What Are Macronutrients or Macros?
Here at Revolutionize, our main focus is crafting a sustainable, customized macronutrient breakdown for each client in order to help them meet their body composition goals safely and efficiently. The definition of a macronutrient is “a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms”. With that being said, it’s fairly easy to understand that each macro has a purpose in the human body. Thus, restricting or overconsuming one particular macronutrient, as many fad diets do, can be very bad for our health. We strive to give each and every client a balance of proteins, fats and carbs, based on their goals and lifestyle factors.
Here is a detailed explanation of WHY each macronutrient is essential and what can happen if we restrict or overconsume one macronutrient versus the other.
Proteins are often referred to as “the building blocks of life”, and for a good reason! Amino acids give protein their structure, and protein gives every cell in our body their particular structure(s). Protein helps build and rebuild the cells in our bodies, especially after they are broken down due to exercise. It is essential in order to ensure that our muscles come back stronger the next time around. In addition, protein also helps create hormones and enzymes within the body. It also helps keep us feeling full and satisfied and can keep cravings at bay!
What happens when we restrict it: The major concern is muscle atrophy. Without enough protein, our cells have trouble repairing themselves, especially post-exercise. The muscles in the heart can also suffer if protein intake is severely low. Some other issues that accompany insufficient protein intake are increased weakness and lethargy, changes in hair/skin conditions, anemia, dizziness, decreased libido, vitamin b12 deficiency, edema/water retention moodiness and depression, blood sugar issues, among other things. The two protein deficiency disorders are marasmus and kwashiorkor.
What happens when we overconsume: Because the body does not store protein, excess protein is excreted rather than stored like fats and carbs. Due to this, excessive consumption of protein is taken up by the liver, where it is broken down to eventually be excreted, generally via the urine. Because of this, too much protein can put stress on your liver and kidneys which could potentially lead to issues later in life. Ammonia is also a byproduct of amino acids and excessive protein intake can sometimes cause your urine to smell like ammonia or bleach.
Carbs are the body’s favorite and main source of energy. Eating the appropriate amount of carbs makes our bodies able to perform their best in all aspects, from athletic performance to proper brain and nervous system function. They regulate our blood sugar, fuel our minds (literally), provide the body with fiber & micronutrients, and taste delicious J
What happens when we restrict it: Too few carbs will cause a dip in energy levels, primarily due to inadequate blood sugar (glucose). Brain and nervous system functioning are also impaired and brain fog is a common side effect of low-carb dieting. Lack of carbs can also equate to lack of fiber which can cause your bowels and GI tract in general to be irregular and lead to gas and bloating. Too few carbs can also put the body into a state of ketosis, which is a common feature of the ketogenic diet (a low carb, high protein/high fat diet often used with diabetics). Ketosis is when the body does not intake enough carbs so it switches from using carbs as fuel to using stored body fat (and muscle) as fuel. To some, this sounds like a dream come true, but some of the side effects of releasing those ketone bodies are nasty, and while ketosis itself isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can lead to ketoacidosis, which is a potentially life-threatening complication of taking a low carb diet too far. In fact, ketoacidosis is the leading cause of death in diabetics under the age of 24. Lastly, low carb dieting is not sustainable and studies have shown that over 95% of people who lose weight through heavy carbohydrate restriction will gain it all back.
What happens when we overconsume: Unlike protein, excess carbohydrates are stored by the body. Now this does not necessarily mean that an excess of carbs will be stored as fat, as long as you are still eating in a deficit or at maintenance. However if you’re eating too many calories for your body’s needs, yes the carbohydrates WILL be stored as fat. But given that you’re not in a surplus, excess carbs will be converted from glucose into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles as a secondary energy source. Some other issues you can run into with overconsumption of carbs include digestive issues like diarrhea and bloating, blood sugar spikes & crashes, insulin resistance, diabetes, and crazy cravings. Sugar is a carb, and we all know how addicting that can be!
Fats are the densest of the macronutrients, ringing in at 9 kcal/gram compared to carbs and proteins which are both at 4 kcal/gram. While still incredibly essential, the number of dietary fat you should be consuming will always be significantly lower than your carb or protein macros. Fats are essential for some the digestion, absorption, and transportation of specific fat soluble vitamins. They are also important for protection of the organs, hair skin and nail health, insulation and body temperature regulation/maintenance, and cell functioning in general.
What happens when we restrict it: Due to their caloric density, a too low-fat diet will often also be too low in calories, which is harmful to the body in so many ways when it comes to functioning and energy metabolism. Without enough fats we will not be able to digest, absorb and transport many essential vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and K. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies which are dangerous and have so many negative impacts on our body, including but not limited to brittle/weak bones, poor vision, impaired ability to clot blood, impaired immune function, dry skin, weakness, depression & irritability.
What happens when we overconsume: Due to their caloric density, a high-fat diet can often take a person out of deficit or even maintenance calories and put them into a surplus, which means weight gain! Weight gain, which we all know, is linked to obesity, which is linked to most (if not all) of the major causes of death today, chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. We hear so much about healthy fats like almonds, avocados and whole eggs, which are incredibly beneficial in small, controlled amounts, but when consumed in excess will shoot your daily calories up A LOT. Also, a diet high in animal fats may also be too high in cholesterol which we all know is detrimental to our heart health.