The Energy Nutrients aka MACROnutrients
“Carbohydrates and fats make me fat!” Have you heard this statement before? Well getting the right amounts, mix, and types is important especially for athletes and endurance athletes. Because athletes need energy for performance.
Now what exactly are macronutrients and why are they important?
Macronutrients are your main source of energy because only macronutrients provide calories. The 3 main nutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Carbohydrates are the best source of energy to fuel your muscles especially as an endurance athlete. Carbohydrates not only provide energy for your central nervous system - your brain
(this is why I tell kids that its important to eat breakfast, to give their brains energy to think), but also helps in assisting in fat metabolism and delaying fatigue in your muscles when you run. It’s important to understand the two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. In general, it’s best to consume more complex carbohydrates in your diet and is an advantage plant-based endurance athlete have since most of a plant-based diet contains complex carbohydrates and high in fiber. Although, you do want to be careful with eating complex carbohydrates right before a run or competition to offset any GI issues such as nausea or diarrhea. But it’s important to find what works for you!
Protein is the building block for your muscles and even though it provides your body with energy (calories), your body doesn’t efficiently use protein for fuel. Protein is important because it helps to rebuild body tissue. Protein is most important after running or a competition because it will help your muscles to recover. In general, 0.8 g/kg of body weight is the recommendation of protein, but for endurance athletes the recommendation is 1.2-1.4 g/kg of body weight. Any more than that won’t be beneficial and can actually be harmful to your body. The recommendation is to now limit protein to < 2 g/kg.
Fat also provides your body with energy (calories) and helps your body to absorb nutrients. For endurance athletes, fat is important because it’s also another fuel source for your muscles like carbohydrates. But unfortunately the body isn’t efficient at using fat up quickly enough so for more intense exercise, carbohydrates are still needed. It’s important to understand the different between saturated and unsaturated fats. And an advantage on a plant-based diet, is you will most likely be eating more unsaturated fats which is good. But if you are whole-food plant-based, it’s important you eat nuts, seeds, or avocados to get in your fats.
Note on protein: It is possible to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Protein shakes and bars are more common and can easily be consumed, but should not be used in excess or used in off season. But can be used for convenience.
There is a certain mix or ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats you want to try to get in your diet. But this does not mean you have to count your macros or track calories. If you’d like help in figuring out how to achieve the right mix of macronutrients in your diet to help you perform your best, feel free to reach out to me.