Have you ever heard of macronutrients? They may be one of the keys to better health.
If you begin researching healthy ways to eat, you will quickly discover that there are a lot of different diets and different ways of eating to choose from today. And there are plenty of people who follow some of the most popular diets who feel that their way of eating is the best way to eat. And for them, that may be true. But that isn’t true for everyone.
The truth is that every person has different nutritional needs. So, while one way of eating may work for one person, another person may require a different balance of macronutrients to be healthy. If someone regularly eats a diet where macronutrient levels are not correct for them, they will ultimately experience symptoms. This is because their body isn’t getting the right nutrient building blocks to fill their needs.
What are macronutrients?
Food contains three basic macronutrients. Protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each one of these macronutrients serves different functions in the body. And all three are required by the body in larger amounts than any other nutrient. Humans cannot survive, even for short amounts of time, without the three macronutrients.
Macronutrients help to provide the body with the energy that it needs for basic body functioning. And macronutrients are used by the body for everything from cellular healing, hormone production, brain health, circulation, growth, and much more. Let’s take a look at each of the macronutrients and what they do in the body.
Each gram of carbohydrate contains four calories and carbohydrates are made up primarily of fiber, starches, and sugars. Carbohydrates come in two simple forms, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down very quickly by the body and are found primarily in food such as sugar, fruits, and milk products. Complex carbohydrates are often rich in fiber. They are not digested as quickly as simple carbohydrates and are often from whole plants, which can make them richer in vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
The body uses carbohydrates primarily for energy. When energy from carbohydrates is not fully used, the body stores the excess in the muscles or as fat for later use. Overconsumption of carbohydrates, especially simple carbs, leads to a roller coaster of blood sugar issues and eventually insulin resistance.
Protein also contains four calories per gram. It is needed for the repair, regeneration, and maintenance of all the cells of the body. Protein contains amino acids, nine of which are essential for the function of the body. But they cannot be produced by the body and must be gotten through diet.
These amino acids act as building blocks. They produce new proteins which are needed for tissue growth and repair. The amino acids also aid in the support of immune function as well as hormone production. While plant-based protein contains some of the essential amino acids, only animal-based protein contains all the essential amino acids. Protein is also used by the body as an energy source.
Fat has had a bad reputation over the past several decades. But despite that, it is essential for good health. Fat contains nine calories per gram. This makes fat more nutrient-dense than protein or carbohydrates. Along with the other two macronutrients, fat is required for energy production. Hormone production requires it as does the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins D, A, E, and K.
Fat supplies important essential fatty acids (such as Omega 3 and Omega 6), which cannot be produced by the body.
There are two main natural types of fat, saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats come primarily from animal sources. Unsaturated fats come primarily from plant-based sources. One additional type of fat, trans-fat, is a man-made, commercially produced type of fat. Avoid this type of fat due to the health risks associated with consuming it. Fat adds flavor to food and helps the body to feel satiated.
Finding the right balance
Everyone needs to consume all three macronutrients to survive and thrive. But it is important to find the proper balance of these three macronutrients. A specific diet may work wonders for one person. But it may leave another person feeling worse than when they began eating that way. Why does this happen? Here’s an example!
Sarah has been experiencing some symptoms such as fatigue and brain fog and has put on a few pounds. She decides to start a lower-carb paleo diet to help overcome those symptoms and thrives. Her fatigue and brain fog disappear, and the extra pounds melt off her body. She feels younger and more energetic than ever! She has lunch with her friend Lydia who is struggling with some of the same issues. Sarah talks about how amazing her low-carb paleo diet has been for her. Lydia decides to try eating that way, hoping to experience the same benefits as Sarah. She begins to incorporate more protein and fat and cuts her carbs.
But Lydia has a different experience than Sarah
After a couple of weeks, she finds that her fatigue is getting worse and she hasn’t dropped any weight at all.
The reason why the lower carb paleo diet worked for Sarah is that she is a fast oxidizing, protein type. Her body burns through carbohydrates very quickly, and she needs to consume a higher percentage of protein and fat to slow down that process. If she doesn’t, she’ll experience a roller coaster effect with her blood sugar levels, which is common for fast oxidizers. Metabolically, Sarah thrives on a larger percentage of protein and fat and a lower percentage of carbohydrates.
But Lydia is not a fast oxidizing, protein type. Her body burns carbohydrates much more slowly. She is a slow oxidizer and a carbohydrate type. Adding more protein and fats to her diet only slows down the rate at which her body uses carbohydrates. As a result, she is unable to get the energy that her body needs to thrive. Lydia would feel better if she reduced the level of protein and fat that she consumed. And increased the number of quality carbohydrates in her diet. A diet rich in vegetables, whole fruits, traditionally process whole grains (if tolerated) and small portions of protein and fat will have Lydia’s energy soaring and help her to thrive.
While the latest “diet” may help some, it is not the answer to good health for everyone. Understanding the body’s individual macronutrient needs is the key.
How do you know what ratios are best for you?
The best way to know the proper balance of macronutrients for you is through Metabolic Typing®. If you want to learn more about how to have Metabolic Typing done for you, contact us for more information. Our FDNthrive practitioners can help you discover which balance of macronutrients is best for your body. The right balance can help you to begin feeling better, have more energy, and put you on the road to restoring your health!