What are Macronutrients?
There are six nutrients that our bodies need to maintain optimal health; carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. They are divided into two categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients or macros are the nutrients that supply energy to our bodies and are needed in large quantities. They include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Although water could be considered a macronutrient because it is needed in such a large quantity, it is not a macro because it does not provide energy (calories).
Carbohydrates- also know as carbs, their primary role is to provide energy to the cells in the body, mainly the brain (the only carbohydrate dependent organ) providing 4 calories per gram. Carbs are broken down by the body for energy, and the excess is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles in individuals consuming a well balanced diet. Although carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for the body because they are broken down faster (usually within a few hours of consumption), fats and proteins provide energy as well. Carbohydrates can be classified as simple and complex. Simple being sugar, and complex being starch an fiber (Here’s more info about fiber). Humans cannot digest fiber, but it is important to maintain optimal gut health.
Fats- also know as lipids, this nutrient not only provides energy to the body but it also helps with the production of hormones, the absorption of other nutrients, such as fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K), and many other functions in the body. Fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Proteins- make up almost all of your body structures such as muscles, blood, hair, nails, skin, etc. Proteins are important for energy, satiety, building and repairing body tissues, fighting infections, and many others. Most plant protein are incomplete, but all protein from meat is complete with the exception of a few grains including quinoa and chia seeds, which is a complete protein. Proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
*Alcohol is NOT a nutrient but it does provide 7 calories per gram. It is not essential either.
So, why is this important? Well, understanding essential nutrients and their roles is key for maintaining optimal health. So what does a “healthy” eating pattern looks like? A healthy eating pattern is a good balance between all of the essential nutrients. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends the distribution of macros to be;
Carbohydrates- 45-65% of your calories/ a day
Fats- 20-35% of your calories/ a day (limiting saturated fats)
Protein- 10-35% of your calories/ a day
Counting macronutrients can be helpful to maintain your weight, to lose weight, or to gain weight.
I hope this is helpful for all of you!
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.
Disclaimer- This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases or conditions. Please consult your primary health care provider or dietitian for medical advice.
Gropper, S. A., Smith, J. L., & Carr, T. P. (2018). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.