What are macronutrients?

After hearing so much about the Ketogenic way of eating I decided to do my own Keto experiment and I want to share everything I’ve learned with you. Before I share my experience though, I want to talk about what the Ketogenic diet is and give you a little of the background. I will share my personal experience in a separate blog post.

Today I want to share information about what macronutrients are and the story behind how we got to where we are today.

How do you eat on a Ketogenic Diet?

For those who aren’t endurance athletes and expend a normal amount of energy each day, the macronutrient percentages on the ketogenic diet are generally:

75% fat
20% protein
5% carbohydrates

As a comparison, I normally follow the portion fix meal plan and that works out to be

30% fat
30% protein
40% carbohydrates

There are different approaches to making sure you are eating the correct percentages of each macronutrient. Since this was my first time doing this, I did decide to track my my macros using the app called KetoDiet. It costs $2.99 per month. Normally while eating the portion fix meal plan I do not count macros because they are already figured out for me. (I love that!)

I found tracking to be a hassle because I hate taking time to input everything. But, I wanted to give this 100% so I did it even though I didn’t enjoy that part.

So, if you are new to all this you may be wondering, what is a macronutrient??

The Three Types of Macronutrients

There are only three types of macronutrients—protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All foods are made up of macronutrients and most are a combination. All macros contain calories.

Micronutrients are the opposite. They don’t contain calories. Micronutrients are tiny. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals required by your body.

Micronutrients are essential to the production of enzymes, hormones, proteins, and other products created by your body. Some micronutrients have a specialized role, while others fulfill a broad range of functions. Micronutrients are incredibly important for health and wellness. Mineral deficiencies can have lasting, detrimental health consequences

There is a misconception that the ketogenic diet is a high-protein diet. This is a myth; the ketogenic diet is a diet high in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbs. Why moderate in protein? Too much protein can kick you out of ketosis, while too little protein may cause muscle loss and increased appetite.

The reason too much protein is bad for ketosis is because our bodies have a fundamental energy process called gluconeogenesis.

Even if you’re eating plenty of fat, if you also eat too much protein, your body can facilitate GNG instead of burn fat for energy. This means that you could spend your whole time thinking you’re eating keto while not actually being in ketosis. And who wants to go to all that effort without getting actual results?

In regard to macronutrients, we need all three of those macronutrients to be healthy, yet it’s common to hear people talk about a certain macronutrient they’re trying to avoid.

Maybe you’ve done that yourself. Maybe you tried to go fat free or cut out all your carbs. Let’s start with fat as an example. Fat has been the bad guy for some time now. Have you ever wondered where that concept came from?

Our Fat History

In the 1970s fat became enemy number one. In July of 1976, Senator George McGovern called a hearing to raise awareness about the link between fat and disease. Heart attacks, at that time, were the number one killer, especially among men over 40. Early research correlated foods high in saturated fat, such as eggs and meat, with raising LDL cholesterol, which is what we think of as the “bad” cholesterol. Research at the time also linked those with heart disease and those who had an increase in LDL cholesterol.

Extensive updated research has found that people over 60 years old who have high LDL cholesterol actually live longer than people with low LDL. More research suggests we need to reevaluate the guidelines for cholesterol, heart healthy fat consumption, and heart disease.

But the information that was available to Senator McGovern inspired him to call hearings that led to the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans wherein saturated fat became the enemy. That is how this fat-free craze got started. Food scientists started removing fat from cookies, cereals, breads, sauces, and more. Of course, the food still had to taste good so they had to replace the fat with something. They did so with sugar.

The farming industry now had massive demand to create sweetener in the form of high fructose corn syrup. But as we transitioned from a diet heavy in fat to one high in sugar, the rate of heart disease didn’t go down—nor did obesity. Obesity rates today, compared to those in 1976, are more than double for adults and tripe for children. Triple!

As we cut back on fat and increased sugar, guess what? We ended up worse off than we were in the 1970s. The good news? Eating healthy fat doesn’t make you fat. There are so many benefits to incorporating fat into your diet.

Fats are the building blocks of hormones. They lubricate our joints, help us look and feel good, and they help us to function. Our brain is nearly 70 percent fat so we also think our best when we’re getting enough fat in our diets. Fat also controls inflammation. Inflammation causes weight gain so we definitely want to control it. Healthy, real fats provide an anti-inflammatory effect without medication.

You also need fats to help you absorb nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are what we call fat-soluble vitamins. This means your body will not absorb those nutrients unless they’re taken with fat. So if you’ve ever tried sticking to a fat-free diet, you can bet you’re deficient in some very important micronutrients and vitamins.

The Two Types of Fat

There are two main types of fat—saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, and they’re found in things like coconut oil, palm oil and animal fats. You’ve seen this when you cook bacon. It’s the lard that kind of hardens in the pan if you let it sit there. Cheese is another example.

Now you probably already know there are healthy and unhealthy saturated fats. There is no question if you’re eating low-quality saturated fats you’re not going to feel good. Once you begin to understand which saturated fats are healthy and how to balance their intake for your personal goals, you’re going to see and feel an amazing difference in your health almost immediately.

What are unsaturated fats? Unsaturated fats are typically liquid, even at room temperature. The two main types of unsaturated fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fat is found in nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, corn oils, and sunflower. Monounsaturated fat is found in olive oil, nuts, certain seeds, canola oil, and avocado.

The most important type of fat is polyunsaturated, which is also referred to as essential fat because our bodies can’t make it. We have to consume it. This is omega-3s and omega-6s. The challenge is creating a balance between them. Most of the food we eat is very heavy or oversaturated with omega-6 polyunsaturated fat, specifically that’s the stuff you’re going to find in processed foods. It’s commonly used in our cooking oils as well.

If you go out to dinner, most restaurants are using vegetable oil, which is very high in omega-6. You will find it in salad dressings, corn oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. Omega-3s are found in chia seeds, flax seeds, fatty fish, and grass-fed meat. It’s found in other meats too, but at a much higher rate in animals that are grass-fed and grass-finished.

Omega-6s are essential for your health but if you overdo omega-6, that imbalance causes inflammation, which can be tied to the root of almost all disease.

So, saturated fats are not as bad as we once thought, but the quality of the fat matters. Polyunsaturated fats are very necessary. Our bodies don’t make them so we have to consume them. We should focus on getting more omega-3s and limit our omega-6s because it’s in too many things as it is anyway.

Is there such thing as a bad fat? Yes! It’s called trans fat. Trans fats are found in food labels as hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oils, and research suggests we should try to completely avoid them. They’re in just about everything that’s packaged, boxed, processed, and unfortunately, displayed at eye-level in the grocery store.

Why We Need Fat

When we eat fat, it’s digested and we absorb healthy, fatty acids and the fat-soluble vitamins we need from foods. These fatty acids, as I discussed earlier, have a ton of important functions in your body. Fat slows down the digestive process. It helps to keep you fuller longer. That’s why low-fat diets leave you starving and craving more—yeah, you guessed it—carbs. Fats also decrease the rate at which carbs spike your blood sugar. Fat itself is the best nutrient for keeping your blood sugar low, which means insulin levels are low, and hunger hormones stable.

Protein Builder

The body breaks down protein into amino acids, which are used to repair and build muscle, make enzymes and hormones, and contribute to many other important bodily functions. The body is so smart it can actually take protein, and through a process called gluconeogenesis, break it down and use it as energy.

We obtain these amino acids through sources like high-quality animal proteins, such as chicken, beef, seafood and eggs. If you don’t eat animal products, you can get protein from vegetarian sources.

When we eat food with protein, our digestive enzymes begin to break it down and what we’re left with is the amino acids. The body distributes these for hair and nail growth, muscle tissue development, your immune system, building healthy cell membranes, and more. Along with fat, protein helps you to feel satisfied longer and helps prevent blood sugar spikes. It keeps you balanced.

Why All Carbs Are Not Equal

Carbs can provide fuel for your body obviously. Historically, it has been thought we needed carbs for fuel. We believed if you were out of carbs, you would be out of energy. We now know that our body has other ways of fueling us.

All macronutrients are necessary. The most reputable and profound research available today seems to create a clear correlation between increased consumption of simple carbohydrates and an increase in all disease risk factors.

Carbs aren’t bad or evil, and they shouldn’t be completely avoided, but not all carbs are created equal.

The Three Types of Carbs

There are three main types of carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates
Fibrous carbohydrates

Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, but it’s very different than the other forms. The body can’t digest fiber. It just goes through the large intestine and feeds our gut bacteria, which is a really good thing. Fiber also aids in digestion. It gives you the sensation of being fuller longer, and it helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

What carbs have the greatest effect on your blood sugar levels? You guessed it. Simple carbohydrates, which include sugar, honey, and fruit juices. These are easily absorbed by the body and quickly converted into glucose, the sugar that is used by your body for energy. You should think of most simple carbohydrates as sugar, because that’s how quickly they convert.

It’s important to focus on eating fibrous or complex carbs, which are found in vegetables, whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and some fruits and beans.

Carbs play an important role with our hormones. Once they are broken down into glucose, or sugar, they’re then absorbed in our gut. That creates an increase in blood sugar. How big of an increase really depends upon you. We’re all different.

Factors that play into how your carb intake will affect you include your DNA, health status, how much you’ve eaten, what you ate, as well as the fiber, fat or protein you may have eaten at the same time. That combination could slow down the rate at which those carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. The bottom line is this: Some people tolerate carbs very well. Others can’t even look at a bowl of rice without experiencing a serious blood sugar spike.

What you need to understand about carbs is they convert into glucose, which signals insulin to increase. Insulin tells your body to be fat. Think of insulin as your gatekeeper, the one who lets glucose in. The problems occur when we’re eating too many carbs and our glucose level is too high and when we’re eating them too often. In those cases, glucose stays in your blood because insulin either isn’t showing up or isn’t working. Those people are considered insulin-resistant.

So what do we do? Well, to keep our hormones regulated we’ve got to keep insulin low.  This will help to control cravings and weight while boosting energy, but it also improves all other areas of your health.

For some people the ketogenic way of eating may be better. For others it won't be so good. We are all different so what works for me may not work for you. The important thing is to do your research, be your own detective, and see how YOUR body reacts to different ways of eating. 

I’ll be sharing more information with you on my personal experience in an upcoming blog post and I'll also share information on the supplements I took and my thoughts on them. So stay tuned! 

If you are interested in more information on the Ketogenic diet or the portion fix diet, you can email me at christie@christiemarkfeld.com.