For all of you who are confused about macros, and I know that's more than one or two of you, macros are one of the biggest questions I get asked. They are confusing. I was confused about macros not that long ago. It's hard to really wrap your head around what they mean and how it all works.
**If you'd rather watch then read scroll to the bottom for the video version!
There's just so much out there talking about how much we're eating or what time we're eating. Even people who have been working through my program for weeks or months, it's still, "Oh, I'm eating at the wrong times," or, "I'm eating too much." They forget that that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. It's all about the macro.
We tend to think of food traditionally as food groups because we've been taught, we've been trained, to look at food as food groups, right? There's dairy, and there's grains, and there's meat and meat alternatives, and there's fruits and vegetables, and there's fats and oils.
Traditional nutrition says we need to have an X amount of servings of each food group a day in order to be "healthy" and whatnot.
We don't do food groups in my world. I don’t teach people to do food groups, because food groups don't make any sense. What if you’re allergic to grains? What if you can’t tolerate dairy? When you eliminate one of the groups it basically all breaks down. Then what?
When it comes right down to it you need what's in these food groups to be healthy. All food is made up of three things. Just three. It's made of fat, it's made of protein, and it's made of carbohydrates. Those three things are macro nutrients. When you hear somebody talk about their macros or macro nutrient balancing or macro nutrient percentages, it's really, really important to understand that they're just talking about carbs, they're talking about fat, and they're talking about protein.
If you want to know more about the ideal balance of the macros for fat loss, download my free starter guide HERE.
Then, we get into what are fat, what are carbs, what are protein, right? What is the characteristics of those things. What does that all mean? Basically, macro nutrients are categorized according to their chemical structure. Each macro nutrient has a very specific chemical structure. It's not like grains are this and dairy is this because that's the classification. It's because the macro nutrients that make up grains or meat or apples and oranges, they follow a very specific chemical structure that either classifies as a fat, as a protein, or as a carbohydrate. That's as technical as we're going to get, so we're not going to go crazy. If you think about it that way, it makes it a little bit simpler.
Food is made up of different macro nutrients. Some foods are very specifically one macro, like butter is basically a fat. All the molecules in butter are the same, and they are a fat and that is that, but some foods are more complicated. A good example would be beans and legumes. They have a lot of components that are the chemical structure of a carbohydrate, and then they have some that are a protein. You have some protein and you have some carbohydrates in there.
For simplicity's sake, when we talk about macros and we refer to food as either a fat, a protein, or a carb, we are talking about what the biggest percentage of macro nutrient is in that food. When it comes to most beans and legumes, the biggest percentage is going to be the carbs, so we just call it a carbohydrate. Hopefully that makes sense.
The important thing that you need to know, that I want to teach you, is that when the macros go into your bodies, they're responsible for different things and they do different things, and that's really, really important to understand.
Okay, so continuing on. Let's talk about how the macro nutrients act in your bodies, what makes them unique, what they're used for, and how we can use that information to help with fat loss and to help with getting energy and all of those things that you guys are looking to do.
Most people are terrified of fat, because we live in a fat-phobic society. We've been trained that fat is bad and fat will make us fat and all these things, and that's not true. It's so far from true. In fact, new research has completely debunked the whole fat is bad myth. Fat is actually the BEST macro nutrient when it comes to fat loss, which sounds counterintuitive, but actually makes sense from a science standpoint.
Fat is the most calorie-dense of the macro nutrients, and this is probably where some of the fat phobia comes into play.
What that means is that fat is more tightly packed with calories than carbohydrates and protein are, which means you eat smaller portions of fat to get the same caloric bang as you would a larger portion of fat or protein. If you want to get specific, fat has nine calories for every gram, whereas carbohydrates and protein only have four calories for every gram. It’s more than double, which is why it's so scary to people when they're counting calories.
Sidenote: calories don't matter. I’ve done a Facebook Live on it before and multiple blog posts which you can find HERE. Also, if you're interested and you're curious and you want to know a little bit more about the science behind why calories don't matter, you can just go onto my Lavish Nutrition business page, do a search in the video section for calories, and you'll come up with that. Find that HERE.
The other thing you need to know about fat is that fat digests very, very slowly, and this is really important when it comes to blood sugar, insulin levels and switching your body over from fat storage to fat burning, which is what we need to do to lose weight. Fat can take three or four hours to digest compared to carbs and protein, which are a lot faster than that. I'm going to explain how that all comes together at the end, when I give you guys an example and a scenario, because I think that makes the most sense, but let's just suffice it to say that fat is packed with more calories per gram. Fat takes longer to digest, and it has a very specific structure. Fat is used in a lot of different things in your body, so it's really important to get fat into your diet.
Fat literally provides a base to build your hormones on. If you are a woman and you are experiencing things like increased fat storage, your energy tanking, you have brain fog, all these things, a lot of it comes down to balancing your hormones. If you don't have enough fat in your diet, how on Earth are you going to have balanced hormones? It's so, so important.
The other thing fat is so important for is building your brain. You need fat in your brain in order to have everything move quickly and speedily to transfer information and for you to think properly and clearly. If you're following a low-fat diet and you're experiencing brain fog and you feel like you're forgetting names and you're just not there all the time, a lot of that is because your brain doesn’t have enough of the brain-building fats that it needs, so things start just deteriorating. Obviously super important!
Fat is also important to your diet for things like satiety. Fat makes you feel full. This comes down to fat having more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein. When you eat fat, it makes you feel full faster and it makes you feel full longer. This is really, really important, because fat is one of those things that helps to control our appetite and make sure we're not overeating. If you're not eating enough fat in your diet, if you're relying on fat-free foods where they're actually removing the fat and adding in carbohydrates and other sugar-based fillers, then you're actually removing that cue that tells you that you're full and that you've eaten enough, so it makes it very, very easy to overeat, which we don't want to do when we're trying to lose fat and gain energy.
It’s important to know that the only type of fat you need to avoid is trans fat. Trans fat is basically fats that have been manipulated by us, by people, in order to make a product more shelf-stable. Trans fats are the ones that are linked to heart disease. They're linked to all of the negative repercussions like increasing your bad cholesterol. All of the things that we don't want to happen, that is when trans fat does in our bodies. Any time you see trans fat on a label, that’s your cue to leave it alone. Other cues that there's trans fats in a product are the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated. When you see those in an ingredient list, you can rest assured trans fat is hiding in there. It's definitely something you want to watch for. It's super important. This type of fat create a lot of inflammation within your body, so aside from the cardiac issues, if you're just concerned about your weight and how you look, trans fats are going to make you puffy. They're going to make you hold on onto fluid and retain water, and that makes you look bigger than are, so just stay away from trans fats regardless.
Sources Of Good Quality Fats
- Fattier cuts of meat (ie chicken thighs over chicken breasts).
Red meat has good quality fat in it.
*You just want to make sure, when you're buying fatty cuts of meat, that you're buying good quality. Toxicity is always stored in fat cells. If you're buying lean cuts of meat, it's not as important, because you're not getting a lot of the fat, but if you're buying fatty cuts of meat, you're obviously ingesting more of the fat, so you want to make sure the animals that you're eating haven't been storing a whole bunch of toxins.
Use animal fats for cooking. You can go to a butcher shop and you can buy tallow or you can buy lard, and they are fantastic for cooking your food in. They give you all of this great heart healthy saturated fat (I know!) that you can add into your meals just by cooking.
Coconut oil's great, because it contains MCT fats which gives you increased energy right away. It's great for fat burning. Then, the lauric acid component that's in coconut oil is amazing for your immune system, so there's a ton of wins with coconut oil, which is why we add it into almost everything. I definitely suggest that.
Palm oil tends to be very environmentally destructive and also tends to be very, very processed unless you can buy really good quality, sustainable palm oil which does exist. It tends to be on the pricier side at health food stores, but it does exist. I tend to focus on coconut oil between these two.
Ghee is fantastic for cooking. It's clarified butter which means they've taken all of the proteins out, so it's literally just the fat. You can cook it to very high temperatures, which is wonderful.
Olives and olive oil are one of the more popular ways to add fat into your diet. Olives and olive oil are classified as monounsaturated fats which is a really heart-healthy type of fat.
Avocado oil and avocados are also a terrific source of monounsaturated fat.
Egg yolks, if you eat eggs, are a wonderful source of fat, as well as some nutrients that you don't find in a lot of other things, like choline and biotin.
Nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of good-quality, heart-healthy fats. My favorite would be probably Brazil nuts and macadamia nuts. They have one of the highest fat contents of all of the nuts right there.
When you're just starting out, even adding things like avocado mayonnaise to your meals can help. If you follow my community on Facebook (not a member? Join free HERE) you know how much I love avocado mayonnaise. I talk about it all the time. It's delicious. You can now buy it at Costco, which was one of the happiest days of my life. I'll literally just put some in a bowl, add some curry powder or some cumin or some lemon and basil or whatnot and just make a dip with it. Itt makes it so easy to dip veggies in it or to dip tofu or meat into it. It's a great way to just add some fat into whatever you're eating without having to totally rethink the way you cook and eat.
Sometimes it's hard, right? It's hard to change the way you're eating.
Protein is pretty straightforward. Most people know what protein is. Protein is important for your hair. It's important for your skin. It's important for your nails. It builds your muscles. Protein is basically the building block within your bodies.
We get protein from animal sources, and we get protein from plant sources. From animal sources, it's your meats, your organ meats, your eggs. Dairy has some protein in it, if you can tolerate dairy. Soy beans, edamame, they have fantastic protein in them. Broccoli has great protein as a plant source. Chick peas & legumes have good protein, as well.
Protein is important for all those building blocks I was talking about, but it’s also very important for metabolism. Protein creates something we call thermogenesis when we eat it and thermogenesis literally means heat creating.
Protein is super complicated. There's a ton of different chemical bonds and it’s really hard for your body to break it down, so when you eat protein your body has to work really, really hard to digest it, and that's a good thing, right? Because when your body works really hard, it creates heat, and when it creates heat, it's burning more calories & increasing your metabolic rate.
The take-home here is that you want to eat protein with every single meal, especially starting first thing in the morning (breakfast), because when you eat protein at every single meal, you're always creating this heat. Your body's always working harder, and your metabolic rate is always up, more so than it would be if you were eating just carbohydrates or fat.
Protein is pretty straightforward. I mean, we get protein from the meat and the plant sources we talked about. Most people don't have too many questions around protein. It digests a little bit faster than fat does, but slower than carbohydrates do. Fat will take three or four hours to digest where protein takes two or three hours to digest, depending on the person. Again, that's going to come into play when we tie this all together at the end and talk about how macros actually affect fat loss and blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are basically your body's preferred energy source, because they're easy for your body to use for energy. You're going to find carbohydrates in the usual suspects like your bagels and your bread (grains) but carbohydrates are also found in beans and legumes. Then, they're also found in fruits and veggies. That includes your broccoli & kale.
Carbohydrates digest the quickest out of all the macros. They can digest in as little as 45 minutes, an hour or a little bit over that, but they basically move through your body really, really quickly.
The Blood Sugar Story
Let's just go through a scenario: let's say you're going out for dinner at a nice pasta restaurant. At this dinner, you're on a diet. You're looking through the menu and thinking, "Okay, this is going to be tough. Italian restaurants. What can I eat that's not going to blow my diet and make me feel like garbage?" So you go through the menu and you pick out the ‘healthiest’ thing on that menu, which in this case, is going to be whole grain primavera. Just some mixed vegetables, a light tomato sauce, and whole grain pasta. Amazing. You're avoiding the fatty meats. You're avoiding all of those extra calories. You're getting the simplest thing on the menu. Okay. Remember how the difference between fat, carbohydrates, and protein comes down to the digestion speed.
Everything involved in this ‘healthy’ dinner is a carbohydrate so when we eat them, they're all going to digest really quickly and at the same time, and that means they're going to send all of their energy (in the form of sugar or glucose) to the blood. From there, your body sends in insulin. Insulin is like a carrier molecule, so it goes in, it picks up that sugar, and its job is to take that sugar to the working muscles for energy. However, in this case, you are sitting at an Italian restaurant and your muscles aren't working very hard (or maybe it's another scenario and you're in your car eating a sandwich or sitting on your couch eating popcorn, watching Grey's Anatomy). So when you're eating these straight carbohydrates, they're pumping out into your blood really quickly. Insulin is coming and grabbing all of that energy all at once, taking it to the working muscles, and the muscles are going, "Oh, no, no. Look at all that energy. We're not working that hard. I don't need that energy." Insulin then does what insulin does best, and it stores that energy as fat, Insulin is your fat storage hormone.
Not only was all of that ‘healthy’ meal stored as fat because it digested so quickly and sent all of its energy out at once and you couldn’t use it, but now your blood sugar's too low. Your body is super smart and super adaptive, and it wants to bring your blood sugar up, so it's actually going to trigger a carbohydrate craving because your body knows that carbs are the fastest digesting and they're going to bring your blood sugar up the fastest.
It then becomes this roller coaster cycle where your blood sugar's up and then it's down and then it's up and then it's down. You're storing fat all the time. I like to explain to my clients that fat storage and fat burning are two very different one-way streets. You can only be on one at a time. You can't be on both at the same time
If your blood sugar is always all over the place and your insulin is always spiking, no matter how little you eat, no matter what time of day you eat, that doesn't matter, you are always going to be on the one-way street of fat storing. You're not going to be driving down the street that actually burns fat.
If we rewind this scenario and we start again, say we're at that same restaurant and we're eating according to the way that I eat and the way that I teach my clients to eat. Instead of ordering that pasta primavera, the pasta with the vegetables and the tomato sauce, let's say if we're going to order pasta then we're also going to order a really heavy bolognese meat sauce with it instead. We’re also going to have a salad on the side with olive oil as a dressing. We're going to have a smaller portion of pasta, a bigger portion of the meat sauce. Now in this picture we’ve added fat and protein. The digestion looks very different.
Instead of the entire meal digesting at once, sending all of its energy out at once and then storing it as fat, now what's happening is digestion is slowing down.
Energy is being sent out in smaller spurts as food is digesting. Less insulin is coming in, picking up less sugar and taking it to the muscles. The muscles are like, "Oh. Well, that's not that much energy. Yeah, I do need some energy, just to sit here and maintain my form and, you know, live, so yeah, we'll take that in."
You're able to actually use that energy instead of storing it as fat. Hugely important! Because your digestion is slowing down it's constantly feeding more energy into the blood, so you're not ever hitting that low blood sugar, carb craving, awful roller coaster cycle.
The moral of the story is it doesn't matter when you're eating or how much you're eating. What matters is what you're eating. That's the important part, because the way food digests directly impacts the hormones that are expressed, which directly impacts whether you are burning fat or whether you are storing fat. That is why macros are so important.
If you're constantly creating this environment with high insulin, which is favoring fat storage, you are never going to be able to lose fat. You can't do it. It's not possible.
So that's it! Macros explained! Do you feel like you understand them a little better now? Still have questions? Make sure to ask them! Want to dive deeper? Sign up for my free webinar HERE.
If you'd rather watch then read, see below for the video version!