There are three macronutrients. Protein, Carbohydrate and fats. Unfortunately, macros like carbohydrate and fat, from some misinformed sources, have gained a bad name. There are diets which exclude fats, or carbohydrate, and even protein which completely boggles my mind!
Let’s set the record straight, once and for all. To be an elite athlete, or for your body to perform like one, you need ALL 3. Let’s break them down.
Protein is an essential nutrient for the body. It’s one of the main building blocks for tissue, and more specifically, muscular tissue which is of particular interest to us! It can provide fuel, but we don’t rely on this as a primary source as athletes…as long as we get our food intake right! If you don’t get enough protein in the diet, your body will resort to its own source, and this is how we lose muscle and size. This is when we become catabolic and experience atrophy.
When looking at calories, protein had the same density as carbohydrate. 4 kcal per gram. Protein is the macronutrient which provides most satiation (feel fuller for longer) and decreased hunger. Handy for weight loss!
Protein breaks down into amino acids which are the building blocks of your muscles. They also make essential hormones and support immune function.
Examples of protein sources are meat, eggs, dairy, nuts and fish. However, there’s protein found in bread, pasta, vegetables and other foods you may not expect. So, when you’re adding up your protein intake, check all the foods you’re using. For example, 100g of pasta can contain typically between 10-15g of protein. We recommend you should consume 2g protein per day, per kg of your target bodyweight. This will put you in a good place to optimise muscle growth and recovery.
Carbohydrate should be your primary source of energy as an athlete. Without any carbohydrate, athletic performance will be impaired as well as recovery. Carbohydrates are fuel for the brain as well as muscles. The body stores carbohydrate in the muscles and liver as glycogen which is then used as fuel when exercising. This is why we recommend carb intake ideally pre and post session. It is high to maintain high intensity efforts in training or a game with insufficient glycogen stores.
But be careful. This doesn’t give you a free license to consume as many carbs as you like. Overconsumption of carbs (and any other macronutrient for that matter) will put you into too greater calorie surplus and you will gain unwanted weight in the form of fat.
You can simple, and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are a fast source of carb intake. This is good pre, immediately post and during training. Complex carbs you will find typically on your dinner plate and these are generally derived from plants and contain more fibre and micronutrients. For example, oatmeal and potatoes.
If anybody suggests you shouldn’t eat carbs as an athlete, they are quite simply wrong.
Fat can also be used as an energy source. It is also vital for absorbing fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, & K, and carotenoids as well as essential fatty acids. Fats are essential for hormones. Muscle growth is dependent on a fat-based steroid hormone, and therefore if fat is not consumed adequately you will not build as muscle as possible.
Fats have an energy density of 9 kcal per gram. This is why fat consumption should be closely monitored if weight gain is not a goal. We recommend that fats should make up 20-35% of your total calories. Try to focus on healthier unsaturated fats found in nuts, avocado, olive oil and salmon as examples.
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We hope these help with any questions that you may have. If these don't answer yours in particular then feel free to reach out on Instagram or via email, we are here to help.
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