Macronutrients – you may know them by their abbreviated name ‘macros’ or as made famous by the popular hashtag #IIFYM (If it fits your macros). We aren’t going to get into that whole thing in this post but I wanted to do some quick education on what they are and the roles they play in our body.
What are they?
Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body needs in large “macro” quantities as they supply you with energy. These three fuel sources are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
“The king of macronutrients,” proteins play a wide variety of important functions within your body but are the one that people tend to consume the least of.. Proteins are made up of smaller substances, called amino acids, which make up just about every tissue, cell, and chemical in your body. Each gram of protein that you ingest is composed of amino acids, combined in a specific structure and order. In most cases, proteins are rapidly deconstructed, unless your body has an immediate need for that particular protein, and then their amino acids are reordered, repurposed, and used to fill some other need within your system. Some proteins form enzymes and hormones, others build and repair tissues.
The delicious, oft-misunderstood macronutrient. Made confusing by the low-fat craze of the 90s. I’m here to assure you that fat is not to be feared, but should rather by viewed as an essential part of a healthy diet. These nutrients are the most calorically dense, packing a powerful source of energy. Fats are also vital for the processing and absorption of many vitamins and minerals. They’ve also been shown to exert powerful benefits on the function of the immune system, heart, and brain. Bonus: they are extremely satiating.
Carbs superpower is their absorption rate and efficiency. Of the three macronutrients, they are the quickest to absorb and put to use. In order to be put to use, they must first be converted into glucose – which is actually a fairly simple process. Any glucose that isn’t immediately needed is turned into glycogen and tucked away in your liver and muscles for future use. They are great fuel for the central nervous system (your brain) and during high intensity exercise. An important thing to point out is that carbs are often demonized and people can be tricked into thinking that low- to no-carb eating is an effective diet plan. The key thing to keep in mind is that not all carbohydrates are created equal! Simple carbs, such as those found in white bread and sweets, lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and hunger pangs shortly after consumption, so it makes sense to avoid those. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are slow-burning. They contain significant amounts of fiber which help you feel full longer and are beneficial to consume around workouts.
If you’re interested in learning more about what your macronutrient ratio should be here is a good resource that addresses eating for your body type.