- Whole foods are more filling than processed foods.
- Single ingredient, natural foods contain the most vitamins and minerals.
- Highly refined carbs make you hungry again sooner and can give you energy spikes and crashes.
You should know by now how many calories you should roughly be eating, and hopefully you’ve been tracking your intake in myfitnesspal and coming in on, or close to, your calorie goal at the end of the day.
I’m sure you’ve already noticed that equal amounts of energy from different foods are not equal in other ways.
Take broccoli and ice cream, for example. 100 calories from ice cream and 100 calories from broccoli are totally different. One is a huge amount, filling a big plate. The other is a few spoonfuls.
One contains well over 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement per 100g (vitamin c is a micronutrient), as well as a load of other vitamins and minerals, while the other doesn’t contain much beyond sugar.
So clearly, we can’t just eat whatever we want as long as it’s within our target calories and get ripped bodies. You’re not going to get far just eating ice cream.
Protein, fat, vitamins and minerals are all important and are used for vital roles in the body like muscle growth/tissue repair, hormone production, immune system, eye health, etc. Energy/calories are not the only thing you need to worry about!
Energy balance governs weight loss and gain, but it doesn’t govern health. For that, you need to pay attention to macro and micronutrients.
Fill your calories with junk food and you’ll lose muscle, be tired, hungry and vitamin deficient – but you WILL lose weight if you have the right energy intake.
This is great news. It means you don’t have to completely eliminate EVERYTHING fun, when you’re aiming to lose fat.
However, you should absolutely focus on proper food 80-90% of the time
If you focus on macronutrients and not just calories you will be more likely to take care of food quality automatically.
Protein is probably the most important macronutrient from a fat loss and muscle gain perspective. If you want to recover from your workouts and build stronger and bigger muscles, you need protein. Those looking to lose fat and build muscle, should have a high protein intake.
The minimum protein intake should be 0.8g per pound of your bodyweight (although not if your bodyfat percentage is very high. Then you can take 0.8g per lb of your target bodyweight.
If you weigh 180 lbs, then you should aim for at least 144g of protein.
If you weigh 320 lbs, you don’t need to eat 256g of protein. Figure out what weight you would be if you were in the healthy BMI range, then eat 0.8g of protein per lb of that weight. Click here to play around with a BMI calculator and work this out.
When you don’t have to worry about food choices, just calories, you can still make choices that make you feel hungry, tired, bloated, lack energy, don’t nourish you, etc.
When this is what you’re eating, you’re far less likely to keep up your good habits.
A High Protein Goal Forces Better Food Choices
When you suddenly have to fit 170g of protein (or whatever your goal is) as well as staying under a calorie goal for fat loss, you suddenly can’t eat cereal for breakfast, pasta for lunch, pizza for dinner and oreos for a snack.
You’ve got to eat more eggs, chicken, beef, tuna, salmon etc. What do you eat those things with? Vegetables and salad, usually. You’ll be getting far more nutrition and you’ll be WAY more full for the same calories. Being stuffed without eating many calories is an absolute WIN for fat loss.
And there’s another amazing thing about protein…
It has a higher thermic effect than other macronutrients. Foods with a high thermic effect are more energy intensive for the body to digest. Your body has to burn more calories to digest these foods! Put another way, you get a discount on the calories in protein! If you want to read more about this, read this post.
One of the biggest mistakes the traditional calorie counting crowd make, is they don’t focus on macronutrients and they don’t get enough protein.
They eat highly refined, processed foods (processing foods also lowers the thermic effect), and try to stay within their target calories. They may succeed for a while, but it’s miserable because they’re not getting to eat much food, they’re not eating nutritious food (and their bodies let them know), and they’re constantly craving more of the food they just ate.
You can buy one of the nicest pizzas from a supermarket and maybe make it fit into your calories, but I guarantee you’ll want to eat more when you’re finished, and it will maybe be 800-1,000 calories.
On the other hand, 800-1,000 calories of real food with a large serving of protein will be an absolute mountain that you probably won’t be able to finish, and your body will have to expend more energy to digest.
It’s a no brainer.
Real foods and high protein is absolutely the way to go for fat loss.
Manipulating Macronutrients Is a Game Changer
A coach can really help you here. If your weight is stalling, there’s a lot of things that can be done by playing around with macronutrients that will help get your fat loss moving again.
When my clients hit a fat loss plateau, I like to go through their nutrition diaries closely and see how accurate their meal tracking looks, see if there’s a bit too much “flexibility” being used, and see if there might be anything to be gained from tightening up food quality, or manipulating the distribution of calories between different macronutrients.
- Customise your macronutrient targets in MyFitnessPal. Put in your protein target from the calculator, and split the remainder between carbs and fats however you like (50:50 or 60:40 towards your preference usually works).
- Continue tracking foods in myfitnesspal, now keeping your protein goal in mind, and try to come within 10% of your protein and calorie targets each day.
If you want to read more about macronutrients and how to split them up, read this.
That’s all for today, post in the Facebook group if you’ve got any questions! Make sure you comment “yes” or “done” on today’s post so I know you’ve got this information.
Speak to you again tomorrow!