As we all know, nutrients are what we consume on a daily basis and they are that which gives us energy, growth, and helps our bodily functions. Otherwise, our functionality wouldn’t be…functional. We would be similar to the walking dead.
Macronutrients are substances that are consumed in larger amounts.
The macronutrients are made up of 3 different classes – Carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Each of these nutrients provide vital sources of energy to our bodies but they each have different functionalities.
How do they each operate? I’ll take you through a breakdown of each because let’s be honest, most of us are familiar with these names right? But having a deeper understanding of what they actually do will give you a whole different revelation.
Carbohydrates are biological molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. They are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers.
Carbs(carbohydrates), can be found in many natural and processed foods. Some food sources of carbs are pasta, fruits, vegetables, grains, oats, corn, potatoes, rice, and bread.
They can function in different ways. Carbs bring glucose and supply the body with energy which helps with overall bodily function such as muscle activity and brain function. That’s why we should “carb up” before our workout generally speaking.
Of course there are good carbs and bad carbs. As you probably already know, foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the good guys of carbohydrates. The reason for that is that they’re low in saturated fat, low in sodium, low in cholesterol, and low in calories. They are also high in nutrients and are not refined in sugar or processed grains.
Bad carbs on the other hand, are mostly refined sugars such as table sugar, candy, fruit drinks, corn syrup, cookies, cakes, or french fries. (Sucks if you have a sweet tooth I know).
Also processed grains such as pizza dough, white bread, or white flour. These foods are low in nutrients, high in calories and sodium.
Another fact to keep in mind is that 1g of carbs equals about 4 calories. It’s recommended by the dietary guidelines to eat around 45% to 65% of carbs in your daily caloric intake. So for example, a 2,000 calorie intake per day would be roughly 300 grams of carbs. You can make adjustments according to your body goals as well.
The famous one. You hear this all the time in the gym or in any topic that pertains to fitness. “Protein this”, “protein that”, “protein, protein, protein”. But can we actually define what it really is?
So proteins have many functions in the human body. Things like building structures in our body, providing nutrients, increasing the rate of a chemical reaction, or DNA replication. These guys get pretty busy.
The 21 building blocks of protein are amino acids, which are made up of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and some sulfur atoms.
Protein is very important to our bodies. It’s a building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Protein is also needed to make enzymes and hormones.
When it comes to nutrition, protein can be found in a wide variety of foods. But not all food has the same amount of protein and they contain different types of amino acids.
Some examples of protein based foods:
- Lean Beef
- Low/non-fat cottage cheese
- Low/non-fat Greek yogurt
- Egg Whites
Protein also provides 4 calories per gram. It is recommended by most nutritional organizations that our daily protein intake should be roughly(at minimum) 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then your protein intake would be around 55g. You could also use protein calculators online to determine specific amounts or needs according to your body goals.
As far as putting on muscle mass, you could up your intake to about 1g to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
The Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA, is around 10% of daily calories at minimum. However, 15% to 25% is good to aim for as well and is considered optimal.
Just keep in mind that protein or its “packages” like they say, can bring other sources of nutrients like saturated fats, carbs and fiber and they could come in different amounts.
So in definition, fat molecules consist of predominately carbon and hydrogen atoms that are soluble in organic solvents and insoluble in water.
Fats are essential for cell growth and giving our body nutrients. It also produces hormones that are important for us and is a fuel source that stores energy.
There are 4 different types of fats and I’ll give a brief breakdown of each.
So this dietary fat is considered to be one of the “bad” fats. These fats are known to be solid in room temperature. Eating too much saturated fat can lead to serious health problems like heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
According to the American Heart Association, or AHA, it is recommended that your intake should be limited to about 5% of calories from saturated fat which would be about 13 grams if your daily caloric intake is 2,000 calories for example.
Some food sources that contain saturated fat are lamb, fatty beef, poultry(with skin), butter, whipped cream, baking chocolate, dairy deserts, sausage, and bacon.
So the good news is, this type of fat is considered to be healthy. Typically, when we hear about fat, its usually associated with a negative impact. However, with monounsaturated fats, that is not the case.
In fact, there are proven health benefits to this type of fat such as helping to reduce things like cholesterol, risk of heart disease, and inflammation. It can also help with weight loss as well as provide nutrients for our body.
According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, its recommended consuming no more than 25% to 30% of your daily calorie intake. So for example, a daily intake of 2,000 calories would equal to roughly 16 to 22 grams of fat.
There are foods sources and oils that rich in monounsaturated fat. Most are found in plant and animal foods. Some examples are almonds, olive oil, avocados, sunflower oil, pecans, hazelnuts and canola oil.
This type of dietary fat is also considered to be one of the “good” ones as they can help lower risk of heart disease and cholesterol.
This fat includes fatty acids that are important for our cells and brain function. These fatty acids are omega-3 and omega-6. Our bodies do not produce these so we would have to acquire them from food sources.
Polyunsaturated fats can be found in plant and animal foods. Some foods that include polyunsaturated fats are walnuts, flax seeds, fish, tuna, trout, soy bean oil, corn oil, and sunflower seeds.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends not to consume more than 25% to 30% of your daily calorie intake.
So this type of fat is unhealthy. It’s created through the process of chemical hydrogenation of oils. Basically it causes it to be more saturated. It makes liquid oils into solids and extends the shelf life of food that contains it.
Trans fats increase cholesterol levels and also risk of heart attack. They also can cause type 2 diabetes. So essentially there is no actual benefit to this type of fat and its best to avoid consuming it.
Foods like biscuits, crackers, microwave popcorn, cookies, donuts, cakes, french fries, desserts, breakfast sandwiches. (all the “good” tasting stuff).
Because trans fats are easy to use and inexpensive, most restaurants and fast-food places like to use it to deep fry their foods because of the fact the trans fat oils can be used many times.
My goal in this post was to give you guys a simple breakdown of these 3 macronutrients. I wanted to briefly go over each one and how they work. Now, there is a lot of biochemistry and science that goes behind this but I did not cover that.
Each macro has its benefits and these are very essential in our daily food consumption. We can always make adjustments to our intake according to our body or weight goals whether it’s loosing weight, gaining muscle, or just an overall healthy diet.
Try to always fuel up your body the right way and live a clean and healthy lifestyle. I hope this was helpful and please feel free to leave any comments or questions below.