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What are Macronutrients?

I hate the term diet, there are so many negative connotations to this, whenever I think diet, I think it’s not going to work. You see we fall into the idea that we just need cut out all the carbs and sugars and eat as many salads as possible. You begin to loose the balance your body needs. I chose to think about my food, as fuel. Your body needs its macronutrients, it needs protein, carbs, fat, & water, all of which are factors to having a well-balanced lifestyle. The human body and all of its impressive mechanisms are highly complex, and it requires a variety of nutrients in order to function optimally. What we eat is essential for meeting these needs. Macronutrients help us grow, develop, repair, give us energy, and make us feel good. They each have their own role and functions in the body.

Macronutrients refer to the three basic components of every diet — carbohydrates, fat, and protein — with a bonus fourth, water. Macro, meaning “large,” alludes to the fact that these nutrients are needed in larger quantities.

  1. Carbs

In your diet, carbs are the most important providers of energy in terms of mental and physical activity. Monosaccharides, or simple sugars, are the cornerstones of the carb category. Carbs are differentiated by chain length into the following groups:

  • Monosaccharides: glucose (corn sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), galactose (milk sugar)

  • Disaccharides: sucrose, lactose

  • Oligosaccharides: maltose

  • Polysaccharides (aka complex carbohydrates): amylopectin (plant starch), glycogen (animal starch), inulin

Carbs are stored in the body in two forms: as glycogen in the liver (⅓) and in skeletal muscles (⅔). Your glycogen stores provide you with energy during physical activity. Those stores are replenished when you eat a meal rich in carbs.

Choosing the Right Carbs

When eating carbs always try to choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. For example:

  • A piece of fruit is better than fruit juice.

  • A whole potato is better than pasta.

  • Steel cut oats are better than oat flake cereal.

  • Brown rice is better than white rice.

Also, choose nutrient dense carbs before anything else.

Carbs within colorful vegetables and fruits are always better for your body than carb-rich foods like breads, pastas, rice, and potatoes.

2. Protein

Proteins are made up of linked chains of amino acids; the human body contains a total of 20 different amino acids. Protein serves a multitude of functions in the body. Amino acids fall into 3 categories: essential, semi-essential and nonessential. The human body isn’t capable of producing sufficient essential amino acids, therefore you have to make sure you are getting enough from this group in your diet.

This macronutrient does a variety of jobs in the human body. Protein functions as a hormone, enzyme and an antibody in the immune system. Proteins are also a part of certain bodily structures, like connective tissue, skin, hair and muscle fiber.

The majority (60%) of protein is stored in your musculature. Your protein stores don’t serve as direct sources of energy, but rather work like building blocks for other structures in the body.

You should consume about one gram of protein per kilo (.36 g per pound) of your own weight on a daily basis. If you’re looking to build muscle mass, you can increase your intake to 1.2 – 1.8 g per kilo (1 g per pound) to see results.

Complete protein sources

Are typically animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt. But there are some plant-based complete proteins which include quinoa, soy, chia seeds, hemp, and buckwheat.

Most vegetable sources of protein tend to lack one or more of the essential amino acids, but combining a host of different plant-based proteins will help vegans and vegetarians consume all nine amino acids in one meal. It’s also worth noting that choosing vegetables as your primary source of protein will result in a reduction in your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol — which is a good thing! This is also a good reason not to solely focus on animal products as sources of protein. Variety is key.

3. Fats

Lipids (fats) come in either solid form (butter, coconut fat) or liquid form (plant and vegetable oils). There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, “poly” and “mono”, and trans fat.

Within the polyunsaturated fats, you’ll also find omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These are essential for the body and need to be obtained through a nutritious diet. Coldwater fish, canola oil, safflower oil and nuts are particularly rich in these fatty acids.

The human body needs unsaturated fats to regulate metabolism and also to maintain the elasticity of cell membranes. Unsaturated fats also improve blood flow and are important for cell growth and regeneration.

Lipids don’t just provide the body with valuable fatty acids, they also deliver the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Animal fats provide the human body with cholesterol, which is synthesized through exposure to sunlight to form vitamin D in the skin.

Here's an infographic that can help:

I know this sounds a little complex, but I promise you, by at least having an idea of what your body needs, and trying to feed yourself those nutrients your body will thank you. You will have more energy, be happier, and of course get the results you want in the gym.

Macro Calculator

Visit Healthy Eater, their calculator, see what your targets are, it will be the guide you need to eating just the right amounts.

Also, stay tuned for the next blog, where I will go over how to manipulate your macros, for those body gains.