Weight loss plans are almost always trying to get you to get rid of some food that you love. However, the three macronutrients (Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat) as well as the unofficial fourth, water, are all necessary for good health. Never try to eliminate any of these from your diet. If you're trying to lose weight, here is the simple truth about the stuff that makes up food.
Protein is the building block of all life. All life on this planet is made up of amino
acids that form chains called proteins. Every function of every cell in your body
involves proteins. It should come as no surprise, then, that consuming protein
in your diet is essential to your good health.
Protein can come from many sources, not just red meat. All animal parts are
protein-rich, from fish to chicken to pork to any animal you'd care to cook up. If
you are a vegetarian, you probably already know that many beans and nuts are good
sources of protein as well.
The highest concentration of protein is in muscle fibers, in humans and other
animals. Therefore, if you want to build up your muscles, you must consume
more protein than your minimum daily requirements. And if you consume less
than your daily dose, your body may cannibalize your own muscles to get it. This is
why an adequate intake of amino acids is essential.
Carbohydrates is a fancy word for something very simple: organic molecules that
contain at least two hydrogen atoms for each carbon atom. All carbodydrates
that you can eat are sources of energy. No matter what their composition,
your body will break them down into glucose, a simple sugar, which is then used for
energy when it is needed. Some carbohydrates are very long chains called "complex
carbohydrates", and some are short chains called "simple sugars". Complex carbs
are better for you because they provide more energy, but it takes the body longer to
break them apart, which means the energy lasts longer and keeps you feeling full
for a longer time. Simple sugars are broken down very quickly, which causes your
blood-sugar to rise rapidly. If you don't burn it right away, your body will turn it
Carbohydrates are most abundant in foods that taste sweet. The sweeter the taste,
the simpler the carb. So candy of all kinds are made up almost entirely of simple
sugars. Carbs are also abundant in fruits and vegetables, as well as grains. Whole
grains contain complex carbohydrates, while other grains and plants have shorter
Some modern diets suggest trying to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet,
because they are a major source of calories that you're trying to reduce. Reduction
of carbs will be necessary for weight loss, but it is vitally important not to get rid of
them altogether. As mentioned above, carbohydrate-rich foods include fruits
and vegetables that contain many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Losing all those good elements would put your body in a very unhealthy place. On
top of that, your body processes carbs to raise blood-sugar, which is important to
your feeling of satiety, or feeling full. If you have no carbs, you may easily be
overeating fats (see below). Finally, if your body is not using carbs for energy, it
will break apart proteins in your food for energy before it breaks down fats.
So, you lose the benefits of amino acids you've eaten, which we discussed above.
A good tactic that many people find easy to identify and follow in their diets is to
get rid of "empty carbs", meaning carbohydrates that don't provide
anything but energy. White bread, potatoes, refined sugar and candy are empty
carbs that you should avoid.
Fat is Fine (in small doses)
The third macronutrient is fat, which is most easily thought of as concentrated
carbs. One gram of fat has 9 calories, while carbohydrates and protein contain 4
calories per gram. So, if you are reducing the calories in your diet, reducing fat
is the easiest way to lower the total calorie count.
Not all fats are the same, though. Saturated and trans fats raises LDL cholesterol
levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats
(monounsaturated or polyunsaturated) do not raise these "bad cholesterol" levels,
and are therefore a better choice.
Fats, unfortunately, taste very good. Fats are the major component in
toppings and spreads, such as butter, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and cooking oils.
Fats are also the ingredient that make desserts and snacks so tempting, like
cookies, cakes and chips.
Even though some people try to get rid of all fat, some fat in your diet is important.
Do not try to eliminate it. Fat aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
Essential Fatty Acids, namely omega-3 and omega-6, can only be found in certain
fats, and it is important to consume some of these on a regular basis. These
nutrients aid in the regulation of blood pressure, blood clotting and immune
To get the good fats without an excess of calories, try eating more fish and seafood
instead of other meats. Choose margarine instead of butter. When cooking, choose
olive oil to grease your skillet. And the most effective tip: read the labels on
the foods you're buying. They should list the fat content, and break it down
into Saturated and Unsaturated. If unsaturated is not listed, simply choose the food
with the least Saturated fat count.
Some call water the fourth macronutrient. Technically, it is not a nutrient at all,
because pure water does not provide any building blocks for your body. However, it
is the element most neglected in the diets of most people. You must drink at
least 8 glasses of water per day. More if you're active.
Water encourages fat loss by keeping the kidneys working at full capacity. If the
kidneys don't get enough water, the liver begins to take over some kidney functions.
One of the liver's main functions is to metabolize fat. So, if the kidneys need the
liver's help, then the liver can't burn fat as quickly. Drink enough water so that your
liver can metabolize fat at its peak ability.
Water contributes to healthy skin by hydrating it from the inside out. Water aids in
joint lubrication, reducing your chance of injury in any activity. Water is also the
best cure for constipation.
Some people retain water, which is usually caused by a sodium imbalance. The
solution is not to avoid drinking water, but to drink more water. When the salt
is diluted, it becomes less of a problem. Also, if your body recognizes that water is
constantly coming into your system, then it will realize that it doesn't need to store
Although there have been a few cases where long distance runners have died from
drinking too much water, their situation is highly specialized, and shouldn't be a
concern for a normal person. For people with a normal amount of activity, there
is no danger in drinking too much water, so drink as much as you can. The
worst thing that will happen is that you'll visit the washroom more often, so
consider it a good chance for a little extra exercise.
Now that you understand how important all the macronutrients are, how do you lose
weight? Reduce overall calories, but keep a measure of each macronutrient in your
diet. Reducing fats overall is an easy way to reduce overall calories, and switch all
of your fats to unsaturated. Most dieticians suggest about 25% fat, 15% protein,
and 60% carbs. If you're trying to put on a little muscle to burn fat faster, try to
raise the protein to 20% and reduce the carbohydrates to 55%. A good weight loss
plan keeps a balanced diet with reduced calorie intake and increased exercise.
David McCormick is the founder of Weightless Products. His Mr. Weightless site is
dedicated to free weight loss articles and advice, primarily targeted to men. There
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