What Are Macronutrients And Why Do You Need Them?
Ladies, I know that sometimes nutrition can seem like a huge, complicated subject. That’s why I like to break it down into smaller pieces so that it’s easy to digest (see what I did there!).
If you’ve read my blog about health and fitness terms you see on social media, then you might be thinking “Kayla, I already know what macronutrients are”. Today, I’m going to go into more detail to help you to understand how they can form a well-balanced meal.
- What are macronutrients?
- Macronutrient food sources
- Sources of protein
- Sources of carbohydrates
- Sources of fats
- Macronutrients and calories
- Meeting your macronutrient requirements
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients, or macros for short, are nutrients that our bodies need in large (‘macro’) amounts. Our body requires energy to be able to do anything, from lifting our arms to running on the treadmill.
This energy comes to us from macronutrients. We need macronutrients for lots of bodily functions — to provide us with energy, to help with hormone production and to support the processes that your body needs to repair and grow.
Eating from different food groups can help provide your body with the major macronutrients it needs to function at its best.
What are the primary macronutrients?
The food we need to eat to keep our body happy is made up of different macronutrients. What are the three primary macronutrients? These are protein, carbohydrates and fat — all of which are essential to keep your body running.
What is the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients?
Everything we eat is made up of two different types of nutrients — macronutrients and micronutrients.
To put it simply, macronutrients give our body energy and help it to function properly. That’s why we need them in larger amounts. Almost every piece of food has macronutrients, the main difference appears in how those macros are balanced. I’ll explain this in a little more detail later on.
Micronutrients, on the other hand, are the vitamins and minerals our body needs in order to perform at its best. ‘Micro’ means small, so as you might have guessed, micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients.
That doesn’t mean micronutrients aren’t important! Many vitamins and minerals can’t be produced by your body, which is why following a well-balanced diet is the best way to get your fill of all nutrients — macro and micro!
Macronutrient food sources
Now that you have a better understanding of why macronutrients are important, you probably want to know how to get them.
Sources of protein
The protein you eat is digested into amino acids, which your body then uses to develop and repair cells and tissue.
Protein can be found in a number of meat products, including chicken, beef or pork. You can also make use of vegetarian sources of protein too, such as:
- Nuts and seeds
While protein powders can give your body protein, keep in mind that they may not provide your body with many micronutrients — unlike the other foods listed above.
Sources of carbohydrates
The main source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are a crucial part of your diet!
Healthy carbohydrates can be found in a range of plant-based foods (including grains), as these provide fibre too.
Sources of carbohydrates include:
- Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach, cabbage and kale)
- Root vegetables (such as sweet potato)
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains.
Carbohydrates are also found in foods such as bread and pasta — just try to choose wholemeal varieties where you can. White bread and pasta varieties tend to be broken down faster, which can lead to a blood sugar spike.
Sources of fats
While the idea of eating fat might sound crazy if you are trying to lose weight, they are necessary! Now, to be clear, there are different types of fats. Here, we are talking about good fats — fats that are known to have a positive effect on your health.
Sources of healthy fats include:
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Nut paste/butter.
The fat component of a diet helps your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K, more easily. Fats also help with satiety (feeling full after eating).
Everything you eat has one or more of these three primary macronutrients included, just in different amounts.
Macronutrients and calories
The energy taken from food is measured using calories, so a food that is high in calories has the potential to provide us with more energy.
Now, I need to stress here that not all calories are the same! The calories the body gets from a chocolate bar are very different to those it gets from a bowl of Greek yoghurt with fresh berries. That key difference is part of the reason why I believe calorie counting isn’t the most effective way of mapping nutrition.
Macronutrients are broken down by our body in different ways. Carbohydrates, for example, are broken down by our digestive system into glucose. That glucose provides fuel for our brain and nervous system — so we simply could not work out without it! Protein is broken down by our body into amino acids, which are the building blocks our body needs to build muscle, antibodies, hormones and for the growth and repair of cells. Then we have fat, which also plays a major role in our body. It helps by forming cell membranes, manufacturing and balancing hormones, and helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
While these macronutrients serve major functions, they do differ in the amount of calories they contain. For example, there are four calories in both one gram of carbohydrates and one gram of protein, while there are nine calories in one gram of fat. That is why it’s important to eat these mindfully, (even the good ones!), especially if you are trying to lose weight.
What does counting macros mean? Should I be doing it?
Counting macros involves balancing meals so that a percentage of your daily energy comes from each macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein and fat). It’s important to point out that the required macronutrient breakdown does vary for each person, and it can vary depending on your goals. Therefore, counting macros and balancing macro percentages can be a little complicated.
Rather than focusing too intensely on breakdowns, it might help to begin by focusing on the nutrients you are putting into your body, and aiming to meet your daily serves of all of the food groups.
While I don’t personally count macros, I think having an understanding of macronutrients and micronutrients is really important. Instead of looking at a meal in isolation, I prefer to plan what I’m eating over a whole day or a week. I find that easier for balancing the intake of nutrients in my diet.
Meeting your macronutrient requirements
While it’s not crucial to count macronutrients, I think it is really important to understand why your body needs them and micronutrients. After all, knowing what nutrition is and how good nutrition benefits you can help you make informed choices about what you eat!
Eating a well-balanced diet that provides our bodies with lots of nutrients means you are likely to feel more energised, plus you get to eat lots of delicious healthy foods! What could be better?
Love, Kayla xx
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.