Obesity Resource Center
Macronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in large supply to maintain its growth and development. Studies show that macronutrient intake can have an impact on weight loss or gain in the same way that a nutritionally balanced or imbalanced diet would. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are considered macronutrients (and are also considered to be varying forms of energy that the body needs to function). All three are significant when it comes to satiety, overall energy, fat storage, muscle building, and metabolic function.
Carbohydrates are one of the body’s main energy sources. An adequate carb intake, coupled with enough physical activity to burn this added source of fuel or to convert this energy to the development of muscle mass both represent the proper utilization of carbohydrates. On the other hand, an overconsumption of carbs, without enough physical activity causes the build up of glycogen stores in the body, ultimately becoming excess fat storage.
There is also a major difference in the quality of carbohydrates consumed. White, refined, or processed carbs will quickly raise blood sugar levels, while complex, fiber containing carbs such as beans, legumes, and many fruits are nutrient dense which stabilizes blood sugar levels and promotes weight loss.
Protein is a major building block in cell formation and its amino acids facilitate the health of many of our hormones, enzymes, and other molecules. A high protein intake can be ideal for many reasons. Protein keeps you feeling full and satiated, while helping you burn more calories in general. Our bodies need protein for bone health, muscle retention and skin health. Protein is most commonly found in meat, dairy products, nuts, and certain grains and beans. Only proteins from animal sources are considered complete proteins which provide the necessary amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own. Dietary protein is necessary since the body does not store protein like it does other macronutrients.
Fat is another source of fuel for the body that aids in vitamin absorption, and is also a major contributor to brain and heart health. There are major misconceptions about fats, given they are associated with weight gain and heart disease. However, healthy dietary fats are necessary for maintaining good health and can in fact, lower the risk of heart disease, Alzheimers, inflammation and a host of other common conditions. Fats are typically broken down this way:
Omega-3s (found in Flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, mackerel)
Monounsaturated fat (found in Olive oil)
Polyunsaturated fat (found in nuts and seeds)
Saturated fat (found in red meat, dairy, butter, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil, ice cream).
Saturated fat has had a bad reputation for many decades, with researchers linking it to heart disease and early death. In recent decades, it has been found that many countries around the world with high saturated fat diet (Sri Lanka for example) have some of the lowest heart disease rates in the world. This may be due to their high use of coconut oil which contains linoleic acid. Despite some conflicting research, medical experts maintain the recommendation that saturated fats should be consumed in moderation.
Trans fats (vegetable oils, partially hydrogenated oils, vegetable shortening). Trans fats are normally found in the majority of processed foods and snacks. Chips, crackers, prepackaged meals, and fast food are just a fraction of commonly consumed foods that may have trans fats.
Trans fats are generally manufactured, and have been used for decades to add to the taste and texture of certain foods. Little was known about their impact on bad cholesterol, heart disease and the development of type 2 diabetes until the 1990s. In 2013, the FDA determined that trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils are generally regarded as not safe for human consumption. Trans fats should be avoided entirely, which means checking labels and avoiding fast food chains that do not disclose nutrition information.