There are three major macronutrients that the human body needs in order to function properly: carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
Nutrients are environmental substances used for energy, growth, and bodily functions by organisms. Depending on the nutrient, these substances are needed in small amounts or larger amounts. Those that are needed in large amounts are called macronutrients.
There are three macronutrients required by humans: carbohydrates (sugar), lipids (fats), and proteins. Each of these macronutrients provides energy in the form of calories. For example:
•In carbohydrates, there are 4 calories per gram
•In proteins, there are 4 calories per gram
•And in lipids, there are 9 calories per gram
This means that if you look at a food label and it lists 10 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of protein, and 0 grams of fat, that food would contain 40 calories.
Humans need carbohydrates in the largest amounts. Currently, the USDA recommends that adults get 45-65% of their daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are incredibly important to the diet for many reasons.
For starters, carbohydrates are easily metabolized, which just means chemically broken down, and used as the body’s main fuel source. All of our bodily tissues have the ability to use the simple carbohydrate, glucose, as energy. When the body uses carbohydrates for energy, it can use other macronutrients for other jobs, like tissue growth and repair.
The brain, kidneys, muscles and heart all need carbohydrates to function properly, and carbohydrates aid in the synthesis of certain amino acids. Furthermore, fats can only be properly metabolized when carbohydrates are present and indigestible carbohydrates, in the form of fiber, are necessary for intestinal health.
Carbohydrates are primarily found in starchy foods, like grain and potatoes, as well as fruits, milk, and yogurt. Other foods like vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in lesser amounts. Carbohydrates can be simple or complex, which refers to their chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates taste very sweet (like fruit sugar), while complex carbohydrates taste savory (like starch in potatoes).
Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate. Since humans cannot break down fiber carbohydrates, they pass through the digestive system whole and take other waste products with them. Diets low in fiber have problems with waste elimination, constipation, and hemorrhoids. Diets high in fiber have shown decreased risk for obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products all contain high amounts of fiber.
Currently the USDA recommends 10% – 35% of calories in the human diet come from protein. The typical American diet contains more protein than is strictly necessary. Proteins are also important in the diet for many reasons.
For example, protein is the major constituent of most cells, making up more than 50% of the dry weight. Also, protein defines what an organism is, what it looks like, and how it behaves, because the body is made of thousands of proteins. Proteins are used to produce new tissues for growth and tissue repair, and regulate and maintain body functions. Enzymes used for digestion, protection, and immunity are made of protein, and essential hormones used for body regulation require protein. Finally, proteins may be used as a source of energy when carbohydrates are not available.
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables. People who consume a vegan or vegetarian diet can get plenty of protein if they keep a balanced diet.
The body breaks down protein into its building blocks – amino acids. There are 500 known amino acids, 21 of which are needed by humans. Of the 21 necessary for life, nine are considered essential since they cannot be produced by the body and must be eaten. Proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids are considered ‘high quality’ proteins. These high quality proteins tend to come from animal sources. Proteins that do not contain all nine essential amino acids are considered ‘low quality’ proteins, and tend to come from plant sources.
Lipids, or fats, are substances that do not dissolve in water, and are necessary for survival. Currently, the USDA recommends 20% – 35% of calories should come from lipids. We need this amount of fat for things like the maintenance of cellular membranes, which are made from lipids. They’re also a high-density energy source and help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins. In addition, lipids cushion organs and insulate the body. Finally, they provide raw materials for vitamin D and hormones, as well as give taste, consistency, and stability to foods and make us feel full after eating.
Lipids are found in meat, poultry, nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products, and salad dressings. There are three main types of fat: saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and trans fat.
Depending on your goals (muscle-building, maintenance, or fat-loss), your Macronutrients intake will require adjusting.
So, the takeaway?
If your goal is to decrease body weight (lose weight), then the simple equation is to expend more energy than you’re consuming. In other words, eat an amount of calories that totals less than what you’re burning in calories for each day.
But maybe it’s not that easy.
Many of my Athletes have NO IDEA of how many calories they’re expending throughout the day. There are a majority of factors that play into BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), which provides us with this information to work from. These factors include, but are not limited to, age, height, weight, sex, occupation/daily life/activities performed throughout the day, amount of aerobic activity performed throughout the day, amount of anaerobic activity performed throughout the day, INTENSITY of these activities, and medical conditions (ie: thyroid disorders).
So what do I wind up seeing happening when my Athletes don’t know their BMR or TDEE and they “want to lose weight”?
They RECKLESSLY decrease the calories that they’re consuming while INCREASING their energy expenditure. I’m talking about a 200-pound female consuming 1,200 calories a day while working out at moderate-intensity for 3-4 days per week.
YIKES. Don’t do that.
For starters, NO ONE (especially females) should be consuming less than 1,500 calories per day. If you’re consuming 1,500 calories per day and not seeing a decrease in body weight, then a few things may be happening:
So what about this 200-pound female who jumped right into consuming 1,200 calories a day? She went into that plan of motion with the best intentions and may have even saw a brief period where she felt her body was responding well (losing weight). But here’s the downfall: She didn’t get herself to 200-pounds consuming 1,500 calories, 1,700 calories, or even 2,000 calories a day. With all factors taken into consideration, it takes approximately 3,000 calories of EXCESS consumption (so this doesn’t include your energy expenditure for the day; if you’re expending 2,000 calories a day, this translates to consuming 5,000 calories a day) for an individual to gain ONE POUND in ONE DAY. Theoretically speaking, if this woman was consuming approximately 3,000 to 5,000 calories a day and then DRASTICALLY cuts her daily caloric consumption to 1,200, OF COURSE she’s going to lose weight, but she’s also setting her body up for substantial hormonal issues; the body cannot sustain healthy life and daily bodily functions on sustained low-calorie consumption, such as that. This is why it’s important to consult with a Fitness Nutrition Specialist who can assess all of these numbers and then design a conservative approach to decreasing that Athlete’s body weight. By doing so in a conservative-fashion, the body does not go into “shock”. It accepts the conservative decrease in calories consumed each day, while keeping hormones in normal range, which translates to no crankiness, lethargy, and certainly no dire consequences. This plan of action breeds SUSTAINABLE weight loss. A conservative approach can translate to a deficit of 300-500 calories a day in energy in vs. energy out. Multiply each by 7 (for seven days out of each week), and that equates to 2,100 calories and 3,500 calories respectively. Now, remember how I said approximately 3,000 calories = 1 pound. If you JUST focus on decreasing your daily caloric consumption to equate to being in a caloric deficit with your TDEE by 300-500 calories a day, you are setting yourself up for losing 0.7 to 1.17 pounds PER WEEK. THIS IS THE BEST APPROACH! I repeat: Do NOT cut calories so drastically. HEALTHY weight loss for a sustainable outcome is NO QUICK FIX. Trust the process, be patient with the process. No good in life comes from instant-gratification (plus, instant-gratification doesn’t build character 😉 )
“Great, Coach Kel. Now I realize the ideal way to decrease the AMOUNT of food I’m eating in order to lose weight. But I want to know how to get the ‘toned and sculpted’ look, not just lose weight and look ‘skinny fat’.”
Here’s where we come back to the importance of tracking and having Macronutrients targets. Just as every BODY is different and requires different daily caloric consumptions, every BODY also requires unique macronutrients targets to propel an Athlete to decrease body fat while increasing lean muscle mass (this is how we create the “toned and sculpted look”).
Let’s dive deeper.
I have an identical twin sister. Our DNA is IDENTICAL. However, we each require DIFFERENT daily caloric targets and macronutrients targets. Even though we’re the same age and have identical DNA, our energy expenditure is very different, our body compositions are different, our body weights are different, our training styles are very different. My macronutrients targets and daily caloric target will be VASTLY different than hers.
This is why it’s important to keep in mind that learning your best friend’s macronutrients targets/diet plan/nutrition plan/how many calories they’re consuming a day means NOTHING for your body and your goals. Applaud that friend for committing to a program, but make sure you’re not simply copying her game plan. You will not have success from it!
Online calculators can be tricky. They provide this false sense of hope and “taking back control” once you learn “your numbers”. But a computer doesn’t really know you, your lifestyle, your specific goals, etc.
If you’re ready to decrease body fat, increase lean muscle mass, and create the “toned and sculpted” look – whether you’re interested in GAINING weight or LOSING weight, your greatest success will come from utilizing a Fitness Nutrition Specialist. Notice how I’m not saying “Get yourself a Nutritionist/Dietician”? They don’t work in the fitness community. They don’t train athletes. They may not be able to understand your health and fitness and AESTHETIC goals are clearly as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist does. Fitness Nutrition Specialists have extensive background in designing and programming effective and efficient nutrition programming for those who are seeking a more active lifestyle and have specific training styles.
Ready to get serious about shifting your body composition?
Kelly O. Fitness offers a variety of Nutrition Packages to fit every budget.
View our Package options here: www.kellyofitness.com/packages
Not sure which package is right for you? Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction.
Spring is only a few weeks away! Let’s feel STRONG, CONFIDENT, and SEXY as we welcome this warm weather approaching.