Balancing Macronutrients for Energy
Macronutrients, you probably know them as “macros,” include carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each one plays a significant role our health, affecting our energy levels and body composition, our ability to do work and recover from exercise as well as our fight against chronic disease.
Today, we’re going to touch on energy balance and how the kind of macronutrients you choose (for example, minimally processed versus highly processed) and amount of each, can affect our body’s natural ability to control appetite and fullness cues as well as hormones and mood.
Macronutrients and Calories
You’ve heard of a Calorie. Technically speaking, a Calorie is a unit of heat measurement; kcal is used to express food energy, representing a Calorie. Different macronutrients make up different amounts of heat:
- Fat contains 9 kcal per gram
- Carbohydrates contain 4 kcal per gram
- Protein contains 4 kcal per gram
- Alcohol contains 7 kcal per gram
While we lose some of this potential energy through digestion and excretion, our bodies still do a good job of saving much of this energy for the resynthesis of ATP (using about 90% of the energy in our food, actually). But some factors can affect the nutrient and energy content of the foods we eat: soil and growing conditions such as climate and sunlight as well as ripeness at time of harvest (in season produce vs out of season) can affect the nutrient makeup of our produce.
Additionally, the length of storage and how we prepare and cook our food can also impact the amount of energy and nutrients we get from food (cooking, for example, usually makes more energy available, and can reduce the nutrient availability).
The amount of energy required for our individual physiological actions is referred to as metabolism. This includes:
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR)– This is the level of energy we need to maintain vital functions of the body and stay alive.
- Resting metabolic rate (RMR)– Similar to BMR, RMR is measured during rest and takes into account our oxygen consumption which is related to energy production.
- Thermic effect of feeding (TEF)– The very act of eating and digesting will increase our metabolism. Our metabolic activity changes depending on what macros we eat: the thermic effect, or production of heat (proteins tend to have the highest thermic response, fats tend to have the lowest thermic response).
- Exercise activity– Exercise activity obviously varies from person to person. The higher intensity exercise activity, the higher demand for energy transfer during and after the activity.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)– This refers to all our daily life movement that isn’t considered deliberate exercise such as cleaning, playing with our kids, etc.
Why am I going into all this detail?
Everybody’s Macronutrient Needs Will Differ
It’s important to understand that every body will differ in their energy needs and without a proper balance our energy systems can get out of whack. For example, restrictive dieting and chronic stress can both lower our RMR by up to 15% which can affect our body weight as well as our physiological function and cells’ function.
If our energy intake is too low, for example carbs or fat stores are in short supply, our body will turn to protein from our muscles and even other structures such as bone which means that our bodies won’t recover properly. Not good for athletes. On the flip side, if we have too much energy coming in and not enough going out, it can affect our body weight, hormone balance, mental health and more.
We definitely don’t want either of those things to happen.
Macronutrient Balance and Planning Are Key
That’s why a proper macronutrient balance, along with exercise is essential. As a general reference, refer to our post on portions, “Do I Need To Count Macros?” for more information on portion guidelines.
Take the time to plan out your meals for the days ahead and remember to pack enough snacks to ensure you have a good balance of macronutrients.
Sharing Best Practices
Tap into your inner chef today and help others get creative with their food choices to stay balanced.
What are some of your favorite recipes or go-to recipe websites to look for challenge-approved meal ideas?
Also, what are some of your favorite local restaurants in Monmouth County that have good alternatives?
Please share your response on our Facebook page.
If you have any questions about your individual macronutrient needs, set up a free 15-minute consultation to learn more about our one-on-one nutrition coaching.