First of all, what are macronutrients or ‘macros’ as they are more commonly known? The three main macronutrients are Protein, Fat & Carbohydrates. The foods you eat on a daily basis are made up of different macronutrient combinations.
- Chicken breast – mainly protein with a little fat
- Tuna – mainly protein
- Salmon – mainly protein & fat
- Oats – mainly carbohydrates with a little fat & a little protein
- Rice – mainly carbohydrates with very little fat & a little protein
- Green Veg – mainly carbohydrates & a little protein
- Eggs – mainly protein & fat
All of the above are natural single-ingredient foods, and as you can see they are all comprised of different combinations of macronutrients.
When you are on a fat-loss journey, you may start watching your portion sizes, keeping an eye on your calorie intake each day, however, to progress even further with your fat-loss journey or if you have hit a plateau, it’s time to take a look at your macronutrients intake. You will have to find a ratio of protein, fats & carbs that works well for you and your lifestyle. Of course there is your fibre intake & micronutrients intake that also play a huge role, but that’s another day’s topic!
One of the main things you should know about macronutrients, is how they contribute to calorie count. Each macronutrient has a certain amount of calories per gram in food:
- Protein = 4kcals/g
- Carbohydrates = 4kcals/g
- Fat = 9kcals/g
- Alcohol = 7kcals/g (a separate topic altogether)
This article is going to cover the importance of protein in your diet, how much you should eat & what the best sources of protein are. I will cover the importance of fat & carbohydrates in the coming weeks.
Why is it important?
When I first started weight training a good few years back, I was surrounded by the ‘eat more protein’ hype, and to me at the time, I associated this with the big & bulky men in the gym downing protein shakes before they even finish their last set in the gym! It wasn’t until I actually started researching the importance of nutrition for fat loss & performance, that I began to truly understand its importance.
There are several reasons for us to eat sufficient protein each day, especially for those of us who weight train or exercise at a high intensity. This does not just mean protein powder, which I know many people don’t agree with, however I also know that a lot of these people can’t have a valid reason as to why we shouldn’t consume protein in the form of powder. Some people need to learn to be informed, not just opinionated. We actually rely on protein from food sources to be able to build and repair all of our cells, not just muscles. So, if that means you need the help of a good quality protein powder to add extra protein to your diet, that’s fine! It is called a supplement for a reason, it is not a replacement.
Protein makes you feel fuller for longer, which in turn prevents those cravings you get throughout the day. Be sure to have a good source of protein at each meal – including breakfast! It helps to support your muscles, which then helps support your metabolism – key for fat loss. There is a reason you haven’t heard about many ‘Low-Protein’ fad diets in comparison to the amount of ‘Low-Carb’ & ‘Low-Fat’ diets you hear about on a daily basis! This simply justifies the importance of protein in our diets.
How much protein should you eat?
You should aim to have at least 1.5-2g of protein per kg of your bodyweight every day. For example, if you weight 60kg, you should aim to eat 90-120g protein every day. If you are more active, or weight train, you should aim for the higher end of this recommendation, if not a bit more! If you are quite sedentary, you should still aim for at least 90g per day.
What foods should you eat?
Protein is readily available in natural single-ingredient foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy & beans as well as some high protein foods such as protein bars & protein powders/shakes.
Meat sources include chicken, turkey & red meat, fish including white fish & oily fish, eggs or egg whites, milk, yoghurt, cheese & beans including black beans, kidney beans & edamame beans to name a few.
If you find it difficult to meet your recommended protein intake each day, it may be worth investing in a good quality protein powder or some high quality protein bars to snack on. If you are against protein powders for whatever reason, I have written a previous post on this topic you can have a read here: Protein & Whey – The Low Down
Check back next week for more info on how to calculate your daily fat intake. Again, keep up to date with my health, food & fitness updates on Instagram , Facebook & Twitter: @caloriesandcarbs (see links below).