Key Macronutrients – energy yielding nutrients.
Below are some food choices that have been divided up into Complex Carbs, Good Fats and Protein. These are essential foods that give your body a lot of what it needs for energy, repair and growth.
- Sweet potato
- Brown rice
- Green vegetables
- Wholemeal pasta
- Fibre rich fruits such as apples, berries and bananas
Essential Lipids (Good fats)
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Whole eggs
- Chia seeds
- Dark chocolate
- Chicken breast
- Cottege cheese
- Greek yoghurt
- Lean beef
- Whey protein supplements
- Brussel sprouts
Carbohydrates, in the form of simple or complex, are the body’s main source of energy providing 4 calories per gram.
Simple carbohydrates are those that cannot be broken down into simple sugars. These include various forms of sugar such as glucose and fructose.
Complex carbohydrates are larger and consist of sucrose, lactose, maltose, starch, amylose, and amylopectin.
The human body uses carbohydrates in the form of glucose and can convert both simple and complex carbohydrates into energy very quickly. The liver and muscles store glycogen, a complex carbohydrate that the body can rapidly convert to energy. Muscles use glycogen during periods of intense physical activity.
Carbohydrates have two major roles: they are the primary energy source for the brain and they are a source of calories to maintain body weight. If muscle and liver glycogen stores are full, excess carbohydrate will be converted and stored as fat.
Proteins, also provide 4 calories per gram, are broken down into amino acids, which are the building blocks that we use to grow, repair and replace tissue.
Protein is not generally stored if consumed in excess; however, a large excess of protein can be converted and stored as fat in the body.
Protein is spared for muscle growth and maintenance and other essential functions and is not usually broken down and used for energy. When carbohydrate and fat are depleted, protein can be used for energy. This is not desirable as it causes muscle atrophy.
Sources of protein include meat, poultry and fish, eggs, dairy products, seeds, nuts, beans, and lentils.
Fats, the most energy rich source of food providing 9 calories per gram, play vital roles in hormone production, nerve conduction, organ protection and energy storage.
Fats are stored as adipose tissue, which is fat tissue. This can be under the skin, surrounding organs, or can be stored between muscle cells as free fatty acids. As fats are such an energy rich macronutrient it makes it a very effective fuel source. However, fats take longer to break down into a usable form than carbohydrates so exercise needs to be of lower intensity for fat to be used as fuel.
Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. However, some fats are better than others. Saturated fats increase blood cholesterol, whereas mono-unsaturated fats lower blood cholesterol. Trans-fatty acids are potentially harmful and are used to make baked products, pies, cakes, biscuits and buns. Omega -6 and omega-33 are oils found in fish and can benefit health.
Low intensity, long duration, aerobic activities are usually fuelled by fat where there is enough time to convert fat into fuel. Most food we eat contains a mixture of all three macronutrients. Due to their different roles as well as their different chemical compositions we require different percentages of each in an overall healthy diet.
A very general recommendation is that 45-65% of your daily caloric intake comes from Carbohydrates, up to 10-20% comes from fats and the 20-30%from protein.