Today, more than a third of U.S. adults are obese, and roughly 70% of the population is considered overweight. These figures have been increasing steadily throughout recent decades, with the most dramatic increases occurring within the past 20 years. As a result, we’ve seen a significant push to increase efforts to combat obesity and promote weight loss, especially within the past five to ten years. It should therefore come as no surprise that the U.S. weight loss market is worth a whopping $66 billion. The consumer base for this market comprises more than 95 million people seeking to make some degree of change to their overall health or body composition.
Naturally, with such a vast market, there are bound to be virtually limitless options for diet, weight loss programs, fat-burning pills, and so forth. With so many different options to consider, it is far too easy for anyone pursuing weight loss to get caught up in the next big diet plan, workout program, or supplement. After all, most people looking to lose weight are seeking the means that will help them reach their goals as quickly as possible, and when a particular program is trending, no one wants to miss out on its promised results.
Among the most popular diets right now are low-carb/high-fat keto diets, plant-based, or strictly “carnivore-based” diets. Some individuals do experience success with these diets or other alternatives. More often than not, however, these extreme approaches cause people to burn out too quickly and drop off, which leaves them to return to their former eating habits. Therefore, many people wind up hopping from one program to another in an endless quest for measurable, lasting results, believing each program or diet to be superior to the other. As we’ve seen, however, this usually isn’t the case.
There are many reasons why diets fail. The person often fails to commit to it long enough to see results, the prescribed approach to eating is too restrictive, or the diets followed lack scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. Oftentimes, failure results from a combination of these reasons. With that being said, there is almost always one common theme among unsuccessful diets: those who try them often lack an understanding of what the body truly needs, why it needs it, and how to get the most from their food choices. That’s where understanding the role of macronutrients and micronutrients comes into play.
Everything we eat is made up of macronutrients, or chemical substances the body needs in large quantities. The three macros include carbohydrates, fats (lipids), and proteins, all of which play an integral part of providing the body with the energy and materials needed for essential processes performed at a cellular level. Each macronutrient is responsible for specific functions and metabolites.
Carbohydrates are essential for fueling the body and, more specifically, the brain. They are the primary source of fuel used during high-intensity exercise and can be stored in the muscles as glycogen. Yet, a more sophisticated look at the macronutrient constituents of food reveals not all are the same. In fact, each subtype of macronutrient can have substantially different metabolic consequences. Fats, for instance, are categorized into essential and nonessential fatty acids. While essential fatty acids include anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and largely pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, fats can also be found in various forms, from saturated to mono, poly, and unsaturated.
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Contrary to common belief, eating fats will not make a person fat as most fats actually contain many qualities that contribute to health benefits. While saturated fatty acids were once believed to be the major culprit in cardiovascular disease, it was later found that carbohydrates are actually the more likely causative agent behind this and many other diet-related health issues. Since fat reduction efforts have been in place, carbohydrate content has replaced fat content, largely in the form of store-bought foods which contain high amounts of processed sugars. Thus, high glycemic index carbohydrates have emerged as the real cause for concern.
In fact, diets rich in monounsaturated fats and omega acids can actually prove to be beneficial for lowering cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Fat is also a very calorically-dense nutrient which can help you feel sated and provide ample energy for the body to use. Additionally, fats are essential for absorbing and utilizing vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as neural functioning and optimal hormone responses.
Proteins are likewise essential, and are made up of amino acids which the body uses to build and repair muscle tissue inside the body. They extend far beyond the muscles, however, as they are also required for maintaining the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s organs and tissues. Protein that comes from other sources also provides the nine essential amino acids that our body cannot create, meaning they must be acquired from foods.
With a deeper understanding of how various carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins signal metabolic function and appetite regulation, it becomes possible to control the results of our eating habits. Yet, there’s more to nutrition than macronutrients alone.
With macronutrients receiving so much attention in the world of nutrition and weight loss, the role of micronutrients is often overlooked. Indeed, macronutrients are the primary nutrients and are often the factors that are prioritized when it comes to meal planning and helping individuals understand the association between dietary consumption and health outcomes. Nonetheless, they only make up one piece of the puzzle in nutrition and overall health.
Micronutrients are just as important as macronutrients and deliver many benefits to the body. Micronutrients are chemical elements/substances required in small amounts for normal functioning. Oftentimes, micronutrient deficiencies are overlooked and are instead diagnosed as symptoms of other conditions. Because symptoms of a micronutrient deficiency can include tiredness, and/or depression, which may result in stress – all of which can be attributed to other health issues or even simply lifestyle factors – it is easy for a deficiency to go unnoticed.
The importance of micronutrients cannot be overstated. They play a central role in metabolism, as well as disease treatment and prevention . It can therefore be argued that, when attempting to lose weight or maintain a healthy body composition, as well as optimizing overall wellness, one should also consider their micronutrient levels and adjust their intake appropriately. There are many gaps in the modern American diet which leave individuals susceptible to deficiencies – even in people who eat a varied diet primarily consisting of unprocessed, whole foods.
Moreover, if you have a known or undiagnosed food allergy, it’s possible that your body is further experiencing a loss of nutrients. For instance, a milk allergy can leave you with lower levels of calcium, riboflavin, phosphorous, and vitamins A, D, and B12 . This is only one example of a nutritional gap caused by an avoidance of a specific food; there are many other deficiencies which can go undetected even after performing a careful analysis of a person’s diet.
Thus, the best way to determine a micronutrient deficiency is to take a micronutrient test. Performed under the direction of a clinician, this blood analysis tests for 35 vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids inside the body, which are important to its optimal functioning.
Today, roughly 70% of the U.S. population is considered overweight or obese. Anyone trying to lose weight will stumble upon various “fad diets” that promise to help you lose the weight with minimal effort. However, these fad diets leave gaps in you nutritional plans and the deficiencies could set you back.
In order to understand why your current diet may be failing, you need to recognize the different components of your nutritional plan: macronutrients vs. micronutrients. Macronutrients make up almost everything you eat and include three major groups: carbohydrates, fats (lipids), and proteins, all of which play an integral part of providing your body with the energy it needs to perform essential processes on a cellular level. Micronutrients are chemical elements/substances that are only required in small amounts to maintain normal functioning.
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We hope the information above assisted you in your research process.
This guide was produced with contributions from the following key resources:
Austin Zechman MS, CSCS
Nutrition & Exercise Counselor at Cenegenics Dallas
The Cenegenics Education and Research Foundation
The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 1: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy
The Textbook of Age Management Medicine Volume 2: Mastering Healthy Aging Nutrition, Exercise and Hormone Replacement Therapy
Jeffrey Park Leake, M.D., CPT
Dr. Jeffrey Park Leake is a Partner and Director of Education at Cenegenics Elite Health specializing in age management and wellness. Having trained hundreds of physicians worldwide, Dr. Leake is also the Director of Education for the Clinical Strategies for Healthy Aging course at AMM Education Foundation.
Todd David Greenberg, M.D., CSCS
Dr. Todd Greenberg is a practicing physician with a broad range of expertise, including wellness, exercise, sports injuries, and MRI of sports injuries. He is a Radiology Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington.
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