Simple Guide to Macronutrients - Protein, Carbs, Fats
When your personal trainer or nutritionist talks about macronutrients, they mean the three primary types of foods that we eat in the largest quantities and which provide calories to supply the bulk of our energy. On the other hand, micronutrients are types of nutrients that your body requires in smaller amounts, such as vitamins and minerals.
The three types of macronutrients are:
While each type of macronutrient provides calories, the amount of calories varies per gram as shown below.
- Carbohydrates = 4 calories
- Protein = 4 calories
- Fat = 9 calories
Besides carbohydrates, protein, and fat, the only other substance that provides calories is alcohol. Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram because of the sugar content. Alcohol is not a macronutrient because we don’t need it for survival.
All three types of macronutrients are necessary for a healthy diet. Let’s look at each type.
Carbohydrates (also known as Carbs) are not evil when eaten in moderation, because they provide a necessary source of energy for our bodies. Three broad categories of carbs are starches (also known as complex carbohydrates), sugars (also known as simple carbohydrates), and dietary fiber.
We mainly get carbs from starchy foods (like grain and potatoes), milk, fruits, and yogurt. Other foods like beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and cottage cheese contain carbohydrates, but in smaller amounts. With the exception of fiber and resistant starch, carbohydrates cause faster and greater blood glucose rises than the other macronutrients. Carbs are your body’s main source of fuel and are easily converted to energy. Carbs can also be stored in muscles and liver and later used for energy.
Fiber refers to those types of carbs that our bodies can’t digest. Fibre passes through your intestinal tract and helps to move waste out of your body. Low fibre diets may cause problems, such as constipation or haemorrhoids, and increase the risk for certain types of cancers such as colon cancer. Diets high in fiber may help decrease the risk of heart disease, obesity, and help lower cholesterol. Foods high in fiber include fruits, vegetables, and whole grain products.
Sometimes we over-consume certain sources of carbs, most notably simple sugars from soft drinks and sweets, and starches from white bread. If you have to cut down on one macronutrient, cut down on carbs.
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, whey, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables. When you eat these types of foods, your body breaks down the protein into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins).
Some amino acids are essential, which means that you need to get them from your diet, and others are non-essential, which means that your body can make them. Protein that comes from animal sources, like whey protein, contains all of the essential amino acids that we need. On the other hand, plant sources of protein do not contain all of the essential amino acids.
We need protein for growth, and this is especially important for children, teens, and pregnant women. Protein repairs damaged tissue and builds our immune system. We also use protein for energy when carbs are not available. And most importantly, we use protein to build lean muscle.
If you cannot manage to consume enough protein in your diet, Eat Me Supplements provide an excellent range of proteins, from plant-based to egg white protein powder to export grade New Zealand whey protein. A protein shake is your tasty, fast, and no-mess way to increase your daily protein intake!
Fats have a bad reputation for causing weight gain, but some fats are essential for survival. Eating fat does not necessarily mean that body fat will instantly appear on your body. We need fat for energy, absorbing some vitamins, and providing cushioning for our organs. Fats are found in meats, poultry (chicken and turkey), nuts, milk products, butters and margarines, oils, lard, fish, grain products and salad dressings.
Saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, essential fatty acids, omega fatty acids, trans fatty acids and cholesterol are all types of fats. Saturated fat is found in foods such as meats, butter, lard, and cream. Trans fat is found in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, and margarines and may increase your risk of heart disease.
Replacing the saturated and trans fats in your diet with unsaturated fats (those found in foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil) has been shown decrease your risk of developing heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and flax seed oil.
Different diets recommend various daily amounts of protein, carbs and fats. It is best to follow advice from your dietitian, nutritionist or another health professional who will have a whole picture of your health and activity levels.