Macronutrients

Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body requires in large amounts in order to keep functioning. There are three categories of macronutrients — carbs, fats and proteins.

The macronutrient composition of the food you eat affects how hungry or full you feel, your metabolic rate, brain activity and hormonal response.  With clean eating, the aim is to eat in a manner that provides you with the most optimal micronutrient composition.

From a nutritional standpoint, all food is not created equal, and all calories are not created equal.

For example,100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of doughnuts contain the same amount of energy (100 calories), but they affect your body much differently.

You can eat a full 4 cups of broccoli to reach 100 calories – and that will also provide you with eight grams of healthy fiber.   On the other hand, you’ll take in 100 calories eating just 1/2 a glazed donut (medium sized), and the calories come largely from unhealthy refined carbs, sugar and fats.

Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods

Foods that are nutrient-dense contain high levels of nutrients but are relatively low in calories.  Nutrient-dense foods provide you with healthy fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutritional ompounds like phytochemicals.

Nutrient dense foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats and fish, eggs, beans, legumes .

Many nutrient dense foods are also rich in fiber and contain a high water content. Water and fiber help keep you feeling full and satisfied.  Since you feel much less hungry when you eat this way, you eat fewer total calories throughout the day.

Clean eating is all about eating quality food.  Remember: what you are putting into your body determines what your body ends up being made of.  Its the only body you have. Take care of it!  Understand the importance of this now, before its too late.  When it comes to what you put into your body, say no to junk and yes to quality. You’re worth it.

Eat High-Protein Foods

Protein is an important component of every cell in the body.  Its also an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.  Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals which you need to survive.

This is why protein is so important in your diet. But when it comes to protein, its about quality, not quantity.  Eating a larger volume of protein is not the thing to do (in most cases)  – its about eating the right type of protein, in the right amount.  Most people will benefit from focusing on getting their protein from better food sources.

For instances, eating a T-bone steak at every meal will have you consuming a lot of protein, but that’s not necessary, nor is that amount of red meat good for you. Frankly, even one 8 ounce steak a dinner is more protein that your body needs and will also provide you with a high amount of artery-clogging saturated fat as well.

Instead, small servings of lean chicken or fish several times a day, in the right combination with other foods, will provide the type and amount of protein that your body will truly benefit by.

The typical man should be consuming about 7 ounces of lean protein in a day, and the typical woman should consume about 5 ounces of lean protein per day. This should be spread out over 5- 6 small meals in the day, and should always be eaten with a serving of vegetables and a complex carbohydrate for some of those meals.

Children between the ages of 2 and 6 should have 5 ounces of lean protein in the day, and children older than 6 years should have six ounces.

Protein promotes feelings of fullness, helps maintain muscle and has the highest thermic effect, which means you’ll burn more calories simply digesting protein than the number of calories you will burn when you eat carbs or fats.

Look for lean animal-based sources like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. You can also get your protein from plant-based sources like soy, grains and certain vegetables, including green peas.

Protein shakes or meal-replacement beverages are also a good option in between meals or in place of a meal to increase protein intake, but primarily your protein should be coming from whole foods.

Problems with High-Protein Diets

There are several popular high-protein/low carb diets that have become very widely known.  A lot of people have jumped on the high-protein/low-carb trend believing that the more protein the better.  But nutritionist and health  experts caution against many of these high-protein/low-carb diets because of the specific chemical change that occurs in the body with such diets, leading to weight loss.  When you eat lots of protein but too few carbohydrates, your metabolisms goes a state called ketosis. You may have heard of the Keto diet.  This is where the name comes from.  Ketosis means the body stops burning carbs for fuel and begins burning its own fat.  When fat is broken down, small bits of carbon called ketones are released into the bloodstream, resulting in increased energy. Ketosis, which also occurs in diabetes, tends to suppress appetite, causing you to eat less, and it also increases the body’s elimination of fluids through urine, resulting in a loss of water weight.

That all sounds good, but the problem with high protein/ low carb diets like the Atkins diet or the Keto diet is that this type of diet causes the body to produce ammonia when it breaks down protein.  This concerns medical professionals because the long-term risks of higher levels of ammonia in the body are not known.  so while such diets may produce a short term weight loss benefit, there is a very real risk of long term health consequences.

There is also a concern that High protein diets may lead to osteoporosis.  According to Deborah Sellmeyer, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Center for Osteoporosis at the University of California at San Francisco, studies have shown that people who eat high protein diets typically excrete excess calcium in their urine, indicating that the body is releasing  calcium into the bloodstream to counteract an increase in acids caused by protein consumption (calcium neutralizes, acids). Calcium loss over time leads to osteoporosis.

And then there is the obvious concern that many of the high protein meats recommended in these popular high protein/low carb diets are usually also high in saturated fats, which increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer.

The body does need carbohydrates to function well. Going no-carb, or going too far with low carb, deprives the body of an important macronutrient group that it requires in order to function well.

The American Heart Association warns: “Reducing consumption of [carbs] usually means other, higher-fat foods are eaten instead. This raises cholesterol levels even more and increases cardiovascular risk.”

Eating a high protein diet can be safe for up to 6 months.  But it should not be a permanent eating pattern or long term lifestyle.  And by now, most of us know that lifestyle changes are what is required to bring about permanent  changes in our bodies. Short term quick fixes don’t lead to lasting effects, and often bring with them negative side effects.

Protein can be converted by the body into glucose for energy, but it takes twice as much effort as converting carbohydrates or fats into glucose. The extra effort translates into fewer calories available.  High-protein diets increase a feeling of fullness and  decrease hunger. They do produce weight loss results for up to six months, but Dr. Frank Hu, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University School of Public Health warns that after six months these types of diets begin to lose effectiveness.  Dr Hu explains that this is because it is difficult to adhere to this  pattern of eating for the long term, and also because the body evnetually adapts so biologically, the dieter loses their ability to keep losing weight or to maintain the weight.

Choose Your Proteins Wisely

The type of protein you eat matters when it comes to successful weight loss (or weight maintenance) and in your overall health.

Eating processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats, have been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colorectal cancer, Hu says. You’ll have a harder time maintaining weight loss if you eat these proteins often, and you may be damaging your body.  Processed food tends to have a slowing effect on the metabolism.

Nutrition experts widely recommend getting dietary proteins from the following sources:

  • Fish: Fish offers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and, in general, less fat than meat.
  • Poultry: You can eliminate most of the saturated fat by removing the skin.
  • Beans: Beans contain more protein than any other vegetable protein. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber that helps you feel full for hours.
  • Nuts: One ounce of almonds gives you 6 grams of protein, nearly as much protein as one ounce of broiled ribeye steak.
  • Whole grains: A slice of whole wheat bread gives you 3 grams of protein, plus valuable fiber.

Additional Notes:

  • Lean ground Beef: Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, can be eaten at one meal, once a week if desired, but should not be consumed daily.
  • Lean pork with fat trimmed and removed:  Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, can be eaten at one meal, once a week if desired, but should not be consumed daily.

Carbohydrates

Despite all the talk about low carb and no carb diets,

Carbohydrates are all about energy and are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, breads, pasta, and dairy products.

Your body uses these foods to make glucose, which is your body’s main energy source. Glucose is a type of sugar that can be used right away for energy or stored away to be used later.

The Best Macronutrient Ratio for Weight Loss

A recent trend in weight loss is counting macronutrients.

These are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts for normal growth and development — namely, carbs, fats and proteins.

On the other hand, micronutrients are nutrients that your body only needs in small amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.

Counting macronutrients is similar to counting calories but differs in that it considers where the calories come from.

This article reviews the best macronutrient ratio for weight loss and why diet quality matters.

Calorie Intake Matters More Than Macronutrient Ratio for Fat Loss

When it comes to losing fat, how much you eat matters more than the amounts of carbs, fat and protein in your food.

In a one-year study, researchers randomized over 600 overweight people to a low-fat or low-carb diet (1).

During the first two months of the study, the low-fat diet group consumed 20 grams of fat per day, while the low-carb group consumed 20 grams of carbs per day.

After two months, people in both groups began adding either fats or carbs back into their diet until they reached the lowest level of intake they believed they could maintain.

While neither group had to consume a certain number of calories, both groups reduced their intake by an average of 500–600 calories a day.

At the end of the study, the low-fat diet group lost 11.7 pounds (5.3 kg) compared to the low-carb group, which lost 13.2 pounds (6 kg) — a mere difference of 1.5 pounds (3.3 kg) over the course of a year (1).

In another study, more than 645 overweight people were randomly assigned to a diet that differed in proportions of fat (40% vs 20%), carbs (32% vs 65%) and protein (25% vs 15%) (2).

Regardless of the macronutrient ratio, all diets were equally successful in promoting similar amounts of weight loss over the course of two years (2).

These results and others point to the fact that any reduced-calorie diet can cause similar amounts of weight loss in the long term (3, 4, 5, 6).

Summary Research shows that you can lose fat regardless of your macronutrient ratio. Moreover, different macronutrient ratios do not significantly affect how much total fat you lose in the long run.

Calories Don’t Explain the Whole Story

A calorie measures the amount of energy a particular food or beverage contains. Whether from carbs, fats or proteins, one dietary calorie contains approximately 4.2 joules of energy (7).

By this definition, all calories are created equal. However, this assumption fails to consider the complexities of human physiology.

Food and its macronutrient composition can influence how hungry or full you feel, your metabolic rate, brain activity and hormonal response (8).

So, while 100 calories of broccoli and 100 calories of doughnuts contain the same amount of energy, they affect your body and food choices much differently.

Four cups (340 grams) of broccoli have 100 calories and pack eight grams of fiber. Conversely, just one-half of a medium-sized glazed doughnut provides 100 calories, largely from refined carbs and fats (9, 10).

Now imagine eating four cups of broccoli in one sitting. Not only would it take a lot of time and effort to chew, but its high fiber content would leave you feeling much fuller than eating one-half of a doughnut, in which case you will most likely eat the other half.

As a result, a calorie is not just a calorie. You should also focus on diet quality to increase dietary adherence and fat loss.

Summary Calories supply your body with the same amount of energy. However, they differ in how they affect your health and ability to stay on track with your diet.

The Importance of Diet Quality

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you burn.

By doing so, you force your body to draw energy from its current stores (body fat) regardless of the carb, fat and protein makeup of your diet.

Once you create a calorie deficit, it’s important to account for the types of foods you’re eating as some are more diet-friendly and nutritious than others.

Here are some foods and macronutrients to focus on along with some to limit.

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