What are Macronutrients and Carbohydrates?

My name is Lee, I am a Personal Trainer and Nutritionist and the newest member of the Humans of HIIT family. Welcome to the first of three short blogs giving you an insight into the three different macronutrients. 

Firstly, macronutrients are the nutrients the body uses in the largest amount & they consist of Carbohydrates, Proteins & Fats. These can then be broken down into micronutrients but that is a topic for another day! 

Today we are going to delve into carbohydrates and debunk the myth that they are the devil of the dieting world. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy and consist of free sugars, starchy carbs and fibre. For this reason, they play a massive part in our day to day functioning & without them you are likely to feel lethargic and unmotivated. A diet without carbohydrates is known as Ketogenic and whilst a very very small percentage of people follow this, I would argue that it is not sustainable for 99% of the population. Sustainability is the absolute key when it comes to nutrition. When you are looking at changing your eating habits, you should be thinking about whether you will still be able to maintain this 6 months or a year down the line, as opposed to a drastic change that only lasts a few weeks and results in the rebound effect. Small consistent changes will yield fantastic results. 

Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram and can essentially be broken down into 3 categories, simple, complex and fibrous. When we consume carbohydrates they are broken down into Glucose. 

Simple Carbohydrates
These will be digested by the body very quickly and will provide a quicker release of energy. If your diet is mainly made up of simple sugars you may find that you feel very tired and lethargic as these will cause a fast spike in your blood sugar levels rather than releasing the energy slowly over a longer period of time. An example of these would be sweets, honey, desserts and fruit juices. 

Complex Carbohydrates
Complex or starchy carbohydrates will be digested a lot slower by the body therefore providing a more gradual spike in blood sugar levels. These will leave you feeling fuller for much longer and will provide a longer intake of energy. Pasta, rice, potatoes and oats will all fall into this bracket of carbohydrates.

Fibre
Fibre is the part of carbs that we cannot digest and instead travels through the body undigested and is then broken down by the gut bacteria.  Fibre is a crucial component of our diets and can help protect against many diseases and help improve gut health. Fibre can be found in a lot of foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and nuts. 

Carbohydrates are certainly not going to make you gain weight, in fact they contain the same amount of calorie per gram as protein, and 5 calories less per gram than fat! Your body will have a maintenance amount of calories that it requires and if you consume more or less than this it will result in fat gain/loss. 

Whilst you should certainly monitor the amount of simple carbohydrates you are consuming as they normally provide little to no nutritional value, you should not be cutting them out completely as a restrictive diet is not one you are going to be able to sustain long term. Plus, sweet treats are something that we all love to enjoy once in a while! 

This is a basic insight into carbohydrates and the takeaway message from this blog is to enjoy everything within moderation & have a look at how your nutrition could support you in reaching your goals.

Recipe time
A short & sweet breakfast idea! This is the ideal breakfast if you constantly find you are pushed for time in the mornings. Prepare the night before in less than 5 minutes & then ready to grab from the fridge in morning and enjoy whilst on your long commute from the kitchen to the living room office! 

Ingredients:

Jumbo rolled oats – 60g (scale to suit your goals)
Milk of your choice (I use almond) – 200ml
Frozen mixed fruits – 100g
Protein powder (optional) – 30g
Chia seeds – 5g

Nutritional breakdown without protein powder:

308kcal
44g carbs
9g fats
9g protein

Nutritional breakdown with protein powder:

426kcal
46g carbs
11g fats
34g protein

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Amy Mackenzie

From a very young age I have always been incredibly active. Growing up I was like most normal kids, swimming lessons, bike rides and trips