If you’ve spent time with a fitness freak, then you might have heard the term “macro.” Fitness freaks call macronutrients "macros" for short. In the gist of the conversation, you may have even heard, “That has too much [carbs/fat/protein] in it” while describing or briefly mentioning macros. Depending on who you ask, there are three basic macronutrients (for the sake of this article, alcohol and fiber won’t be addressed, but keep in mind exceptions can and do exist).
These days almost everyone knows what carbohydrates are. Low-carb diets became the fad for a while, and often ebb and flow relative to the season (pre-summer season, you’ll notice a lot of carbophobia). Carbohydrates make up your starches and sugars; most food in restaurants and throughout supermarkets is composed of carbohydrates. The food pyramid also promotes carbohydrates as the main source of energy.
Why are carbohydrates controversial? Because carbs raise blood sugar, causing insulin to be released (see the below video which Tom Naughton of Fat Head explains). While this process can help you gain muscle and build weight, you do not want this to occur if you want weight to stay off or fall off. In other words, carbs make excellent weight gainers, but do not perform well for those losing weight.
You can see why insulin sensitivity is the main key for losing fat or keeping fat from compounding, not about how many calories you consume.
Nutrition facts: 1g of carbohydrate equals 4 calories.
Amino acids compose protein, another macronutrient. A common misconception of protein is that it “builds muscle.” In reality, what we perceive as muscle is composed of muscle fiber, water and muscle glycogen – a composition which requires much more than protein. Amino acids also serve different functions in the body outside “building muscle,” making obtaining protein a strong priority in a healthy diet. For instance, if you researched L-Arginine or L-Cysteine, you would find these amino acids serving numerous functions other than “building muscle”.
Nutrition facts: 1g of protein equals 4 calories.
In certain situations, people tend to want low fat foods. In fact, many companies use low-fat as a selling point to their food! One of the most popular misconceptions about fats is that they make you fat. As the above video from Fat Head shows, people become fat from overproduction of insulin, not over consumption of fat. Fats, like carbs, provide an excellent source of energy - meaning that a low fat diet depletes energy. Fat also assists in hormone production (for instance, fats, including saturated fat, are very important for testosterone production, one of the most important hormones produced in men).
So why are there so many misconceptions about fat and why do companies make money selling "low fat" foods? For the most part, it feels easy to assume that fat makes a person fat, even though the reality is far different. On to of that, even though shown to be false and unhealthy, the food pyramid continues to be promoted -- a myth in which propagates a low fat craze.
Nutrition facts: 1g of fat equals 9 calories.