Understanding macros can seem like a minefield but when we think of nutrition, we often imagine food: vegetables, meats, grains, etc. But, what is more important: the components that make up those foods. Those components can be divided into two categories: macro nutrients and micro nutrients.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that your body needs in small amounts, hence the “micro”.
In this article, we’ll largely focus on macro nutrients, which our bodies need in large quantities to grow and develop, hence the “macro”.
There are three macros: proteins, carbs, and fats. Each of them has its specific role and purpose for us and also supply our bodies with energy in the form of calories.
Simply put, the human body needs a proper balance between the 3 to function properly. Many diets that aim to restrict a specific macro nutrient (for example, fats) often lead to fatigue and health problems.
Now, each macro nutrient contains a certain number of calories per gram. Carbs and proteins have 4 calories per gram and fats have 9.
Let’s take a deeper look at each macro nutrient and its basic functions:
Carbs are the main source of energy for the body. They are made of chains of sugar that are broken down and enter the blood as glucose. Essentially, all of the carbs that you consume, whether the source is a candy bar or oatmeal are broken down into simple sugars.
Aside from glucose being the quickest source of energy for the body, it is also the main fuel source for the brain. Because of that, a diet that contains enough carbs is essential for your energy levels and cognitive function.
If you were to go on a low-carb diet, your body finds other sources of energy, such as ketones, but that’s a topic for another time.
Now, carbohydrates come in two main categories: slow-digesting and fast-digesting.
Slow-digesting carbs, as their title suggest, are broken down by the body at a slower pace and provide a steady flow of energy to your body. Examples are many beans and legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, pasta, sweet potatoes, and more.
Fast-digesting carbs are broken down quickly and provide a sudden flow of energy, often followed by a crash. Examples are ripe fruits, candy, sweets, cereals, and more. Ideally, your diet should mostly include slow-digesting carbs that provide a steady flow of energy to your body.
This macronutrient plays a vital role in brain and organ function, hormonal balance, cell production and functioning. Aside from that, fats add taste and texture to your meals and take longer for your body to break down which means that you’ll feel full for longer. A balanced diet should consist of at least 20% fats. Some great sources are nuts, fatty meats, fatty fish, oils, eggs, and some seeds.
Last but not least, we have protein. This macronutrient is very important for people interested in building strength and muscle mass. Protein contains the building blocks (amino acids) that your body needs to grow and repair muscle, as well as most other tissues.
Your diet should be made of at least 25% protein. If you want to build strength and muscle mass, simply adhere to the rule of 1 gram per pound of body weight. Some great sources of protein are meats, dairy products, fish, whey protein, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, and more.
A diet that consists of mostly whole, healthy foods can easily help you reach a good balance between the three macro nutrients.