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What Are Macronutrients?

You may have known someone or you have personally ‘tracked your macros’ to hit certain fitness or weight loss goals. Most personal trainers and fitness professionals utilize macro tracking in order to help their clients (or themselves) hit certain goals.

If you are entirely new to the concept or ‘macros’ or if you are someone who has tracked before this post is for you. In this article I am going to teach you more about each macronutrient and broadly explain what role it plays within the body. So, let’s dive in

What are macros?

Macronutrients aka macros contain essential nutrients that the body cannot make itself. This means we have to get macros from food. These nutrients give our bodies what it needs to thrive. There are three main macros which are, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Let’s break down each of these in more detail.

Protein

Protein makes up approximately 40% of our body’s weight. Protein is needed for:

  • Repair, replacement, and regeneration of every cell / tissue within the body
  • Supports liver function which is essential for detoxification
  • Involved in the production of hormones
  • Involved in making enzymes that help with thyroid function, digestion, and energy production.
  • Transporting and storing nutrients
  • Promoting a healthy metabolism

Before we look into different types of protein sources, it is important to understand that not all protein is created ‘equal’. Protein structure contains ‘amino acids’ and once broken down within the body these amino acids are what are utilized within the body for specific functions. There are a total of 20 amino acids but only 9 of those are considered essential amino acids. Meaning 9 of them cannot be made within the body and are needed to be consumed through food. Some sources of protein contain all 9 essential amino acids and others only contain a couple. This is what I mean when I say ‘not all protein is created equal’ the goal is to consume foods that give you a “complete protein” aka all 9 essential amino acids. You can learn more about these 9 essential amino acids and what they do within the body HERE.

Now, let’s take a look at different sources of protein,

Animal Protein

All animal proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids and because of this are considered as ‘complete proteins”. These proteins are the easiest type of protein to absorb because it is known as bioavailable protein. Meaning the body doesn’t need to break it down and turn it into anything. It can absorb it and utilize it once it is digested. These proteins also provide many other vitamins and minerals that are essential for amino acid utilization and other functions within the body. 

Power Protein

Power proteins may be a new concept to you but the foods that make up this section have become wildly popular within the last few years for their nutritional benefits. Power proteins are animal proteins that contain all 9 essential amino acids plus additional amino acids. They are also jam packed with healing nutrients that aren’t found in many foods. These proteins are also one of the easiest proteins to digest and absorb due to them being bioavailable. It is estimated that 80-100% of animal foods are being absorbed.

Plant Protein

Plant protein has been getting wildly popular as of late. You may know someone who is plant based (vegan) or vegetarian. When we look at plant proteins we need to understand that only a handful contain all 9 essential amino acids. Most of them do not. Meaning, if you are not strategic with eating plant based you will become deficient in some essential amino acids and vitamins. Also, most plant proteins are hard to digest due to the phytic acid and lectins that are within the plant matter. It is estimated that only 40-70% of plant protein is actually absorbed.

5 years ago I found myself as a raw vegan thinking that I was benefiting my health but instead this was when my health started to deteriorate. I manifested PCOS, horrible menstrual migraines, gut dysbiosis, and hypothyroidism. All due to the lack of complete protein within my diet. For those who are wanting to know what plant foods can make a ‘complete protein’ (containing all 9 essential amino acids) you can find that blog post HERE

But for now, you will find the plant foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids below.

Carbohydrates (carbs)

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the brain and body. They are broken down into glucose to be utilized for energy. When carbs are in proper balance and accompanied by proteins and fats to avoid glucose spikes (added stress on the body) carbs are used for:

  • Energy production 
  • Energy is given to the central nervous system, kidneys, muscles, and brain. As glucose is the only fuel used for the brain.
  • Carbs are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen (energy) to be used throughout the day between meals
  • Supports digestive function
  • Helps with the conversion of thyroid hormone

There are two types of carbs, simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are instantly broken down into glucose to be utilized within the body. These types of carbs can be concerning for those who are watching their blood sugar levels. As these types of carbs can raise blood sugar quite significantly. Whereas complex carbs get digested slower due to their fiber and/or starch make up. As a practitioner I always advise my clients to focus on prioritizing complex carbs over simple carbohydrates to provide the needed fiber but also help with blood sugar spikes. 

Fats

Fatty acids are found within every cell within the body and are essential for human survival. Fatty acids are needed for:

  • Slowing digestion of carbs & proteins
  • Required for growth and development
  • Nerve and brain function
  • Used as a secondary fuel source for the body
  • Supports satiation and reduces cravings
  • Helps us absorb fat soluble vitamins like vitamin a, d, e, and k
  • Acts as an antioxidant and protects cells

There are two known types of fats when we think about nutritional fat. Saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are fat structures that are able to be closely stacked on one another allowing them to be more ‘stable’ at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are the opposite, due to their structure they aren’t able to closely stack together and this leads to them being more unstable at room temperature.

As mentioned above fats are essential for life and for our cells to function properly. When we aren’t consuming enough fats we can become ‘fat dehydrated’ meaning that our cells are dehydrated from fat. There is quite a debate as to what fats are best for you. At naturally holistic wellness we believe animal fats to be the more nutrient dense option. Whereas, plant based oils such as canola, vegetable oil, soybean oil, etc. are more likely to cause oxidative stress. However, oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil are great options for cooking oils. 

How to incorporate macros into your daily nutrition?

If you feel called to start tracking your macros you might be wondering what is the best course of action. We recommend following the TDEE calculator to determine how many calories and macros you will need per day based on your body weight, age, and activity level. From there the TDEE calculator will ask whether you want to be high carb, moderate carb, or low carb. This is completely dependent on your health status. I suggest working with a nutritionist to determine what direction would be best for you. However, you can start out with the ‘moderate carb’ option as it is the most generic option for the public.

If you don’t feel called to start tracking just start incorporating a protein, carb and fat with every meal and snack. This will help ensure you are getting each macronutrient and it will help balance your blood sugar. 

If you want to learn more or get a more specific diet plan for your health concerns, check out our services page to learn how to work with us further.