What are macronutrients? Understand how they work

What are macronutrients? Understand how they work

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A bowl of rice
Cooked salmon on a plate
An avocado cut in half

So what are macronutrients?

This is a word we hear thrown around by health and fitness enthusiasts all the time.

But do we really know what they are and the importance of macronutrients?

Even more importantly, understanding how they work can actually help end our weight battles.

What does macronutrients mean?

Macros is the abbreviated term for macronutrients. 

Macro = Large, Nutrient = a substance providing essential nourishment for maintenance and growth.

Importance of macronutrients

Your body needs a variety of nutrients for optimal function, but the three basic macronutrients your body needs to function at its best are  carbohydrates, protein and fat.

These are the three main ways your body obtains energy, or calories.

Each one has its own role or “power” in how it helps our bodies to function.

It is extremely important to understanding the importance of these when trying to maintain a healthy diet and how this can significantly help with your weight battles.

Knowing these simple facts about nutrition will give you so much more control achieving your body goals.

And, if you’re keen enough, you may never need to buy a diet plan again, or spend your days eating lettuce and wondering why you’re still not getting the results you want.

Before I get into how the different macros work in our bodies,

I want to talk a little about the importance of understanding macros before counting calories.

 

Macronutrients

Macronutrients vs calorie counting

In traditional dieting, there has been far too much emphasis put on calorie counting and not enough focus on what nutrients is making up those calories.

Simply counting calories does not take into account what you’re putting into your body.

You could be a pro at tracking your daily calorie intake but have absolutely no idea what nutrients are in the foods you are consuming.

Even worse, how this could be holding you back from achieving your weight loss and body goals.

Your body uses the various nutrients from food in different ways to help the body function.

If you have a better understanding of how each macronutrient works and which foods hold a higher percentage of each one you can have much better control over your weight.

Once you understand the macro ratio split your body should have you can incorporate this into your diet and I guarantee you will start to see better results.

How each macronutrient works – carbs, protein and fat

Each food has a percentage of the three macronutrients; carbs, fat and protein.

I will explain as simply as possible the different role each one has in the body and which foods hold higher percentages of each.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates

Carbs are the main source in providing your body with energy.

We need carbs to fuel our bodies daily.

The more physical exercise you are performing, the more energy/calories you are burning.

Therefore the more carbohydrates your body needs to consume.

When we consume more calories from carbs than we are burning, our bodies will store the excess calories as fat. 

I think I can safely say that for a large percentage of us, carb-rich foods are a food of comfort.

Unfortunately they are often highly processed and although they taste really good because of this, they offer little to no nutritional value.

Carbs can be classified three ways; Monosaccharides, disaccharides polysaccharides.

Each one is a class of sugar and each ones nutritional value to the body is different and important to know.

But if you are not a nutritional expert or care to delve deep into the break down of carbohydrates, we put it more simply and break them into two categories;

Simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple carbs are digested and absorbed by the body more quickly, often giving a more sudden burst of energy.

But this will then be followed by a crash in energy levels, especially  if we consume too many.

Simple carbs can be found in honey and fruits, but usually they are foods made up of refined sugars and grains such as candy, syrups, soda, milk products, pasta, white rice, white bread and potatos.

These carb-rich foods dont offer much nutritional value and can lead to weight gain.

You ant to be to be very mindful of how often you are consuming these types of carbs.

Complex carbs are more slowly digested and absorbed by the body and hold a much higher nutritional value.

They are found in whole foods/plant based foods such as whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and vegetables. 

The main carbs we eat should fall under the complex carb category along with some more plant based simple carbs such as fruits.

Carboydrates are a very important macronutrient for maintaining body functions and energy.

Protein

Although protein is a source of energy, its main role in the body is growth, strength and repair.

Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for muscle tissue.

It has been proven that amino acids also play a significant role in performance and recovery.

The body cannot produced sufficient amounts of essential amino acids to meet its demands so these must be obtained from various protein rich foods.

Complete sources of protein;

Whey, casein, Poultry, red meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, soybeans, quinoa, yogurt, among others.

Protein supplements are also a great way to ensure you get your daily protein requirement. 

Plant based protein foods

Protein is a very important macronutrient.

If you are vegan or vegetarian it might be harder to get your daily protein requirements.

But, not impossible!

With a little knowledge and preparation you can easily meet your daily protein requirements on a vegan (or vegeterian diet.)

Here are some plant based protein foods;

Soy
Beans- Kidneybeans, blackbeans, soybeans, pinto beans
Lentils
Chickpeas
Tofu
Nuts
Quinoa
100% plant protein powder

Vegetarian protein foods

Eggs
Milk
Cheese 
Yogurt 
Cottage cheese

So regardless of your diet, there are plenty of options for ensuring you are getting your daily protein requirements.

Protein is a very important macronutrient as it supports growth, repair and recovery.

Fat

Fat and the importance it plays in our diets is very underrated.

Not all fat is bad for our hearts, arteries and the cause of weight gain.

To someone who is very active, fat is the secondary source of energy during exercise when the energy obtained from carbohydrates has been used up.

See my article on How the keto diet works

for more info on how you can burn fat for your main source of energy instead of carbs.

Fats are an essential part to a healthy, balanced diet.

Our bodies cannot produce certain essential fatty acids which we need for functions.

These functions include absorbing certain vitamins and minerals, produce important hormones, mood and brain health, improving immunity, promoting heart health, among others.

Saturated and Unsaturated fat

It is not recommended that you consume too many foods containing saturated fats.

Food containing saturated and trans fat include;

Animal products such as beef, pork, lamb
Butter
Margerine
Cream
Full cream milk
Palm oil
Coconut oil
Shortening

Unsaturated fat are considered a far more heart healthy fat and should be consumed more than saturated fat.

These are found in a variety of foods such as; 
Avocado
Nuts
Vegetables
Various types of fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel
Olive oil
Canola oil
Peanut oil
Flaxseed
Soybean

To really understand the importance of getting enough fat, you can check out my article on Importance of eating fat

Conclusion

As you can see, macronutrients or macros are the three most important nutrients we need to maintain daily bodily functions.

I hope this has given you a much better insight into what macronutrients are and how they work.

Counting calories may be part of your current diet, it may be something you have always done.

But it is more important to understand macronutrients before anything else.

Having a better understanding of how macronutrients work will give you far better control over your weight management. 

The moment I stopped counting calories and started learning about macronutrients I finally saw results. 

A healthy diet is key to overall long term success for achieving and maintaining weight loss.

If you’re truly ready to lose some weight, change your lifestyle and learn how to manage your weight long term, my 21-Day Weight Loss Plan & Wellness Guide will teach you just that…and loads more.

Check it out below and learn how I can help you reach you weight, body and wellness goals and maintain it.

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