While exercise is important for weight loss, what you eat is even more so. Eating too much of the wrong things can completely wipe out the benefits of even the most effective fat burning workout. You only have to look at some of your fellow exercisers to see the truth of this; they train hard and yet fail to lose even a little bit of weight. Some even get fatter! The ONLY reason for this is eating too much of the wrong thing.
Avoid sabotaging your fat loss progress by learning a little more about the three macro food groups, so you’ll know how to manipulate them to your advantage.
Fat is a contentious food group. While it contains more calories than protein or carbs, it is not as unhealthy or fattening as many of us have been lead to believe. In fact, fat is a vital food group that the human body cannot do without. However, containing nine calories per gram, it stands to reason that reducing your fat intake slightly can have a big impact on your weight. Cutting just 10 grams of fat per day could produce around a 10-pound weight loss over the course of a year.
Cutting fat is easy – just switch to reduced-fat dairy products, eat less fatty red meat, cut off visible fat from meat, do not fry your food, and cut down on processed junk like chocolate, pies, and cakes.
You should consume between 0.7 to 1.0 grams of fat per kilo of bodyweight and eat mainly natural fats such as nuts, olive oil, avocados, and other healthy fats. Steer clear of manmade fats such as margarine, vegetable oil, and trans fats as they are not only unhealthy; they are more fattening too.
Carbs are most people’s main source of energy - Carbohydrates are digested and converted into glucose which is then used as fuel. Unused glucose is then converted into fat and stored, and that’s where the problems start.
If you are very active, you need a lot of carbs in your diet. However, if you are less active or want to burn fat preferentially, cutting down on carbs can help.
Carbohydrates come in several forms including starches and sugars. Starches include vegetables and whole grains which should be thought of as “good” carbs. Sugars include fruit, which is undeniably good, but also candy, sweets, cakes, etc. which should be avoided if weight loss if your goal.
Like fat, you need carbs in your diet as they are your only meaningful source of fiber which is good for your digestive system and essential for your health. However, if you want to lose weight, your main sources of carbs should be vegetables as they are the lowest in calories. Some whole grains are okay, good examples, being quinoa, oatmeal, wild rice, and whole-wheat pasta, but grains are also high in calories so you should avoid eating too much too often.
You should avoid refined carbs such as white rice, white bread, refined or added sugars, and other low nutrient foods. They are very quickly broken down into glucose, can interfere with fat burning, contain no vitamins, minerals, or fiber, and are usually much higher in calories than their unrefined counterparts.
Your body uses protein for growth and repair. When you eat protein, it is broken down into smaller substances called amino acids which are then used like bricks to build tissue. The more active you are, the more protein you need. Sedentary people need around one gram of protein per kilo of bodyweight whereas very active people should consume two grams per kilo.
Protein is also very useful for weight loss. It digests slowly to keep you feeling fuller for longer, and also boosts your metabolism. Consuming protein can elevate your metabolic rate for several hours and far more effectively than the other two food groups. That’s part of the reason that high protein diets are popular for weight loss.
Another benefit of protein is that it can help preserve muscle mass during a low-calorie diet. Muscle loss during a diet can cause a drop in metabolic rate and consuming protein can help prevent this problem.
Protein contains four calories per gram – the same as carbohydrate – but is not as readily converted to fat. Because of this, if you want to lose weight, eating more protein can help make sure you don’t go hungry but also avoid inadvertently sabotaging your fat loss efforts. The same cannot be said for carbohydrate.
- Fat – high in calories at nine per gram, but still essential for good health. Seek out natural fats and avoid overconsumption but do not cut out altogether.
- Carbs – a ready source of energy and the more active you are, the more you need. They contain four calories per gram and provide you with health-boosting fiber. Unused carbs are readily converted to fat, so it makes sense to adjust your carb intake based on your activity levels. The less active you are, the fewer carbs you need.
- Protein – containing four calories per gram, protein is essential for growth and repair and is also filling and boosts your metabolic rate. Include protein at most meals to harness the fat-burning properties of protein.
While it is popular to demonize certain food groups, it’s clear to see that all three have a part to play in both health and weight management. In most cases, the more natural food is, the better it is for you and, often, that is more important than the exact ratio of macronutrients it contains.