The word “macros” is dropped so frequently it seems like a ticket into the inner “Sanctuary of The Foodie”. In the past, people just discussed the individual items that are known as macros. We talked about protein, carbs and fat. It wasn’t necessary to sound trendy or obsessed. Calories were always the main concern and even now we know that calories are the most important component in a weight loss program.
When “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution was published in 1972, dieters everywhere thought they had found Nirvana. The long-awaited “I can eat all I want” diet had finally emerged! Lots of people lost tons of weight eating bacon and cheese and never counted a single calorie. The problem was, and still is, with these types of super-restrictive diets you eventually rebel and binge endlessly on whatever you have restricted so severely. Since the macronutrient, carbohydrates, were the “Forbidden Fruit” of these types of diets, cookies, cakes and every sugar-filled treat imaginable were always the favored foods as soon as the new wore off of the diet. As people gorged themselves on processed, sugar-bombs, the pounds returned FAST and brought friends. Everyone that I knew that followed Atkins wound up much fatter than they were before they started the program. Their binge eating seemed to be completely out of control.
Before Adkins, there were “Low Carbohydrate” diets that were the same as Keto. My mother was always coming up with a new diet for me and I tried this one at the age of 13. Carbohydrates were limited to 19 grams per day. By the third day I thought that I was dying. I couldn’t walk without staggering, stay awake or make a coherent sentence but boy did I lose the weight! In typical fad diet form, it returned even faster than it left and left me weak and nauseous for days.
Weight conscious individuals have talked about macronutrients as carbohydrates, fats and protein for a long time. Macronutrients are simply the nutritive components of food that the body needs for energy and to maintain the body’s structure and systems. We learned about these building blocks of nutrition in grammar school in books named simply “Health”. Those books have been discontinued now and we have raised two generations of nutritionally handicapped people. Unless this is changed, we’re about to raise a third generation in the nutritional dark.
A confusing point about macros is that sometimes when people talk about them, they may or may not specify which “macros” they are talking about. The readers or listeners are left in limbo. While there are MICROnutrients that are also essential, when you hear MACROS discussed, they are simply talking about the following:
1-Carbohydrates are energy-giving foods. Simple carbs break down quickly and cause inflammation in the body. They are a source of empty calories when they are filled with sugar and contribute to disease and dysfunction. Make sure that your carbs are complex. The sugar molecules in these energy-rich foods are strung together in long complex chains and take a while to metabolize. Good examples of complex carbs are peas, beans, whole grains and vegetables.
2-Protein is the macronutrient that will satisfy your hunger for the long run. They are comprised of large molecules of amino acids strung together in long chains. They are so biologically complex that it takes a long time for our bodies to break them down. That’s why they keep you from being hungry for so long. Protein is found in eggs, meat, poultry, fish and dairy and some vegetable sources. Quinoa and soy are excellent vegetable sources of protein.
3-Fats are a source of essential fatty acids that the body cannot make. They are essential to life and have to come from food. Fat helps us absorb the vital nutrients that are known as fat-soluble vitamins A,D, E and K. Mono and poly unsaturated fats lower disease risk and they are found in olive, canola, sunflower, soy and corn oils and in nuts, seeds, avocados and fatty fish. Accurately weigh and measure these foods. They are high in calories!
So, the next time you hear someone dropping the “M” word like they are initiated into a deep mystery that you cannot attain to, simply ask “Fats, protein or carbs?” You may burst their enlightened bubble but maybe you can get an answer to your question.