Nutrition 101 – What is a Protein, Carb, Fat

Nutrition Basics

The food we eat, regardless of where you purchase it, whether it is from the grocery store, the farm, or online. When we consume food it is all broken down into three primary Nutrients.

Proteins – Carbohydrates – Fats

Protein is any of a class of nitrogenous organic compounds that consist of large molecules composed of one or more long chains of amino acids and are an essential part of all living organisms, especially as structural components of body tissues such as muscle, hair, collagen, etc., and as enzymes and antibodies.

Here are some basic characteristics, guidelines and Hormones protein regulate in the body: 

  • Thermic Effect of Food – Protein digestive process burns a lot of energy throughout day 
  • Repair at the cellular level from stress 
  • Lean Body Mass Gain – Protein is the most important macronutrient for this process 
  • Satiety – Protein and variation within protein sources is important for the balance of energy and to reduce feelings of hunger 
  • Adequate protein digested effectively uses energy and repairs 
  • Hormonal response – Protein regulates hormones like glucagon that control fat storage 
  • Protein or Carbohydrates – Protein and carbs are calorically equivalent, so when breaking down daily macronutrient percentages, this can be a convenient switch ]
  • Generally 1g/# Lean Body Mass/day is a good starting point, changing based on health, stress, activity.
    • Growth Hormone:
      • a hormone that stimulates growth in animal or plant cells, especially (in animals) a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.
    • IGF-1:
      • IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1) is a naturally-occurring polypeptide protein hormone, similar to insulin, that is primarily produced by the liver. IGF-1 plays an important role in stimulating growth during childhood and helps build and repair muscle tissue in adults. It is also called somatomedin.
    • Glucagon:
      • Glucagon is a hormone that raises the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood. The pancreas produces glucagon and releases it when the body needs more sugar in the blood for delivery to the cells. When someone with diabetes has a very low blood glucose level, a glucagon injection can help raise the blood glucose quickly.


Carbohydrates are any of a large group of organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues and including sugars, starch, and cellulose. They contain hydrogen and oxygen in the same ratio as water (2:1) and typically can be broken down to release energy in the animal body.

Here are some basic characteristics, guidelines, and roles Carbohydrates has in the body: 

  • Despite popular opinion, the right carbs can be fine dependent on function, activity, goals, and lifestyle 
  • For an intense athlete, lots of carbs can be good, but not for a person with low activity levels wanting mental acuity and energy balance 
  • Vegetables great as primary source of carbs, no matter function or amount of carbs (See seasonal vegetables handout) 
  • With higher activity and leanness levels, the more carbs they can tolerate 
  • Vegetable profile can be a more broad variety with starchier ones included 
  • With lesser activity and leanness levels, starchy vegetables lesser part of diet 
  • Fruits and starches should be secondary source of carbs 

– If goal is daily function, low percentage of carbs coming from fruits and starches – If total carbs are higher, vegetables still primary source, and high variation of fruits

  • If total carbs are kept low, food intolerances related to starches can be avoided 
  • Fructose not a good energy source for those interested in daily function and good health markers 

– Sugar is of lowest importance as a carb source – May be required for intense athletes whose diets don’t allow for optimal recovery 

  • Post-workout window carbs: 

– Non-lean athlete – maybe only protein immediately as can’t use carbs well, but carbs from food source within 

– 90mins 

– Leaner non-athlete – can have fructose afterwards, but can stick to food sources 

– Lean athlete – forms of sugar to recover for the sport 

  – Non-lean non-athlete – protein alone immediately, vegetables with protein   

       Vegetables with protein within 90 minutes                           

FATS/LIPID is any of a group of organic compounds, including fats, oils, waxes, sterols, and triglycerides, that are insoluble in water but soluble in nonpolar organic solvents, are oily to the touch, and together with carbohydrates and proteins constitute the principal structural material of living cells.

  • good quality fats creates high satiety and energy levels 
  • Poor sources of fats in food profile will create internal inflammation 
  • Cell membranes are made up of fats, and good fats improve intercellular communication 
  • Fat is important for digestion, cells, and the nervous system 
  • Best sources of fats are animal sources, coconut and olive sources, and some nuts 
  • Stay away from fats that are overheated or used for long-term shelf life in products 
  • With better food sources, hydration, removal of food intolerances, and improved sleep, resiliency is increased and digestion of good fats is better 
  • Low levels of resiliency can mean that even good fats won’t be absorbed well 
  • Not all trans fats are horrible, but they can be bad 
  • There are different types of FAT: 
    • Saturated Fats *BAD
      • saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.
    • Mono-unsaturated Fats *GOOD
      • are found in animal flesh such as red meat, whole milk products, nuts, and high fat fruits such as olives and avocados. Olive oil is about 75% monounsaturated fat. The high oleic variety sunflower oil contains at least 70% monounsaturated fat. Canola oil and cashews are both about 58% monounsaturated fat.
    • Poly-Unsaturated Fats *GOOD
      • are fats in which the constituent hydrocarbon chain possesses two or more carbon–carbon double bonds. Polyunsaturated fat can be found mostly in nuts, seeds, fish, seed oils, and oysters. “Unsaturated” refers to the fact that the molecules contain less than the maximum amount of hydrogen (if there were no double bonds).
    • Trans Fat *BAD
      • also called trans-unsaturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids, is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in small amounts in meat and milk fat. It became widely produced industrially from vegetable and fish oils in the early 20th century for use in margarine and later also in snack food, packaged baked goods, and for frying fast food.

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