Intro to Macronutrients

For anyone new to the weight loss journey, the vast number of muscular- looking people promising fast, easy results is overwhelming, and may come as a surprise if you’re unfamiliar with the industry. It seems like every other day someone has a new answer to the never-ending struggle to lose weight.

The countless number of articles, books, and videos can also be intimidating, often leaving people more confused than before. Fad diets are all too common, and workout plans are hard to stick to with a busy schedule.

Removing “this” and adding “that” is a common remedy for nutrition, yet easily refuted by experiments like the guy who ate nothing but Twinkies for a month and lost weight.

Through thick and thin, one fact-based dieting method has outlasted the rest: controlling your portions. It’s also the inspiration for SmartPlate — to track your portion size and make suggestions before you overeat.

“Macronutrients” is a fitness buzzword used to describe the group of nutrients that your body needs most to function. “Macro” simply means the major nutrients your body needs more of, while micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) are needed in far smaller amounts.

A common trend among body builders, cross-fitters, and other athletes is counting macronutrients. Counting macros follows the same concept as counting calories and restricts your intake to a certain amount of that nutrient per day.

Many believe counting and limiting your macronutrients is the path toward optimal nutrition. In fact, the number one cause of weight gain is frequent over consumption. This is why people who start limiting calories often see immediate results — their body is so used to storing over- consumed nutrients, like fat, that the stark decrease in calories shocks the body.

The macronutrients of the human diet are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. They make up much of the calorie count of the food you eat. As a general rule of thumb, every gram of protein is 4 calories, every gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories, and every gram of fat is 9 calories. Let’s break them down:

Carbohydrates

Lately, carbs have been getting a bad reputation. They’ve been labeled as a major cause of the obesity crisis in the United States, and a wave of gluten free followers have created an entirely new market for the food industry. Carbohydrates, however, are your body’s preferred energy source, and are vital for peak performance.

Pros — Carbs are the easiest way to get nutrients into your body; they burn fastest and give immediate energy for our physical and cognitive abilities. Carbs are often used as a ‘fuel’ for athletes prior to high-energy exertion. You’ll often hear about cross country bikers or pro athletes eating pasta dishes the night before the event. Those carbs will be stored in the body overnight and become easily accessible as soon as the body begins to work.

Cons — Eating too many simple carbs can spike your blood sugar, giving you a quick boost, but not sustainable energy. Because simple carbs are so accessible (and cheap), many of the carbohydrates we consume get stored as fat.

Examples of Foods High in Carbs:

Simple Carbs — high in sugar and easily digested, making them the fastest source of energy:

Cane sugar, Honey, Syrup, Candy

Complex Carbs — high in fiber and harder for the body to break down, these provide more long-term energy burn:

Pasta, Whole grains, Oats, Potatoes, Corn, Beans, Lentils

Protein

Protein, a molecule made of amino acids, is a crucial nutrient in building muscle and losing fat. While some amino acids are essential to obtain from our diet, others are produced naturally by our body. To some, animal-based protein is labeled a “complete protein” because it tends to provide all of the necessary amino acids for your body to function daily.

This rhetoric provokes a common misconception in the tness community that vegans and vegetarians don’t recieve the necessary amount of “complete protein.” In reality, lentils, beans, and leafy greens are packed with protein, often having a higher percentage of protein per calorie than other meat and poultry products.

Pros — Protein promotes muscle growth by giving your body fuel to heal the tiny tears made in your muscles during exercise. It’s also necessary for the creation and repair of bones, organs, blood, and even skin.

Cons — Too much protein can be harmful to your kidneys, and will eventually get stored as fat.

Examples of Foods High in Protein:

Meats, Poultry, Fish, Dairy, Nuts, Beans

Fats

Fat also gets a bad rep. However, what many believe to be bad about fat is actually a misconception. Our bodies need fat to function properly, and it’s the type of fat we consume that makes the di erence.

Pros — Our bodies need fat for growth, energy, mood, immune system strength cognitive development, and even weight loss.
Cons — Too much can lead to obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Examples of Foods High in Fat:

Trans fats are the worst kind of fat and should be avoided at all costs. They are found in anything that has hydrogenated oils. High amounts of trans fat can often be found in food such as:

Baked goods, Bread, Fried foods, Microwave popcorn, Margarine (especially in stick form), Cake frosting

Saturated fats are another bad fat, although not nearly as bad as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados. They have been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease by keeping your heart rhythm normal and reducing in ammation. Eating monounsaturated fats over trans or saturated fats helps your body regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, particularly helpful for people with diabetes.

Much like monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats help lower bad cholesterol levels, boost your good cholesterol levels, and can reduce your risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids, another polyunsaturated fat you’ve probably heard of, are especially beneficial to your heart and can fight high blood pressure. High traces of polyunsaturated fat can be found in soybean, corn and flax oil, as well as in walnuts and fish.

Overall, finding the right portions and tracking your food consumption
 is key to seeing real weight loss results. There are plenty of macro- calculators out there that can estimate how much of each macronutrient you should be ingesting, but keep in mind that every body is different and will respond differently to a new diet.

SmartPlate not only takes the effort out of counting macros, but also gives you the closest possible nutritional estimate of the actual food on your plate. Discovering and tracking your macronutrients with the snap of a photo.