We hear so many contradicting things about the macronutrients, it’s no wonder people are so confused.
Alcohol is also a macronutrient, but we won’t be covering that in this blog.
The fact that many people would prevent their clients from eating any foods from one macronutrient group, is in itself absurd, yet also shows a slight lack of knowledge around the science of nutrition.
But that’s for another day.
First up, we’ll focus on protein and some of the biggest misconceptions around it that are often relayed back to you.
In no uncertain terms, I want you to be aware that protein should be considered the most important macronutrient in terms of muscle building and fat loss. Without it, both those endeavours would lead to results that I doubt many people would be happy with.
1. Too much protein is bad for your kidneys.
This one just doesn’t seem to go away. If you have no pre-existing kidney issues and you are eating between 2-4g of protein per kg of bodyweight, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. So, for an average 80kg male that’s between 160-320g a day.
2. You can only absorb 30g of protein in a meal.
This is another bogus claim regarding protein. Your body can absorb and utilise whatever amount of protein you eat. It is true that you only need a certain amount to trigger new muscle growth, but the excess is not wasted, or pissed out (as is commonly believed).
3. Protein shakes are bad for you.
Protein shakes contain the same amino acids (the building blocks of protein) as any other protein source. Most of them are just made of filtered milk and have very little else added to them other than some sweetener. You can easily survive without them and reach your goals, but they are cheaper, more convenient and easier to fit into your diet than most other protein sources.
4. You need protein immediately after your workout
This one is a bit controversial. I personally would always try to get protein in as soon as possible after your workout. (You don’t have to have it as soon as you’ve done your very last rep or anything).
But there are some people who don’t track their overall daily protein intake, and just worry about nailing a shake after the gym. Personally, I’d rather someone ate 5 portions of protein a day and a total of 200g, than only ate 3 portions equalling 120g, but one was STRAIGHT AFTER a workout. You build muscle throughout the whole day and night, not just in the hour after your workout.
Now we’ll move onto carbs.
I love carbs, and I hate to see a bad word said about them. They get such a bad reputation from people who usually have followed their own low carb diet, got results and now swear by it. They generally fail to realise that they just cut calories, and assume that their previous lack of results was all the carbs fault.
Which it wasn’t. I can promise you that.
I’m writing this eating a bowl of popcorn. Safe in the knowledge it won’t make me fat.
Imagine the bliss these people could be in, eating wonderful carbs knowing that it’s perfectly safe.
1. Carbs make you fat.
Saying carbs make you fat is like saying “£20 notes make you rich”. Sure with enough of them you can be, but with just one or a few it won’t make a difference. We get fat by eating more calories than we need and we store them. The source of those calories matters not.
You can eat solely “clean” food and get fat. You can eat solely “processed” food and get fat.
Carbohydrate on it’s own, has no bearing on whether you get fat or not.
2. Eating carbs at breakfast makes you lethargic during the day.
Another bogus claim that is thrown around to get people to eat a protein rich breakfast with fats. If you eat enough protein at breakfast, whether you then have predominantly carbs or fats, or a mixture of the two with that, won’t matter. It’s the addition of protein that will help you feel less lethargic.
3. Eating carbs at breakfast means you can’t burn fat during the day.
Just because you eat carbs at breakfast does not mean you won’t be able to burn body fat as a fuel. It’s completely made up, to scare you. If you were in a calorie deficit at the end of the day, but ate all your daily carbs at breakfast, you’d still lose weight. Your body doesn’t work like that and what you eat at breakfast has no bearing on your ability to lose body fat.
4. Eating carbs at night makes you fat.
Poor old carbs can’t catch a break. It seems there is no safe time to eat them. This is the same argument as the breakfast one. If you are in a calorie deficit it doesn’t matter when you eat your carbs. Eating carbs at night can actually help you sleep better and is likely to be a time when you want to enjoy a nice big dinner.
So there we have it, I will always defend poor old carbs because get bullied so much. There is nothing wrong with them and they are arguably your greatest ally when it comes to gym performance and weight loss.
So, now onto fats.
It’s great that fats are no longer vilified as the dangerous macronutrient that we must avoid at all costs, however now the pendulum has swung too far the other way and people seem obsessed with cramming as many of them into their diet as is physically possible.
It’s a great shame that the fitness industry can’t find that happy middle ground and have a decent amount of both carbs and fat, but alas I fear it will never happen and the merry go round between highs and lows of both carbs and fats will just keep going around and round.
So here we go, let’s get the skinny on fats.
1. You can eat as much fat as you want and not get fat.
Good luck with that. That’s a one-way ticket to gaining weight right there. Fats are the most calorific macronutrient and contribute the most to our calorie intake. Not only that, due to their low fibre content, they are also very easy to over eat on. Unlike protein and carbs, fats also have a very low thermic effect. Meaning, it doesn’t take many calories to digest them.
You should keep an eye on your fat intake, otherwise your calorie intake will rocket and you’ll be left unhappy with your results.
2. You must eat fat to burn fat.
This one comes from the fact that as you eat more fat in your diet, your body then burns more fat as a fuel. However, what this fails to appreciate is that the body is just burning off the fat that it is being provided with.
By feeding your body large amounts of DIETARY fat, it has no reason to burn BODY fat. So yes, your body will be burning more fat when you eat more fat, but it isn’t the fat you want it to be burning.
To burn body fat, you must be in a calorie deficit over a period, irrespective of whether you eat carbs or fats.
3. Keto diets are superior for fat loss.
When you calorie match a keto diet, to a normal diet higher in carbs, there is no difference in weight loss. So, don’t go for a keto diet if you think it’s going to be superior for you. If you like that style of eating, then great, you will adhere to it and lose weight. But the chances are you won’t be able to stick to it. Even if you did stick to it, your protein needs to be so much lower than you’d think, as your body can convert protein into carbs, so that’ll stop you being in keto. It’s not worth putting yourself through as there are no fat loss benefits.
Don’t hate on any one macronutrient. We need them all, in varying amounts.
All you need to do is keep an eye on your calorie intake, because that’s going to dictate your results, not whether you omit any of the specific macros.