Ok, so when it comes to proteins, fats and carbs, there’s a number of burning hot questions we have beyond the obvious. From when should you have what to experience maximum energy and output in the gym to what time to snack is best before a workout and how do fats, proteins and carbs really play into the mix – we cut to the chase.
Each of the macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) play an important role within our bodies.
Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient, as it plays a critical role in building and repairing cells and tissues within the body as well as creating hormones, enzymes and transporting molecules throughout the body. We require enough of certain proteins known as “essential amino acids” for our bodies to function. Our bodies can’t create these on our own and they need to be consumed through dietary proteins. In my experience, protein is the most commonly under-consumed macronutrient and a lot of adults (especially women) don’t consume adequate dietary protein.
Dietary fats provide energy for the body, support cell growth and produce and regulate hormones. It is recommended that adults consume 20-35% of their calories from fats, particularly focusing on healthy fats (unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) and limiting saturated and trans fats.
The final macronutrient, carbohydrates are our primary fuel source for daily tasks including exercise and brain function. High fibre carbs are particularly important to help promote digestive health. Low carb diets have become popular especially with the rise of the ‘ketogenic’ diet, and although carbs are indeed less essential than other macronutrients, they still play an important role particularly in active individuals.
Nutrient timing (aka, the time at which you ingest each of the macronutrients) can play an important role in exercise performance and recovery.
Consuming a light meal or snack with a balance of proteins, fats and carbs 1-2 hours before your workout will help provide you energy for your session and ensure you perform your best. The new Optimum Nutrition Protein Nuts or a Protein Crunch Bar is the perfect pre-workout snack to provide energy, and it’s nice and light so it won’t sit heavy in your stomach while you exercise!
Post-workout, our body needs both protein and carbs to restore muscle glycogen and stimulate muscle protein synthesis. It’s best to avoid fats immediately post-workout, as it can slow your digestion and uptake of nutrients into your cells. This is why a Whey Protein Isolate shake is so popular post-workout, because its fast-absorbing and low fat, helping to get the protein into your muscle cells and boost recovery faster. Adding a piece of fruit or another carbohydrate source to your shake post workout is also beneficial for your recovery, especially is your goal is to build muscle because we want to restore muscle glycogen and our bodies are most sensitive to carbohydrates (in a good way!) post-workout.
This article was written by Bec Cameron, Optimum Nutrition Athlete.