With the rise of flexible dieting and if it fits your macros (IIFYM), terms like ‘macronutrient’ and ‘macros’ have grown in popularity. It’s almost impossible to consume fitness-related content without coming across these terms in one context or another.
But what exactly are macronutrients, and why should we care about them?
What are Macronutrients (Macros)?
Macronutrient is an umbrella term that refers to the three major nutrients we need: proteins, carbs, and fats. The three nutrients are considered ‘macro’ because we need to consume them in large quantities. In contrast, micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are called such because we only need trace amounts of each.
Proteins, fats, and carbs carry an energetic value, so aside from serving essential functions in the body, the trio provides us with the calories we need to survive. Carbohydrates and proteins supply four calories per gram, and fats offer nine (1).
Look Deeper at Proteins, Carbs, and Fats
Proteins are organic molecules that consist of amino acids: the building blocks of life. A complete protein has adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids. Protein can be found in both animals and vegetables. Good sources of complete proteins include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Consuming enough protein is vital for muscle growth, post-training recovery, development in children, and general health. According to most sources, we should consume between 1.6 and 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight––0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound.
Despite their mixed reputation, carbs are essential for our health and well-being. Carbohydrates are nutrients that supply the main energy source for the body, in the form of sugars, support numerous bodily processes, provide energy for the brain, and make it possible for us to move around and be active.
Once ingested, most carbs get broken down into simple sugar (glucose) molecules that suffer one of three fates :
- Broken down and used instantly to fuel the brain, muscles, and organs
- Contribute to healthy blood sugar levels
- Get stored as glycogen inside our skeletal muscle and liver for later use
Fantastic sources of carbs include fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy, legumes, and such.
Similar to carbs, fats also have a mixed reputation among health-conscious people. And, just like carbs, fats are essential for our health and well-being. Fat in the body helps to protect vital organs.
Dietary fats play a role in :
- Absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin A, D, E, and K
- Brain health
- Energy production
- Hormone synthesis
- Organ protection
- Maintaining healthy cell structures
Once ingested, we break down fats into fatty acids and glycerol that travel around the body and lend themselves where needed (8). Some of the healthiest fat-rich foods include fatty fish, avocado, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
Macronutrient might seem complicated to understand, but that isn’t the case. All three serve unique and vital functions in the body, and the best way to get enough of each is to follow a balanced diet.
Macros keto and low-fat diets might seem fantastic, but their fatal flaw is depriving your body of essential nutrients we need for good health.
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