The three main macronutrients are protein, carbohydrate and fats. These all play a crucial role in a balanced diet. But what is a good balance? A high fat/low carb diet is a hit; if you want to build or maintain muscle mass you need lots of protein; if you eat carbs you’ll have lots of energy… We hear all this and it might be very confusing… but what is high, what is low, what is a lot? What is the best macro split for your goals?
Each macronutrient plays a unique role in your body’s daily functions.
Carbohydrates: Carbs are broken down into glucose and other monosaccharides in the body. Glucose can be metabolised into ATP (adenosine triphophate) which is a type of cellular energy. This energy helps to fuel exercise and support brain function and cellular processes like nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
The more active you are the more carbs you need to fuel your movement.
“But I’ve heard we don’t need carbs…?”
Fact: carbohydrates are non-essential for humans. An essential macronutrient is one that your body needs but cannot make itself, so it must be consumed in food.
“Your body can survive perfectly well without carbohydrates because the very small amount that is necessary can be produced perfectly well in your liver” says Ben Coomber, the founder of BTN Academy.
BUT just because something is not essential doesn’t mean it is not important. So let’s rephrase the question… are carbohydrates important or not?
It depends on your goal. Carbs are unimportant if you do not have any desire to perform well in high intensity exercise or grow muscle. HOWEVER studies show that it is possible to build muscle on a low-carb diet but there are also many studies that show that consuming the right amount of carbs can prevent muscle loss, help repair muscles and give energy. So it is your choice whether you consume carbohydrates or not. The best thing you can do is to experiment on yourself and see what works for you.
Protein: Protein is an essential macronutrient that supports tissue production and maintenance, organ function and enzyme support. Your body breaks protein down into amino acids and uses them like all-purpose building blocks. Amino acids can power new protein creation, serve as fuel and support tissue production.
Fat: Healthy fats are essential macronutrients. Fats help your body to store energy, transport fat-soluble vitamins and protect your organs.
There are recommendations about the daily intake of each macronutrient but according to Coomber the amount of carbohydrate and fat you eat doesn’t really matter as long as your calories and protein are right.
Of course, if you’re athletic you have to pay more attention to you your fat-carb ratio but even then it doesn’t really make a huge difference if you sometimes eat 300g of carbs and sometimes 400g as long as your calorie intake doesn’t change because you’re making up the difference with fat.
Sure, for a professional bodybuilder or top athlete a carefully detailed diet plan is essential but if you are not one of those all you need to do is:
Work out your calorie needs (use an online calorie calculator)
Work out your protein needs
And let the rest fall where it may on a day to day basis, maybe opting for more carbohydrate rich foods if you’re training hard.
Also, it may help if you read about the basics in the “Eating a balanced diet” article by clicking here.
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