AT A GLANCE

What are macronutrients and why do they matter? We’ll take a look at the main suppliers of nutrients in your diet called Macronutrients, and how you can use them to optimize your diet, health, and lifestyle


Why do Macronutrients matter?

Macronutrients, macros for short, are proteins, fats and carbohydrates found in your diet. For those unfamiliar with the term “Marco”, this basically refers to something viewed at a large scale or something that is very prominent. In this case, macros represent a large scale view of the nutrients in your diet; proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They are the main supplier of nutrients in your diet and provide your body with high levels of energy (calories). Macro alludes to the fact that these nutrients are needed in larger quantities. Almost every food has a combination of macronutrients, but the difference lies in their composition. The macronutrient that has the highest percentage in each food will determine how it is classified. Ask any expert, and they’ll tell you that nutrients are the foundation for healthy living.

If you’re looking to take on a healthy lifestyle, then you should educate yourself on Macronutrients and incorporate them into your diet. Doing so, will provide you with the facts necessary to take on a diet that can help maximize your workout performance. According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, Carbohydrates, Protein, and Fat all contribute to dietary energy intake.

Benefits of Macronutrients

  • High Calorie intake
  • Cellular growth
  • Immune Functioning
  • Overall good health

"Carbohydrates should account for at least 50% of daily caloric intake for the average adult."
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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates represent the most important provider of energy for mental and physical activity, which is why their importance cannot be underestimated. The Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that carbohydrates should account for at least 50% of daily caloric intake for the average adult. Complex carbohydrates are ideal because they don’t spike your blood sugar and help you feel sufficient longer. They are rich in minerals, offer a good serving of dietary fiber, and help lower cholesterol levels.

Carbs are made up of chains of starch and sugar our body breaks down into glucose. Glucose is the body’s main source of energy and the brain’s primary fuel source. Since the brain requires fuel at all times to function properly, your body stores glucose in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. It’s important to note that carbohydrates are stored in the body in two forms, as glycogen in the liver and in your skeletal muscles. Although very low-carb diets like the ketogenic diet can be beneficial for many people, carbohydrates are not the enemy.

When eaten in the correct amounts, carbohydrates can be an ally. Although protein is mostly recognized among casual and elite athletes as an important macro, carbohydrates are equally important for energy and endurance in the gym and in everyday life. Carbohydrates should represent a crucial part of your diet. They provide you with the right ingredients and the energy to tackle your workout routine.

Good sources of carbohydrates

"Protein in the body is used beyond muscle; it is also the core component of organs, bones, hair, enzymes, and every tissue."
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  • Starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash)
  • Legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas)
  • Whole grains (amaranth, brown rice, oats, amaranth, whole wheat)
  • Fruit (apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe, watermelon)

Protein

Protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks of cell and muscle structure. In total, there are 20 types of amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning that your body requires them from food. The other types of amino acids are nonessentials and conditionals. Protein in the body is used beyond muscle; it is also the core component of organs, bones, enzymes, and every tissue. Protein maintains muscle and burns fat quicker. It is recommended to consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight especially when weight training is involved. In order to determine an accurate estimate of your calorie intake and protein needs, visit Strength.com and check out their protein calculator.

The importance of protein should not be underestimated.  With over hundreds of testimonies and articles, it’s no secret that protein has become central to our body’s function. With a dish rich in protein, athletes can improve their physical and physiological well-being.

Good sources of protein:

"The macronutrient diet has proven itself to be an effective way to achieve your goals for changing body composition without having to make drastic lifestyle changes that can often prove to be unsustainable."
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  • Fish and seafood (crab, salmon, tuna, white fish)
  • Eggs (pasture raised ideal)
  • Poultry (chicken and turkey)
  • Lean and organic meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Dairy (minimally processed cheese, unsweetened yogurt, and non-dairy alternatives)
  • Tofu and soy products (minimally processed)
  • High Quality Protein Powder: Supplements that help you meet your protein goals and increase your muscle mass

For those looking to optimize their performance through the use of protein supplements, Strength.com offers a clean, NSF Certified for Sport nutrition line, called BuiltByStrength.

Fats

Lipids (fats) come in either solid form (butter, coconut fat) or liquid form (plant and vegetable oils).

Fats make hormones and aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).They have the highest calorie count per gram, meaning that they require more energy to burn. However, they are also helpful for increasing feelings of satiety, meaning they will keep you fuller for longer. Fats are also needed for brain development.

Many still think consuming fat makes you fat and put you at risk for heart diseases. This is only partially true. Just like any other food, the quality and source as well as the amount consumed matters. Consuming excess, poor quality fats like trans-fats and hydrogenated fats found in fast food and processed baked goods can be detrimental to your heart and your cells. Too much can also create excess inflammation in the body. However, healthy fats especially those that are monounsaturated, can help lower your risk of heart disease and manage your blood pressure.

Good sources of fat

  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts (almonds,cashews, brazilian and walnuts)
  • Avocado and avocado oil
  • Full-fat dairy and organic, grass-fed butter
  • Seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin)
  • Fatty fish (salmon or trout)

How to Count Your Macronutrients

The macronutrient diet (flexible diet/macro counting diet) is really just a way of understanding what makes up the foods you eat and how they affect your body.

The diet has proven itself to be an effective way to achieve your goals for changing body composition without having to make drastic lifestyle changes that can often prove to be unsustainable.

Taking into account that your body needs each source to function properly, exploring macro counting is an excellent way to lose body fat, while maintaining or gaining strength. Tracking may sound restricting, but it becomes natural once you get the hang of it. Everyone’s diet and bodily needs will be different so counting macros is not a straightforward procedure. Yet, you can still achieve the best results by following these steps.

  • Figure out your calorie needs
  • Determine your ideal ratio
  • Multiple your daily calories by your percentages
  • Divide your calorie amounts by its calorie-per-gram number

Calories and Macronutrients

Proteins, fats, carbohydrates are all important and your goals will depend on just how much of each will be part of your daily nutrition, especially with their caloric content. In general, proteins provide 4 calories per gram, carbohydrates, 4 and fats, 9.While the outdated way of thinking of traditional dieting focuses on calorie counting, tracking macros concentrates on exactly what makes up those calories. Although calories do matter, counting them to meet body composition goals is unrealistic and inaccurate.

It is true that you can follow a macro diet and still fit in chocolate, pizza and wine. However, you will find that these types of foods take up a lot of your macro requirements and provide little of the micronutrients (fiber, vitamins and minerals) that you need. These are considered “empty calories.” Empty calories mean they take up a lot of space while providing very little nutrition. A 500-calorie salad is much more nutritious than a 500-calorie ice cream cone. Consuming more wholefood macros is going to prove to be a much better strategy for achieving body composition goals and good health.

A macro ratio may be tailored for each individual depending on their activity level, body type, and goals. A good starting point might look like this: 40% of total calories of carbohydrates, proteins at 30%, and fats at 30%. This will have to be altered depending on how your body responds. Some people respond better to higher carbohydrates and lower fat, others higher fat. This personalization does require careful monitoring, adjusting and planning ahead for the foods you choose to eat.

Take Home Points
  • Each macronutrient is vital for human survival.
  • Protein is more than just for muscle growth.
  • High quality protein powder is a method of obtaining more protein.
  • Carbs are good for you; they provide a source of fuel for your body.
  • Healthy fats offer benefits such as lower blood pressure
  • A macronutrient diet may involve counting calories, but it’s not the only factor.
  • Whole foods will always be nutritionally superior to processed foods.

Articles References

Macronutrient Balance. (2014, February 4th). Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/macronutrient-balance
Carreiro AL, Dhillon J, Gordon S, et al. The Macronutrients, Appetite, and Energy Intake. Annu Rev Nutr. 2016;36:73–103. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-121415-112624
Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014;6(5):1782–1808. Published 2014 Apr 29. doi:10.3390/nu6051782
Solon-Biet SM, Mitchell SJ, de Cabo R, Raubenheimer D, Le Couteur DG, Simpson SJ. Macronutrients and caloric intake in health and longevity. J Endocrinol. 2015;226(1):R17–R28. doi:10.1530/JOE-15-0173
Howell S, Kones R. "Calories in, calories out" and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2017;313(5):E608-E612.