The Importance of Proteins, Carbs, and Fats

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on March 11th, 2024
Reading Time: 6 minutes

The human body is a beautiful machine that requires a lot of ingredients to function properly and keep you feeling happy and healthy.

This article is about the three macronutrients that the body needs to survive: Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats. Each serves a specific need for your body, and each has a life-sustaining role to play.

What Are Proteins?

Proteins are organic compounds that are comprised of amino acids. To date, there are twenty known amino acids that the body utilizes, eleven of which are made naturally by the human body.

This means that nine others must be consumed in your diet. These amino acids are known as Essential Amino Acids.

Why Do We Need Protein?

Every one of our cells uses protein, and protein is necessary for the diet to fix what's broken and to help build and rebuild tissues.

For example, after you work out, your body uses protein from your food to patch up and reinforce your muscle tissue, which is what heals you and makes you stronger.

Positive Nitrogen Balance is an important concept to consider when thinking about protein. This just means that you are eating enough protein frequently enough to meet the needs of your body.

It is recommended to eat some form of protein, whether in meal or snack form, every three or four hours to keep your body concerned with building and maintaining muscle (an anabolic state) rather than breaking it down (catabolic state).

You should always make sure you get enough protein in your diet, because, if you don't get enough protein in your diet, your body will start to break down your muscle proteins to service your body's overall protein needs.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

To enhance muscle mass and maintain or increase strength, you should be eating an average of 10-15 grams of protein for every ten pounds that you weigh.

If you are interested in boosting muscle mass or are looking for a vegetarian way to ensure you are getting proper protein, protein shakes are an excellent option.

Foods that are Considered a Healthy Source of Protein

  • Low-Fat Dairy
  • Fish
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Lean Beef
  • Eggs

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are fibers, starches, and sugars that are found in milk, vegetables, grains, and fruits. The body needs carbohydrates because they are the macronutrient that provides the most accessible and most abundant source of energy for the body.

How Much of My Diet Should Consist of Carbs?

Carbs are essential, and you need them to maintain energy levels and provide your body with the fuel that it needs to function. The problem is that in American society, people just eat too many carbs.

Carbs should consist of around 40-45% of your daily calories, whereas proteins and fats should make up the other 55-60%.

Complex Carbs vs. Simple Carbs

There are two forms of carbs, complex carbohydrates, and simple carbohydrates.

The body is evolutionarily designed to process complex carbs into usable energy.

The main problem with carbs in America is that we eat too many simple carbs and not enough complex carbs.

Processed grains and sugars are too easy for the body to break down, causing blood sugar spikes which are bad for the digestive and cardiovascular system, and can lead to Type-2 Diabetes.

The vastly increased consumption of processed carbohydrates over the last fifty years is the leading cause of the current diabetes epidemic.

Carbs and Body Fat

When it comes to overeating, Carbohydrates pose quite a threat. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly and aren't very filling. on means that it takes more food to feel full.

On the other hand, your body has specific energy needs based on your Basal Metabolic Rate and activity level. When carbs aren't immediately used as energy, they are converted into body fat, the body's energy storage system.

How Many Carbohydrates Should I Eat?

The number of carbohydrates that you need depends on your current body fat and your workout goals.

If you are overweight, you should only eat around 15 grams of carbs for every ten pounds of body weight.

If you have healthy body weight and you are looking to build muscle. 20-30 grams per pound is acceptable, as long as your workouts utilize your carbohydrates effectively.

Simple carbohydrates should be consumed sparingly, and the majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from complex carbs unless you are engaging in an active workout routine.

When working out, simple carbohydrates can be beneficial before or after your workout, to aid in muscle-building and to maintain energy.

Healthy Sources of Carbohydrates

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Brown Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grains

Fats -- Hormone Synthesis and Energy Storage

Fats are the body's primary source of backup energy.

When the body doesn't have enough carbohydrates available to meet the energy needs of the body, it begins to convert fat stores into glucose, which is how we lose weight.

The body does not directly turn eaten fats into body fat, however. Carbohydrates are much more easily converted into fat.

There are three kinds of fat: Monounsaturated Fat, Polyunsaturated Fat, and Saturated Fat

Monounsaturated Fat is the best kind of fat for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and for individuals that need to get their LDL Cholesterol Levels under control.

There are two types of Cholesterol — HDL Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol) and LDL Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol). Monounsaturated fats have a neutral effect on HDL Cholesterol Levels while reducing LDL Cholesterol Levels.

Polyunsaturated Fat is good for patients that have total cholesterol levels which are too high (it is possible to have too much HDL Cholesterol, but this is more uncommon). For most individuals, Polyunsaturated Fat can be beneficial, but the consumption of foods high in Polyunsaturated Fat, such as sunflower oils, soybean oils, corn oils, and fish oils should be controlled and limited.

Fish oils are the best source of Polyunsaturated Fats because they are a quality source of Omega-Three Fatty Acids.

Saturated Fat is found mostly in dairy and meat. Some familiar sources of Saturated Fat are ham, pork, lamb, veal, beef, cheese, and whole milk. For vegans, palm kernel oil and coconut oil can provide Saturated Fat, among other plant fats.

Saturated Fat is 100% necessary for your body to produce hormones, among the most important of which is Testosterone. If you kicked fat out of your diet completely, your Hormone Levels would become depleted, and your vitality and physiological function would diminish dramatically as a result.

Trans Fats -- The Fats to Avoid

Not all fats are beneficial to the human body in any way. The most dangerous form of fat that is commonly available is Trans Fat.

Trans Fat became a common ingredient in Low-Fat foods during the eighties and nineties, as a response to the widespread, yet false, belief that dietary fat was a leading cause of obesity.

It would not be until the mid-to-late 90s that sugar would be recognized as the primary culprit of obesity.

Trans Fats are artificial fats created from a chemical hardening process known as hydrogenation.

Hydrogenation converts liquid vegetable oils into shortening and margarine. Trans Fats have proven to be highly dangerous for the heart and cardiovascular system when eaten regularly.

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