Part 5: Nutrition simplified (macro-nutrients)

If you have a personal trainer, you have probably heard the term “macros” before. Calories in vs calories out might be the main determiner for changes in body weight but the ratio of macronutrients (macros) you eat, also plays a large role. While we can get a variety of micronutrients from eating different coloured natural food, we must also aim to get a variety of macros. In order to get this variety, you must first know what they are.

NB: For the purpose of this program, macros are what makeup Calories. Please note that the quantity of a specific macronutrient (normally measured in grams) is not the weight of the ingredient itself. Chicken breast may be referred to as a protein in a kitchen, but 100g of chicken breast does not mean 100g of protein (protein is the macronutrient). There are actually 31g of protein in 100g of chicken breast (this is quite high); nearly all food has water and consists of more than just 1 macronutrient.

What exactly are the macros?

Protein Every gram of protein is 4 calories. Protein can be considered the building blocks of your body. It’s used to rebuild and repair your body cells, from repairing muscle mass after a workout to strengthening your hair. Your body doesn’t break down or store protein as fat, it only uses what it needs to use and excretes the rest. Protein is most prevalent in meat, eggs, dairy, and fish. It is possible to have enough protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet, but special considerations need to be adhered to. We are not advocating a vegetarian or vegan diet here due to its complexity, our job is to give you enough information in a way that’s not unnecessarily complicated.

Carbohydrate (carbs) Every gram of carbohydrate is also 4 calories. Carbs are used as an energy source. There are different types of carbs but what you need to know is that some break down into energy quicker than others (sugar breaks down quicker than brown rice). The faster, they break down into energy the faster they need to be used (by you exerting energy, for example, through exercise). If the available energy isn’t used, the body will store it as fat and then ask for more carbohydrates when it needs to use more energy again (making you hungry).

Eating carbs that breakdown into energy quickly, therefore, fuels your appetite and is often a catalyst for overeating. Try to stay away from sugary foods as they break down the fastest (especially liquid sugary foods such as fruit juice or fizzy drinks). It’s easier said than done because in general we love sugary foods but don’t worry, sugar cravings stay away, when you make it clear they are not welcome; the longer you go without them, the less you want them (physically and mentally). The best carbs to eat (slowest to release energy) are whole grains or sweet potato. If you have to eat potato, eat the skin too, try not to mash normal potatoes. Complimenting a carb with a fibrous food (such as vegetables) on your plate will further slow down the energy release. The aim is to have enough energy to last you until your next meal. Please note that if you have just expended a large amount of energy then sugary foods have their place but otherwise should generally be avoided.

Fats Every gram of fat is 9 calories (more than double compared to protein and carbs). Therefore, it is easier to eat too much with this macro than the others. That being said, FATS ARE VITAL AND YOU NEED TO EAT THEM. They are also an energy source, they will be used after carbohydrates are used for their energy, however. Fats make up part of our cells and fats are therefore used to repair and grow new cells. We need fats to transport and absorb vitamins A, D, E and K around the body. Omega 3, 6 and 9 are fats that are used by the body to control inflammation, balance cholesterol, stimulate hair growth, regulate the metabolism, etc. Fats also play a huge role in developing vital hormones such as testosterone. Below suggests the healthiest way to eat some different fats.

  • Rapeseed is best uncooked.

  • Olive oil is good uncooked or cooked.

  • Animal fats are good for cooking at higher temperatures.

  • Avoid processed and human-made trans fats.

  • Don’t overdo it on the coconut oil, it’s still a saturated fat.

  • Butter can have its place in your diet (it’s unhealthy when it's cooked/browned).

Alcohol – This is also a macro but isn’t essential and is often counter-productive towards health goals, it’s probably best avoided. We need to be realistic however, having a few drinks can be fun. Please note that if you choose to have a few drinks this should be in place of your weekly treat. Alcohol is 7 calories for every gram, it also obstructs the body from using the energy it has just consumed (which then gets turned to fat). Mixing alcohol with sugar, therefore (especially in liquid form) is a road to fat gain. Drinking alcohol also reignites your sugar cravings the next (few) day(s). If you are going to drink as your treat, try to keep check of how many drinks you are having, try to keep it minimal and realise that if you’re not making progress, it’s probably because of the weekend drinks. Try to avoid sugary cocktails, beer, or sugary mixers (if you have to have a fizzy mixer, go for diet).

The picture below should help you understand how much of each macro your dishes should consist of according to your goals. Use our ready meals as a guiding point for how much to have in practice. Our HPLC dishes are the pie on the right, they are for weight loss. Our HBL (and hbs) dishes are in the middle.This image represents 3 macro nutrient ratios. 1 for bulking, 2. for maintaining your size and 3. for weightloss

How to simplify this into practical terms

When you make your own meals, please refer to the photo’s you have uploaded on Facebook of our dishes once plated. Look at how much space the meat takes up of your plate, how much space the rice takes up etc. and put roughly the same amount on there. Most veg are mostly water (not potatoes or carb veggies) so you can go heavier with these as long as they aren’t full of sauce or oil. If you are putting on too much weight you then (as previously mentioned) you would need to remove some food off your plate next time. According to the macro pie chart pictures above, you might want to take off some carbs and add a little more protein. Have patience and you will find your Goldilocks point.

    This extract is 1 part of our food behavioural reconditioning program. This program comes with activities, support, recipes and delivered meals organised to help you get on top of your health goals once and for all. To find out more about our comprehensive programs, click the button below.