The Importance of Macronutrients and Metabolic Typing
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
I want to start by saying that there is NO one size fits all diet for every person on this
earth. Yes I said it….not everyone should be plant based and for some a keto diet is not
appropriate. The ultimate effect of a food or nutrient on a person is not dependent on
the food itself. The variable is actually the person. So, what does this mean? It means
that one food or food group can have a different effect on each individual’s physiology
and that affects how you heal and how you feel!
Throughout evolutionary history, indigenous people all over the world adapted their
diets to their climate, geography, and the availability of food. Differences in our genetic
inheritances resulted in different nutrient requirements. This explains why the Inuit living
in the arctic survived on a high fat, high protein diet, while the Indigenous people living
in the Amazon survived on a mostly plant-based diet. Both groups with little to no
This variation in diet based on how a body responds to and metabolizes food is called
Metabolic Typing. Metabolic Typing establishes individual nutritional requirements
around the types of foods to eat, the ratio of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and
fat) and the balance of micronutrients. Metabolic Typing, based on the original work by
Will Wolcott, looks at the body’s Fundamental Homeostatic Controls as a way to define
one’s Metabolic Type. Depending on what side of the spectrum you may fall within a
particular homeostatic control, it provides a window into what the appropriate balance of
foods, macronutrients and micronutrients are needed to obtain homeostasis.
As a reminder, homeostasis is the property of a system that regulates its own internal
environment to maintain a stable condition. The human body is genetically designed to
maintain homeostasis, but stressors in our body can alter this. Therefore, the potential
for sufficient adaptation to stressors, continual homeostatic balance, and thereby good
health is a measure of a body’s ability to manage these stressors through these
Fundamental Homeostatic Control Processes(1).
What is Metabolic Typing?
The Metabolic Typing diet is based on the concept that our metabolism (converting food
to energy) is different for everyone and the variance in an individual’s metabolism is due
to two main Fundamental Homeostatic Control Processes which are influenced by your
genetics and heredity.
Autonomic Type – The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for the involuntary actions in the body (ie. sweating, breathing) and is the master regulator of metabolism. The ANS is comprised of the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system regulates energy utilization and is considered the system that stimulates “fight” or “flight” mode. The parasympathetic system regulates energy conversion and stimulates the “rest” and “digest” functions in the body. Most people are influenced by one or the other.
Oxidative Type – this is essentially the rate at which the body metabolizes carbohydrates (converting food into energy). The faster a body metabolizes carbohydrates, the worse the body tolerates it. If someone is a fast oxidizer, they rapidly convert carbs to energy and thus require foods that burn more slowly (like proteins and fats). A slow oxidizer maintains metabolic function with lighter food that burn faster in the body, such as carbohydrates.
So, what does all this mean for you? It means that based on your own genetics, where
you fall within the spectrum of these two Homeostatic Controls affects how you
metabolize your food, what you should eat and the way you plan your meals around the
ratio of macronutrients. All this has a bearing on maintaining homeostasis in your body.
What are the Metabolic Types?
There are three metabolic types in which any individual can fall based on what autonomic type and oxidative type they are.
Carbo Type: These people are slow oxidizers or sympathetic dominant. They generally have weak appetites and a high tolerance for carbs and sweets. They have been known to have problems with weight management and a Type A personality with variable energy patterns. Those who are Carbo Types need to prioritize complex cards and lighter proteins (like white meat chicken, fish & turkey). Carbohydrates should make up the greatest proportion of a Carbo Type’s daily macronutrient ratio.
Protein Type: These people are fast oxidizers or parasympathetic dominant. They tend to be hungry frequently and crave fatty and salty foods. They generally have seen failure when on “low” calorie diets and tend to be more fatigued, anxious or nervous. Those who are Protein Types need to prioritize healthy fats and heavier proteins in their diet (like dark meat chicken, beef and organ meats). Proteins and Fats should make up a large proportion of a Protein Type’s daily macronutrient ratio.
Mixed Type: These people are right in the middle. They are neither fast nor slow oxidizers and neither sympathetic nor parasympathetic dominant. They generally have a variable appetite and don’t have many cravings. They are less likely to have a weight problem but could easily slip into a one-sided diet very quickly resulting in weight issues. They also tend to show fatigue, anxiety and nervousness. Mixed Types need a balance of all foods and all macronutrients to be in a state of homeostasis.
One thing is for certain, no matter what Metabolic Type you are, eliminating added sugars, processed foods and refined carbs is necessary to build your body back into a state of health and eliminate Metabolic Chaos.
How Do I Know What Ratio of Macronutrients to Eat based on my Metabolic Type?
Macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats & proteins) are the components of our food. They are our body’s fuel source and are required to perform our every-day bodily functions. What are the three macronutrients?
Carbohydrates: the body’s primary source of fuel. They provide energy for your muscles and central nervous system by breaking down into glucose. When glucose levels rise, the pancreas secretes insulin which signals the body’s cells to take up the glucose. Once in the cells, glucose is used in the process of cellular respiration to produce ATP (which stores the energy needed for cellular activity). Any excess glucose is either converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and skeletal muscles, or it is converted to fat and stored as adipose tissue. There are two types of carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates: easy for the body to break down and break down quickly
Complex carbohydrates: take more time for the body to breakdown and often found in starches and grains
Great sources of carbohydrates include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Protein: structural proteins form the building blocks for structures like muscles and connective tissue in the body, while functional proteins (enzymes, hormones etc) act to regulate bodily functions. Proteins get broken down into amino acids which pass through blood capillaries in the small intestine and then to the liver. The amino acids that aren’t used immediately by the liver are returned to the blood where they are taken up by the cells to form different proteins in the body. There are two types of amino acids
Non-essential: amino acids which can be made by our bodies and thus do not need to be consumed through diet
Essential: are required through our diet
Great sources of protein and essential amino acids include animal proteins like chicken, beef or fish or plant-based proteins like soy, beans, and lentils.
Fat: fat is also a good source of energy as it provides a way for your body to store it. It helps to heat the body, drive metabolic processes, and move muscles. It is also a component of cells and membranes and is required to produce hormones and neurotransmitters. It is also necessary for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin D. Fats tend to get a bad rep. We’ve been “tricked” into thinking that eating fat makes us fat and that it can contribute to heart disease. We now know that only the “bad” trans fats that come from hydrogenating unsaturated fats have been shown to affect our health in a negative way. Good sources of fats include avocados, nuts, seeds, olives, and olive oil.
Eating the right macronutrient ratio based on your Metabolic Type is important for you to feel satiated, well-nourished, and full of energy. It also helps to balance blood sugar. But how do you know where to start?
In general, the right ratio of macronutrients will vary for each individual person, but there is a starting point. The idea is to start by using the below ratio that coincides with your Metabolic Type at each of your daily meals. You can choose to track your food using an app like MyFitnessPal or eyeball it by using your plate. Whatever works! Then it’s important to track how you feel after each meal. Do you feel satiated? Do you have energy? With my clients, I use a Diet Record Check to help them track how they feel after they eat. Then it’s just a bit of trial and error with minor adjustments to find the optimal split.
How Can I Uncover my Metabolic Type?
As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, un-coding a client’s Metabolic Type and having them eat a diet that they are genetically intended to eat is a huge part of my practice because it is a step towards resolving Metabolic Chaos in the body. It’s satisfying to see the change in vitality once someone starts eating the right foods. If you find that you’re not satiated after you eat, feel lethargic or have issues with brain fog, you may not be eating right for your Metabolic Type.
Book a FREE 30 min Discovery Call to learn more about how I can help you uncover your Metabolic Type so that you can start feeling good again.