Macronutrients: Protein, Carbs and Fats, the Basic Facts for Fitness


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Every day we shift around these essential nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fats in our diets. Some of us do it mindlessly, while others count every kilocalorie derived from these macronutrients. For those of us who are on a weight loss program, into body-building, or who simply want to pursue a healthy lifestyle, pay a little more attention to the ratio of these nutrients in the diet.

To be clear on what macronutrients are, these are substances obtained from 3 primary sources:

Carbohydrate (carbs)



We consume these three compounds in large quantities to provide us with total energy to move around. We need these nutrients in the diet to build and repair tissues, to regulate body processes, and to fuel our bodies by means of metabolism.

Each of these nutrients provides calories in varying amounts:
Carbs – 4 kilocalories per gram
Protein – 4 kilocalories per gram
Fats – 9 kilocalories per gram

Let’s say that you looked at the Nutrition Label of a regular jar of peanut butter, which happens to supply 8 grams of protein per serving and you wanted to calculate how many calories 1 serving will provide. This would be:
8 grams of peanut butter x 4 calories per gram of protein = 32 calories from proteins

If, based on health recommendations, your body needs 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you weigh 120 pounds, this equals 120 grams of protein needed daily in your diet.

The peanut butter example would have supplied you with 8 grams of protein and now you need to obtain the remaining 112 grams of protein, either from more peanut butter or with other protein from animal and plant sources, to fulfill your full requirement.

What is the Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients in the Body?
Who decides on how much of any nutrient must be taken into the body to promote health and prevent deficiencies such as kwashiorkor and anemia? Since 1941 the scientific community has been making recommendations on what constitutes a balanced distribution of essential nutrients for the average individual.

The National Science of Academy periodically gathers a large group of experts to review the latest science. The recommendations are called the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), but have also been termed Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI).

The per cent of calories coming from protein, carbs, and fats is a key component of the recommendations. How macronutrients are distributed in the diet will either put you on a path to health and fitness or conversely, create a state of ill health and disease. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for adults, as a percentage of calories is:
Protein: 10% to 35%
Carbs: 45% to 65%
Fats: 20% to 35%

This range is reportedly the most beneficial in preventing disease risks and deficiencies while providing essential nutrients to increase health and maintain weight.

Why are Carbs, Protein, and Fats Essential to Long-term Health?
We all need these macronutrients in the diet, along with vitamins, minerals and water to survive. These essential nutrients provide remarkable, sometimes incomprehensible functions in our bodies that if deprived of adequate proportions in our diet, we risk abnormalities and death. Here are just a few of their important functions:

They supply the largest percentage needed in the diet according to the DRI.
They are the main source of fuel
They are found mainly in starchy foods, fruits, vegetables and yogurt, and are important in intestinal health and waste elimination
Carbs are readily used by the body for energy; all tissues and cells use it

Did you know that protein is the second most abundant substance in the body, besides water?
We need protein:
To build and repair tissues – found in meats, fish, dairy, meat substitutes, legumes, grains and nuts, and to lesser extent vegetables and fruit. Fruit contains about 2 per cent protein.
To create enzymes and hormones to regulate body functions
To provide energy when carbs are not provided

Fats are essential for survival; it is the most concentrated source of energy. We need them for:
Maintaining cell membranes
Normal growth and development
Absorbing vitamins (such as A D E K, and carotenoids)
Moderate inflammatory actions
Important for healthy skin
Hormone balance
Moderates cholesterol
The best fats for our diets are essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). These can be found in fish and fish oil, nuts, seeds, legumes and organic vegetable oils.

How can I Achieve Weight Loss through Calorie Counting?
In order to lose weight we need to either:
Eat fewer calories than our body needs
Increase the calories burned in physical activity
Or do a combination of both

The smart way to lose weight without depriving your body of essential nutrients is to reduce the calories from food in a way that still meets overall nutritional needs, plus 30-60 minutes of exercise, three times per week. The acceptable distribution of macronutrients outlined earlier provides room for adjustment. Fats for example are recommended between 20% – 35%, therefore adjustments can be made closer to the lower end for weight loss.

Start by calculating how many calories are needed in your diet to promote weight loss. Then consume the required total amount of carbs, protein, and fats from high quality sources. Combine your favorite workout (dancing, kickboxing, Pilates, karate, weight lifting, Zumba, jogging or other) and watch the pounds fall off.

In calorie counting your dietitian or fitness expert can help you determine how many calories you will need. There are also useful online calculators from credible sources that allow you to plug in the needed statistics to provide you with an estimated calorie amount.

To achieve weight loss of one pound a week, for example, an individual will require a reduction of 500 kilocalories per day for 7 days. As a rule of thumb, 1 pound (0.5 kg) of body fat contains 3,500 kilocalories.

If you choose to lose 20 pounds (9 kg), for example, using this rule, you will achieve your weight loss goal in approximately 20 weeks or 5 months.

The fundamental principles remain the same if we manipulate the macronutrients in our diet. An example would be substituting more protein for less carbohydrate into our diet. We would provide equivalent calories while staying inside our bodies optimum requirement for carbohydrates, which makes sure that we are not consume excess amounts which turn into fat. Understanding the macronutrients, while staying within the recommended range, we can promote weight loss, build muscles, and maintain a fit, well-balanced lifestyle.

Why Juicing Works: A Cardiologist Explains by Dr. Joel Kahn


Click on image to visit Dr. Kahn’s website.

Tonight my head is spinning like a centrifugal juicer after attending a lecture by Joe Cross, star of the documentary Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. The movie, which chronicles one man’s journey to health through juicing, moved me a few years ago to purchase my first juicer. It began what is now a regular practice of making fresh green juice several times a week and purchasing fresh cold pressed juice around town regularly.

Joe’s presentation on both using juicing as a method to “reboot” a sick body and mind and also as a supplement to an overall plant-based, whole foods diet was inspiring and medically very accurate. But why is it that juicing is an effective means of redirecting one’s health—whether the goal is vitality, weight loss, or even disease reversal?

Cells in the body require nutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals) to function optimally. Many of these are referred to as micronutrients, to distinguish them from the macronutrient classes of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. When cells receive adequate micronutrients, you feel energized and full. On the other hand, many foods provide calories from macronutrients, but are devoid of the essential micronutrients cells crave. These are calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods and this characterizes most processed foods.

Let’s look at a few more reasons why vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts are so powerful. They provide:

1. Fiber.

This is the indigestible portion of plants. Diets high in fiber are associated with lower risks of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and obesity. In the Nurses Health Study, one of the longest-running studies of women’s health, women who ate more fiber were more likely to live longer. There is fiber in broccoli, beans and other members of the vegetable and fruit families, but none will be found in bagels, burgers and almost all other processed foods.

2. Phytonutrients.

These are a family of chemicals found only in plants that often give the color to v vegetables but also confer many health benefits. Many of these plant-based chemicals are anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, such as the sulforphane found in broccoli. There are perhaps 10,000 of these health-promoting chemicals in the edible plant world. (You’ll never find phytonutrients in a bagel.)

3. Antioxidants.

Many chemicals found in plants confer a resistance to the damage that can occur to the human body from oxygen and the process of metabolism. Just as rust can destroy metal, oxidation can lead to diseased arteries or brain cells, and contributes to diabetes and other conditions. Within plants are chemicals such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids that are natural antioxidants.

4. Omega-3 fatty acids.

These essential fatty acids, including DHA and EPA, are taken into cell membranes and used for the internal workings and repair of cells throughout the body. While seafood can provide Omega-3 fatty acids, they’re typically absent from other animal products. Flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, algae and soy are some of the plant-based foods rich in this nutrient class.

So …. how does this get us back to Joe Cross and juicing?

The USDA recommends five or more servings of vegetables and fruits daily while Canadian authorities set the bar higher, saying 10 servings a day is optimal.

In order to consistently ingest this large amount of plant-based material, we need to do some planning.

Some ideas to get your greens: preparing large salads, adding greens in soups, and blending smoothies with berries and greens for a power breakfast or a snack. Juicing is just one more tool you can use to build a plant-based nutrition program rich in phytochemicals, and it can make it easier to reach your goal of 5 to 10 servings a day of vegetables.

As Joe Cross said, “If you let people in white lab coats design your food, you’ll see people in white coats to treat your disease.”

Happy juicing!











About the Author: Dr. Joel Kahn

Dr. Kahn is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine and Medical Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Detroit Medical Center. He is a graduate Summa Cum Laude of the University of Michigan School of Medicine. He lectures widely on the cardiac benefits of vegan nutrition and mind body practices.