How Much Carbs, Proteins, And Fats You Actually Need To Be In Great Shape
The health and wellness industry is a multi-billion dollar a year business; you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t like to improve on their physical appearance in some way or another. Most Americans would cite that they’d like to firm up, lose a few pounds, and get in better shape.
In a sea of fitness crazes and nutritional offerings, it can be difficult to decide which fitness pathway to take. Is it time for the cabbage soup diet? What about intermittent fasting? Everyone has heard about the keto craze and how eating high protein, low carb is the answer to shedding pounds and looking great. While people have had success with various diet and workout protocols, no cookie-cutter answer is suitable for everyone. How can we really know what will work best for us as individuals…
What If Calories Didn’t Matter?
What if you could stop counting calories and still lose weight? Health industry experts are now beginning to uncover evidence suggesting that it’s the quality of the food that we ingest, not the quantity, which really matters.
Eating nutrient-dense, high-quality foods with a low glycemic index – such as nuts, eggs, and beef jerky – is more beneficial to the body than loading up on high glycemic foods such as bread, rice, and pasta. In fact, eating those foods with a low glycemic index help to sustain blood sugar levels, and prevent blood sugar highs and “crashes,” which can cause one to feel excessively hungry.
A vicious cycle of loading up on carbohydrate-laden foods and then crashing mere hours later, causing cravings and false hunger pangs, becomes hard to break. People overeat, they become cranky and irritable, and they fall further and further out of touch with their fitness goals. Perhaps a look at the insignificance of calories and a return to eating for nutrient value are in order to attain our fittest selves.
Humans Don’t Burn Calories
We don’t use calories as building blocks for energy. Calories are a measurement of heat given off when a series of chemical reactions are created by nutritional synthesis. The process of converting proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to something we can use for energy is much more complex than a simple heat conversion; there are many other factors at play when it comes to breaking down food particles for energy use.
“Calories” Don’t Fuel Our Vigorous Workouts
The energy that we use for workouts doesn’t come from mere calorie consumption; it actually comes from a nutrient-derived chemical called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Your own body fat provides the most concentrated source of energy to fuel any movement, be it a workout or some vigorous lifting of the television remote. Many athletes practice the art of ATP conversion, whereby they use their body fat to work out without actually ingesting calories for a period of time. It’s not recommended to work out in this manner unless it’s under the supervision of a doctor, as it can put additional stress on the body.
Nutrients Are The Key To Better Health
The reality is, nutrients are much more fundamental to good health than calorie counting, and this is especially significant for those of us with exercise goals. If you focus solely on numbers, you may miss out on key vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that are essential building blocks for cell repair and renewal.
Choosing a package of chips as a pre-workout snack may be smart from a numbers perspective – most single-serving sizes weigh in at around 120 calories – but a pre-game apple is going to take you much farther in your workout, as it contains vital nutrients that your body needs for fuel.
Eating For Svelte And Slim Success
Guess what, folks? The circa-1974 food pyramid recommended by the USDA is out, and new recommendations for proper nutrition are continually evolving. What we’re beginning to realize about the formerly grain-heavy recommendations is that following this style of eating can lead to inflammation, chronic disease, and “fuzzy thinking.” It’s much more advisable to seek out nutrient-dense foods that are going to properly support metabolic processes and provide the energy needed for not only workouts, but daily activities as well. What does this look like?
Macro Balance: Carbohydrates
Here’s the skinny on carbohydrates – the more carbs you ingest, the more likely it is that your body will use these for fuel when it’s needed. This doesn’t allow your body to be placed in a state of fat-burning efficiency. Consuming a moderate amount of high-quality carbohydrates is necessary for energy, but it shouldn’t be the focus of your diet. Again, it’s the quality of the foods that you’re eating versus the quantity that you should be focusing on. Some excellent choices for quality carbohydrates include:
- Wild rice
- Brown or white rice that has been minimally processed
- Quinoa, amaranth, millet
- Non-GMO corn
Avoid carbohydrate sources that have been highly processed, such as bread, cereals, and pasta that cannot be assimilated and used by the body. When choosing carbohydrates, ask yourself if it’s considered a “quick exit food” or one that sticks to your ribs for an extended period of time. This indicator alone should tell you what’s acceptable for carbohydrate consumption if you’re going for your best physique.
Excellent sources of quality protein that can be used for metabolic processes and muscle renewal include:
- Free-range turkey and chicken
- Free-range eggs (yolk included)
- Grass-fed beef, bison, or lamb
- Pasture-raised pork
- Sardines, anchovies, haddock
- Salmon, tilapia, or flounder
- Organic protein powder
How much protein do we need for optimal health and cellular repair? Most health industry experts recommend that people consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Someone that weighs 100 pounds, for example, would aim for 36 grams of protein taken from the above list of high-quality protein choices for best results.
There are some in bodybuilding circles and elite training organizations that believe the more protein, the better, but it’s necessary to mind your nitrogen balance – the rate at which protein is metabolized and expelled through the body via your elimination system. If you’re constantly taking in too much protein and maintaining what’s considered to be a positive nitrogen balance, you’re actually doing damage to your body.
One could write a book on how healthy fat fuels the body – they fuel the brain, lubricate the joints, and provide quick-burning energy for mental clarity and improved mood. Contrary to popular belief, healthy fats do not raise cholesterol levels, nor are they bad for your heart health. Healthy fats that you can consume for optimal health include:
- Coconut oil
- Coconut meat
- Macadamia oil
- Butter from grass-fed cows
- Free-range eggs with yolks
- Fish oil
Believe it or not, if you’re going for optimal health, wellness, and that fantastic physique, you should aim for these ratios of:
- 65% healthy fats
- 20% carbohydrates
- 15% protein, for optimal results.
Not Your Grandma’s Diet
This news could blow the lid off your preconceived notions about diet and exercise, but if you want to achieve a goal of ultimate health and wellness, you sometimes have to shake up your dietary choices a bit. This approach to eating is unlike most other recommendations that have been given to us for the last several years (or decades), so it’s reasonable to feel like your paradigm has just shifted in an instant.
For further reading, check out health and wellness expert Ben Greenfield’s Superhuman Food List for a list of nutritious options that can do wonders for your health. The information in this article isn’t to be construed as medical advice, and you should seek the guidance of your doctor before making changes of any kind.