There has been so much talk in the media lately about ‘macros’. for the average Joe Blow, it can seem tricky to determine what they are and why there is a need to “count them” or “make them fit”! this post will explain macros in their simplest form and attempt to help you to determine their importance and need within your diet.
Food is composed of combinations of three macronutrients: carbs, proteins and fats. The term macronutrient is basically just implies that the nutrient is needed in large quantities for normal growth and development. Macros are the body’s source of calories and energy needed to fuel it for everyday activities.
Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source and contain approximately 4 calories per gram. Carbs are made up of chains of sugar molecules which could be the reasoning behind the myth that carbs will make you fat or that they should be avoided! Let me explain further… REFINED CARBS found in white bread, rice, pasta, cakes, pastries and processed foods have many original properties removed and manufactured elements added such as preservatives and colouring. They may provide a good source of instant energy but they are deficient in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. UNREFINED CARBS found in foods such as quinoa, sweet potatoes, veggies, whole grains, whole meal etc have little alterations and are mostly natural with little or no interventions. They provide a good source of energy and fibre, minerals and vitamins and have a slower, sustained insulin response. Carbs that are not immediately used for energy are stored is glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscle cells and can be broken down to provide a rapid source of energy if required. HOWEVER, if a person consumes more carbs than their body can use or store, it is converted from sugar to fat for long-term storage! So not all carbs are bad. In fact, your body NEEDS carbs for energy, you just need to be wise in your selection!
Proteins contain 4 calories per gram also and serve various functions in the human body including: formation of the brain, nervous system, blood, muscle, skin, hair, transportation of iron, vitamins, minerals, fats and oxygen- just to name a few! Proteins also form enzymes and antibodies when fight infections and provide immunity. When in energy deficiency, proteins can be broken down for energy use- although it is not their main job! Proteins are built from amino acids and between 8-10 of the essential amino acids cannot be made by the body and therefore must be consumed in our diet, which you can see why protein supplements are proving more popular as time goes on. Generally, animal products contain the essentials while plant foods (solely) do not, with the exception of soy!
The most energy dense of the macros are fats, which provides 9 calories per gram. Fats, although given a hard time in the media, are vital for our lifestyles and serve many critical functions such as: providing insulation, cell structure, nerve transmission vitamin absorption and hormone production. Some fats (saturated fats and trans fats) lead to clogging of the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. However, essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 and omega-6 (found in eggs, fish, nuts etc) are needed to contribute to reduce inflammation, cholesterol and enhance eye and brain development.
So how do macros influence your nutrition and food intake? Depending on how many calories you burn throughout the day and in what form, depends on how much energy/calories you need to eat to not only fuel your body but to help you reach your individual goals. Whether it be weight loss, building muscle, toning up or to improve your fitness, your macro intake can be altered to help you reach these goals.