Just like you, your body has a daily task list that it needs to accomplish. Unlike you, your body has the motivation to go through with it but it cannot do so in the absence of energy and vital nutrition. The body gets this from the foods and fluids that you consume on a daily basis. This is where macronutrients come in. If you’re wondering: what are macronutrients, read on so we can dig deeper.
What are macronutrients?
To ensure your body functions optimally, you must ensure that it meets its macronutrient and micronutrient requirements. Macronutrients are nutrients your body requires in large quantities. There are three primary types:
All three macronutrients provide you with energy in the form of calories. Fats provide double (9 kcal/g) the amount of energy of carbs and proteins (4kcal/g). While alcohol also provides you with energy (7kcal/g) it is not classified as a macro because it is not needed for survival.
While you’re researching what are macronutrients, it is important to note that they are not foods or a type of food group; they are to be considered as ingredients in various types of foods.
What are macros in diet terms?
The three primary macronutrients that are absolutely vital for basic body functions are not new to any of us. We’ve all heard of carbs, fats, and protein. But here we’re going to discuss the best ingredients to get your macronutrients.
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source. They can be found in sufficient quantities in common foods such as:
- Tuber vegetables (potato, yam, sweet potato, carrot)
- Other vegetables
The most common and simple form of carbohydrate (and one that Aussies consume in excess) is sugar. Certain carbs release energy gradually to the body while others provide it with a quick source of energy. The problem with that quick surge in energy is that the body uses it very fast and then drops, giving you the eventual sugar crash. When you’re considering what are macros in diets, always look for natural foods that will give you sustained, slow-release energy.
Protein forms the building blocks of the body. If you are active and have a regular exercise regime, you already know of protein as a muscle and mass building aid, but it is more than that. Protein is also useful to the body when it comes to manufacturing enzymes and conducting all growth and repair functions. It can be found in large quantities in:
Some of these protein sources are considered as complete sources, which means they provide all the amino acids (broken down protein) that the body requires. Some of the other sources need to be complemented by other sources to render them complete. Non-vegetarian sources are complete sources while vegetarian sources need to be combined in order to reap the full benefits.
Fats are often demonized in the world of health and fitness, but the truth is they are the most essential macronutrient that your body requires. Fats are critical to your health and sense of well-being. They can be found in sufficient quantities in:
- Whole dairy products
- Fatty meat like dark chicken, fatty cuts of pork and lamb
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole eggs
When you’re looking at fats as a macronutrient, you should remember to steer clear of bad fats. These are usually found in highly processed products like processed oils and packaged foods. These fats can result in a host of chronic diseases and conditions. Swap out unhealthy fat sources for healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and seeds to reduce incidence of a plethora of conditions and prevent early death.
Should I be considering micronutrients as well?
What are macronutrients? What are macros in diet terms? What should I be eating? How much should I be eating? All these questions are important, but you should also be looking at micronutrients.
Micronutrients are the nutrients that you require in small quantities to ensure that your body can use the energy provided by the macros.
If macros are the source of energy, micros are the key that unlocks them. Therefore micros cannot be separated from the macronutrients.
The best way to meet both macro and micro requirements is to consume a vast variety of foods. A good rule is to “eat a rainbow” which means your plate should have as many (natural) colours as possible on it. When you’re worrying about what are macros in diet terms, if you can build a plate with purple cabbage, red or yellow peppers, oranges, blueberries, leafy greens, you’re getting enough nutrients.
There are two primary micronutrients that provide our bodies with essential nutrients but not energy:
Vitamins are required in an endless number of roles within the body and in larger quantities when compared to minerals. You can get them from a wide variety of foods but it is essential that you consume enough fats in your meal to aid their absorption. They are classified as:
- Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)
- Water soluble vitamins (B and C)
Minerals are required in trace amounts even when compared to vitamins but are just as critical to proper functioning of the body. You may be at risk of mineral insufficiency if you don’t consume a wide variety of foods, which could force you to take supplements. The most important minerals required by your body are:
- Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids
What are macronutrients – Importance in diet
It is not enough to focus only on these three macros in your diet. While we’ve discussed the importance of micronutrients, there are two lesser macronutrients that are also important to your health.
While dietary fiber is inherent in all the foods that we eat, it does not provide any energy because it remains undigested by the human body. However it is critical to a number of essential functions in your body such as:
- Eliminates toxins
- Slows release of sugar, keeping you full for longer and maintaining weight
- Maintains intestinal pH levels
- Promotes regular bowel movement and prevents constipation
- Binds with fatty acids to remove excess fat from the system
To ensure that you meet your fiber requirements, eat foods that are whole and unprocessed. Modern processed food has most of the fiber removed from it which can lead to sugar problems and excessive weight.
Another critical component is water. Water is probably more important than all other components combined because the body cannot function in the absence of water. It is needed to:
- Flush toxins
- Maintain cellular integrity
- Maintain homeostasis
- Digest food
- Keep all bodily systems healthy and functioning optimally
What you need to know about macronutrients
There is no single food on the planet that is all carbs, all protein or all fat. All foods contain a variety of the three macronutrients. Your diet should consist of all groups of macro and micro nutrients, but if there is a lack of one, you may notice the following signs:
- If you feel lethargic, foggy or lack energy, you may need to amp up carb intake
- If you do not seem to be recovering from your workouts or putting on muscle, protein intake is lacking
- If you are not putting on or losing enough weight, you may need to consume more carbs and fat
At the end of the day, macros and micro requirements are mere guidelines and your focus always should be on eating a balanced wholesome diet. If you are confused or unsure about the balance of your diet, Avaana can help you find a nutritionist for better dietary understanding.