What are Macronutrients? To put simply, macronutrients or macros as they are usually referred to are the nutrients from food that we need to provide us with energy. In other words, fat, protein and carbohydrates.
You have probably heard this term if you are familiar with a keto or ketogenic diet as you would usually need to 'count your macros' to ensure your body is burning fat for energy.
We aren't a big fan of 'counting macros' or calories for that matter, as your body doesn’t count them and neither should you.
Instead your body will break down the macronutrients from the food you eat (from protein, fat and carbohydrates) and use what it needs and eliminates what it doesn’t. Macros are the nutrients we need in larger quantities that provide us with energy. The right ratio will help you maintain a healthy weight, while too much of any macro; whether it be carbs, fats or protein, can cause you to gain weight.
All carbohydrates are eventually broken down into glucose, which is traditionally the main energy source for your body. Your body can make glucose out of necessity from proteins using gluconeogenesis. Beyond being your main energy source, there are carbohydrates that help synthesize specific amino acids (protein building blocks) and allow for consistent bowel movements. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by your GI tract. Therefore, this nutrient does not give you energy, but it does help rid your body of waste and keeps your intestinal tract healthy.
Protein allows your body to grow, build and repair tissues, and protect lean body mass (your muscle mass). Protein is composed of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 2 types of amino acids: non-essential and essential. Non-essential amino acids are not required to be consumed through the diet as your body can actually make these.
Essential amino acids are required through your diet. Essential amino acids can either be used on their own or in some cases they are transformed into a non-essential amino acid. Protein rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, egg, milk, cheese, or other types of animal by-product foods. These protein sources contain all of your essential amino acids. This does not mean you have to eat animal foods to be healthy. You can get the proper amino acids from eating a variety of plant protein sources such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy as well as lower amounts in grains, vegetables, and fruits.
There are three types of fat: trans fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fat. Fat allows you to store energy, cushion organs, make certain hormones, absorb fat soluble vitamins, and helps with cell membrane integrity. Dietary fats allow your body to absorb the fat-soluable vitamins A, D, E and K plus other micronutrients from your vegetables. Consuming healthy fats stimulates the burning of body fat as well as helping to maintain a healthy weight.
Trans fat are found in margarine, shortening, baked goods, doughs, and fried foods. If you see trans fat on the label it should be avoided.
Saturated fat is found mostly in animal sources with high fat contents such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, lard, cream, butter, full fat cheese, and dairy. Unsaturated fat is more commonly referred to as “healthy fats”. These healthy fats originate from plant sources such as avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, olives, and plant oil. They can also be found in animal sources such as fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring.
How Many Macros Should You Eat?
Current guidelines recommend that you get 45–65% of your daily calories from carbs, 10–35% from protein, and 20–35% from fat. However, individual needs vary.
To ensure you get enough macronutrients from food, eat a nutritionally balanced diet that include sources of carbs, protein, and fat at every meal.