Healthy vs. Unhealthy: Macro/Micro Nutrients and What It All Really Means
Fact: You can get fat eating too many apples.
Fact: You can lose weight eating McDonald's.
I hope you're still reading... I’ve been trying to get this point across to a lot of people lately… Many are under the impression that food is either healthy or unhealthy. Period. In reality, that is a very black-and-white way of thinking and not accurate in most cases. You CAN get fat eating too many apples and you CAN lose weight eating McDonald’s; however, we've got to think deeper to really understand this and see how neither practice is a good one. The first scenario would have you eating 25–30+ apples per day, while the second would allow you maybe only one value meal for entire day; neither making you feel very good or performing at your best.
From a physics perspective, it’s calories in vs. out for body weight. Though, for true health (efficient functioning and warding off disease states), you need to eat to control blood sugar, take advantage of anabolic windows, and receive the MICROnutrients that will keep you sleeping well/avoiding illness/etc.. Keep in mind, macros don’t count important things like saturated fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals [further explanation of macro vs. micro -nutrients forthcoming].
I have a client that refuses to listen to me and eats like garbage. In his defense, he’s losing weight (gradually) because he eats two meals of fast food per day and limits the quantity of items. He also frequently oversleeps his alarm, trains half-assed, and is likely developing atherosclerotic plaque of a 90-year-old; but hey, if he’s happy(?). See my point?
For a hard-training athlete, it’s a no-brainer. You have to pay attention to macros and timing at least somewhat. Yes, on occasion you could do protein shakes all day and eat a pizza and still make progress if you’re “on” 90-95% of the time. I'll admit, that’s how I keep my sanity sometimes and I wouldn’t deter anyone from doing the same on occasion. Always keep your bigger picture in mind.
What Are Macronutrients? Micronutrients?
Macronutrients are the nutrients that provides your body with energy and thus contribute to making up calories. There are 4 of them: carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol.
Micronutrients are the nutrients that provide your body with everything else it needs to function and flourish; including, vitamins, minerals, and water.
I can't talk about this without mentioning the documentary by Morgan Spurlock, 'Super Size Me'. The movie's theme doesn't quite fall in exact line with what I'm talking about, but I would definitely recommend checking it out if you haven't seen it. His experiment involves eating McDonald's every meal of the day and monitoring health to show the effects. He's a New Yorker, so his walking habits match and likely exceed the exercise that most Americans get on a daily basis. Needless to say, things did not go well.
To be the healthiest you, consider using a food-logging software like MyFitnessPal to start getting a better grasp on your own macro and micro -nutrients. If you're not sure where to begin or you'd like to really dive deep into the subject, contact me about working together. One of the first things I'm looking at when assessing diets is micronutrient intake. To give you an idea, about 1 in 10 people have those bases covered to where I don't feel the need to address specific recommendations and in many cases, supplementation. It's the nature of a low-calorie diet to be lacking in many nutrients through whole food intake alone. That's just the reality.
Back to the healthy vs. unhealthy debate...
I hear this a lot – "I can't. I love pizza too much". Also, "I totally gave in this weekend and had a burger and fries". What causes the most harm here is the resultant mental state the guilty parties are in from having something that's considered unhealthy. My follow up questions are always the same –"well, what KIND of pizza was it?". "What KIND of burger and fries? Tell me more". Pizza can be made with grilled chicken, veggies, lightly cheesed, and on a thin nutrient-rich crust. Pizza can also be mass produced with preservative ingredients, overloaded cheese, and covered in low-grade pepperoni and sausage. Comprendé? And that burger that got the best of you... it could have been made with quality grass-fed beef, sweet potato fries cooked in extra-virgin olive oil, and a bun made in-house. That burger could have also come from fatty cuts of 75 different cows, served with deep-fried fries cooked in vegetable oil. See? The devil truly lies in the details when comes to just about ANY food item. Pizza, burgers, and ice cream can all be part of a healthy diet if they're the right composition, portion size, and frequency. And certainly by now, you should be thinking of healthy as it's dictionary definition(s), NOT the black-or-white buzz word it's seen as on TV.
Both macro and micro -nutrients are very important, of course, but you'll hear much more about macronutrients, or "macros", if you following current bodybuilding and fitness media. The whole idea of "flexible dieting" or IIFYM (if-it-fits-your-macros) came about a few years ago and oh jeez... where do I begin...
Many social media fitness influencers are posting pictures of their tan ripped body after pigging out on junk food and saying, "if it fits your macros!" #IIFYM. Here's my problem... while I see their point, there's thousands of impressionable 15-year-olds with body image issues desperately seeking information that are reading this. It's a potentially dangerous two-sided coin. IIFYM can be a practice that teaches moderation and developing healthy habits while enjoying life, but it has to be presented in the right way. Before I go full-blown Public Service Announcement, I'm going to regroup and continue writing later. Stay tuned for Part II.