Forgive me if you are already clued up on this stuff, but there might be readers who do not know the science behind these things called calories. I want to share with you the ‘basics’!
Okay, so there are three macro nutrients
Each of these macro nutrients provides calories, but they vary in the amount of calories provided.
- Carbohydrate = 4kcal per 1 gram
- Fat = 9kcal per 1 gram
- Protein = 4kcal per 1 gram
20g x 4kcal = 80kcals.
I have read that a lot of companies will ’round up’ the numbers on their labels and therefore the calories may not actually match the macro nutrients.
Despite what you might hear/believe you need all three of these macros in your diet, I’m talking the likes of Atkins where carbohydrates are the enemy. I actually had a friend follow this diet once (for a about a week) and she arrived at my home only to tell me she had a bowl of heavy whipping cream for breakfast…I may have been obese but I thought this was a very odd and unhealthy diet!
Let me answer a couple of questions I have been asked…
“Why shouldn’t I be cutting out carbohydrates? I don’t do any exercise so I don’t need the energy…”
So after I had little meltdown (privately in my head) about this question I had to think of how I would answer this in the clearest way possible.
Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of fuel, carbohydrates are turned into glycogen and this is what the tissues and cells in your body will use for energy. If you are not exercising then you don’t need as much carbohydrate in your diet, you know we won’t be pre-loading for a marathon, but I would not suggest removing it because the effects of low carbohydrate diets can be very dangerous.
We seem to think that its harmless if we start to get bad breath, or headaches a few days into a low/zero carbohydrate diet, it’s part of the ‘package’, it is expected and we have to just stop whinging.
No, you have every reason to complain, let me tell you if you start getting headaches, or your body stops functioning properly because of a diet you are on, then you probably shouldn’t be on the diet!
“I have been told that in order to lose fat, I need to stop eating fat…”
Firstly, fat doesn’t directly make you fat and not all fat is ‘bad’. Some fats are essential like Omega 3 – this is essential as it cannot be made by the body. A gram of fat, whether it is saturated or unsaturated, is higher in calorie than the other macros (scroll back up to see the numbers).
Fat will also help the body absorb vitamins A, D and E, for example if you take a vitamin D supplement you should take it with your biggest meal of the day as the amount of fat in that meal will help to absorb the vitamin.
And then there is protein, such a misunderstood food group, I could write an entire blog busting myths!
Protein is a part of every cell and tissue in our body including muscle. Our bodies are continually recycling proteins and the protein we eat helps to repair and rebuild the broken proteins. Protein contains essential and non-essential amino acids, and these amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ to our body. Like before essential amino acids are ones that are essential to our body, yet our body cannot make them and we must get them from the foods we eat.
A complete protein is a protein which contains all the essential and non essential amino acids, other foods like grains contain some amino acids but not all of them. It is possible to combine foods to provide the body with a complete protein source.
So how much protein should you be eating?
From my experience a lot people don’t even think about how much protein is being consumed in their diet. I know I used to go a couple of days without consuming a complete protein source!
You don’t need to be taking protein shakes or buying protein bars unless you wish to supplement, you can get enough protein in your diet through meat, fish, yoghurt, egg whites, seeds, nuts, milk products etc.
It is recommended that between 10% and 35% of your daily energy intake comes from protein, however if you are looking to gain muscle mass you want to be aiming for 1.2 grams to 1.7 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So an individual weighing 80kg should be aiming between 96g – 136g of protein per day.*
Does consuming too much protein make you bulky?
No. As females we do not have the hormones to become ‘bulky’, protein will aid in building and repairing muscles which have been broken down during resistance training.
This is why a majority of people who are resistance training will supplement with protein and use protein shakes or bars. After I finish a workout I ensure that I consume at least 30g protein within 20 -30 minutes, the easiest way for me to do this is in the form of a shake!
This is the basic understanding of calories/macro nutrients that I did not get taught as a kid, I only started to understand the science behind what I eat three years ago! It really scares me how misinformed we are about food and what we eat.
*Referencing ACSM and NHS