Macros are the nutrients that form the structure of the body and make up most of the calories in what you eat. You’re probably aware of what proteins, fats and carbohydrates are. But there is more to it than this – for example, there are several types of fat and these can be good or fats you’d want to avoid. The same can be said for proteins and carbs. Since the 1950s, the war on obesity has told us to eat a low fat diet – but this has massively backfired and has lead to confusion on what people should eat – many people are on a sh!t diet, not knowing it is sh!t.
In the first of this series on macronutrients we will start with probably the most poorly understood.
Get your fats right
Fats are super important in the body – they make up the cell membranes and are used in hormone production1. They’re super important for brain health2 – the brain is 60% fat and fats are important for building neurotransmitters (the brain chemicals that don’t just make you feel calm, happy and focused but are important for functioning in every day life). Fats provide a lot of energy to the body, in fact gram for gram they contain more energy than dynamite3. Fats are stored in the adipose tissue, to be drawn on when needed. Fats are often misunderstood and maligned. Depending on the type of fat, fats can be good, OK or insanely bad. Let’s start with the good fats.
Fat friends – the good fats
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which are liquids at room temperature) help raise healthy cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein, HDL)4. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include nuts, seeds and fatty fish. Sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados and olive oil.
Of the polyunsaturates, omega 3 fats are superstars – these are essential fatty acids that the body needs to function. They have massive health benefits including promoting healthy ageing, reducing inflammation and improving cardiovascular health5. Sources of these include fatty fish such as salmon, grass fed red meat and omega 3 rich eggs.
Saturated fats are used in cell membranes and are important in hormone production (e.g. testosterone) and are found in mainly in meats (particularly red meat) and dairy products. It’s recommended to eat organic free range grass fed beef and butter from grass fed cows to get the healthiest composition of fats6. Butyrate, a short chain saturated fat found in grass fed butter, is anti-inflammatory7 and could also protect against mental illness8.
Coconut oil is a source of saturated fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs can be a beneficial energy source – they are rapidly absorbed by the body, burned quickly as energy and can turn the body into fat burning mode (ketosis)9. Burning fats for energy rather than carbs can be a great way to maintain stable energy levels!
These fats are ones with which you don’t want to cut out entirely but keep to a minimum as they can raise LDL levels. OK fats include saturated fats and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats. Omega 6s, whilst essential to the body, have created controversy on whether they’re harmful to the heart. Having a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is thought to raise inflammation. Sources of omega 6 include most vegetable oils and nuts. Getting your omega 6s from nuts and minimising vegetable oils high in omega 6 is recommended in controlling levels.
Insanely bad fats
Trans fats are liquid oils that are hydrogenated to form solid fats. They can be found in processed and fried foods and should be avoided – they raise LDL and lower HDL. Cut these out.
Keep your fat intake on the good end of the scale and minimise the bad fats to promote optimal performance.
In the next in the series, we’ll visit protein and carbs.
In the mean time… keep hustling.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave me a comment below.