Importance of Macronutrients to Maintain Overall Health
What are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the essential nutrients that our body needs in large amounts to function correctly. There are three primary macronutrients that we will discuss in this blog post! They are not numbered in order of importance.
Macronutrients are the building blocks of our diet, and they play an essential role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. These nutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and they are responsible for providing our body with the energy and nutrients needed for optimal functioning. In this blog post, we will explore what macronutrients are, their importance, and how to track them to meet specific diet goals.
Macronutrient #1 Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are made up of glucose molecules and are the primary source of energy for the body. Carbohydrates are especially important when it comes to brain function, this can be seen in situations you have not eaten in at least a few hours and begin to get a headache or a bit of brain fog. In times of starvation, whether that be during a short-term or long-term period, the body will be lacking in glucose sources due to insufficient intake. In this case, the body begins to break down muscle tissue into proteins and uses those proteins in the chemical process of gluconeogenesis to make alternative sources of glucose. Some carbohydrate food sources contain fiber, which due to its inability to be broken down by the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract helps the body get rid of waste and contributes to a healthy bowel movement schedule. Carbohydrates are found in a wide range of foods, including bread, rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, and sweets.
Simple vs Complex Carbs
Simple carbs are the easiest type of carb for the body to break down. Simple carbs are either monosaccharides (a single sugar molecule) or disaccharides (two sugar molecules), this makes them easy to digest and quickly release into the bloodstream.
The main monosaccharides are glucose and fructose. The disaccharides consist of sucrose (combination of glucose and fructose) and lactose (combination of galactose and glucose). Fructose is fruit sugar and can be found in fruit, honey, sucrose, and high fructose corn syrups. Sucrose is made up of crystallized white sugar and is typically found in processed food items such as cakes, cookies, pies, etc. Lactose is a form of sugar found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt These choices of carbohydrates are not broken down as easily as simple carbs. They consist of longer strands of glucose (or sugar) molecules.
Complex carbohydrates are found in starchy foods and grains such as rice, pasta, and bread. They are also found in starchy vegetables such as squash, potatoes, peas, and corn. Plant-based protein options such as beans, seeds, and nuts also contain smaller amounts of carbohydrates. Whole grain complex carbs such as brown rice, brown bread, brown pasta, etc., will contain fiber whereas carb sources such as white bread, pasta, and rice contain grains that have been processed and stripped of the fiber-containing components. "White" sources of carbohydrates will release glucose into the bloodstream more quickly than whole grain options, as wholegrain products contain the fiber that allows for a slower release of glucose.
Learn more about carbohydrates here.
Macronutrient #2: Protein
Proteins are the building blocks of our body. They play a vital role in repairing and building tissues, producing enzymes, and maintaining our immune system. Proteins are found in a wide range of foods, including meat, fish, poultry, beans, lentils, and dairy products. Protein plays a critical role in overall growth and development but specifically in the growth of muscle tissue. Proteins are the building blocks of our body. They play a vital role in repairing and building tissues, producing enzymes, and maintaining our immune system. For protein to be properly utilized in the body, an individual must also be intaking a sufficient amount of both carbohydrates and fats as well. For muscle mass to be increased, one must engage in resistance exercises such as lifting weights, crossfit, Pilates etc., and consume a sufficient amount of protein and calories.
Plant-based protein sources are nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, etc.), nut butters, seeds (pepitas, sunflower seeds, chia seed, flaxseed, hemp seeds, etc.), tofu, soy protein, tempeh, beans (black beans, chickpeas, Romano beans, kidney beans, lentils, etc.), edamame, spinach, broccoli, quinoa, and buckwheat among others.
Animal-based protein sources are complete protein sources featuring all 9 of the essential amino acids that the body needs. Some examples of animal-based protein sources include poultry (chicken or turkey), fish (salmon, white fishes, tuna, trout, etc.), beef, eggs, cheese, milk, Greek yogurt, pork, seafood (shrimp, lobster, etc.).
View our previous blog post about the importance of protein in the diet.
Macronutrient #3: Fats
Fats are an essential part of our diet, providing energy, insulation, and cushioning for our organs. The most energy-dense macronutrient with 9 calories per gram, vs 4 calories per gram (carbohydrates and proteins). Fatty acids are a great source of energy but take a great deal of time to metabolize and need oxygen to do so, therefore fats are better used as a primary source of energy during rest or low-intensity exercise. Fat is energy-dense and has the ability to produce large amounts of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which provides energy to drive many processes in living cells, such as muscle contraction and nerve impulses, Aerobic exercise can increase the body’s ability to utilize fat. The body is unable to make all the fatty acids needed to complete key chemical processes. Fat intake helps obtain fatty acids and absorb soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K. Fat along with proper amounts of carbohydrates and protein is an important macronutrient to support training. There are many different types of fats, and some types support a healthier lifestyle such as unsaturated fats and excess consumption of others such as trans fats could result in an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. A diet high in fat can lead to weight gain but consuming an appropriate amount of healthy dietary fat is an important part of a balanced diet. There are several types of fats, including saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats. Healthy fats are found in foods such as nuts, seeds, avocado, fish, and olive oil.
Why are Macronutrients Important?
Macronutrients are essential for optimal health and well-being. They provide the energy and nutrients needed for the growth, repair, and maintenance of our body's tissues and organs. They are also responsible for regulating our metabolism, blood sugar levels, and hormone production.
In addition, consuming a balanced ratio of macronutrients is critical for achieving specific health goals. For example, a high-protein diet can help with muscle building and weight loss, while a low-carb diet can be beneficial for those with diabetes or insulin resistance.
How to Track Macronutrients to Meet Specific Diet Goals
Tracking macronutrients can be a useful tool for achieving specific health goals. There are several methods for tracking macronutrients, including:
Calorie Tracking Apps
Calorie tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal or Lose It! can be used to track macronutrients. These apps allow you to enter your food intake and calculate your macronutrient ratios automatically.
Once you’ve determined the set amount of macros you need in order to meet your goals, you can use a food journal to track your meals. In a food journal, you write down everything you eat and calculate the macronutrient ratios manually.
Meal Prep Companies
Most meal prep companies will have a dietician on their team who can help you determine specific macros for you to follow in order to meet your goals. From there you can use a meal prep service to purchase meals that fit into your daily macros. At Nutrimeals you can purchase and book a consultation with our dietician who will create a specific set of macros for you to follow. From there the dietician will make you a meal plan following Nutrimeals menu specifically so that all of the guess work is removed.
Once you have determined your macronutrient needs, you can adjust your diet accordingly to meet your specific goals. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you may want to increase your protein intake while reducing your carbohydrate intake.
It is important to note that tracking macronutrients can be time-consuming and may not be necessary for everyone. If you are not meeting your health goals, or if you have a specific health condition, it may be helpful to consult a registered dietitian for personalized advice.
Macronutrients are essential for optimal health and well-being. They provide the energy and nutrients needed for the growth, repair, and maintenance of our body's tissues and organs. Tracking macronutrients can be a useful tool for achieving specific health goals, but it is important to remember that it may not be necessary for everyone. By consuming a balanced diet is a great place to start if you are looking for specific results. Nutrimeals is a local Calgary owned meal prep company that specializes in providing ready to eat healthy meals that are balanced with each macronutrient. Check out our menu here and get started today!