Macronutrients, What Are They? Understanding Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates
Macronutrients and Micronutrients – Basics in Food Science
Written by: Femi Doyle-Marshall
Food is one of the main things that allows us to live and thrive on earth. You need it for energy to complete a goal – almost any goal. In a nutshell food feeds and fuels us. Knowledge of what you are eating can easily translate to a higher quality of living, better nutritional choices and improved results when fitness is your aim.
Performance in sport can be modified by increasing or decreasing carbohydrates a macronutrient we will be discussing today. Modifying protein intake can leave individuals full or not (thinking of satiety) – adding in strength training with ample amounts of protein can also aid in improving muscle size and shape. Hormone stability, cell health and nutrient absorption can be established with fat. Each play a role in ensuring you live today.
As mentioned earlier food is fuel. Looking at it in a scientific lens breaking down each thing you eat into its known macronutrient category can provide greater understanding in the meals you have day to day. Welcome to our introduction to Understanding Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.
Macronutrients are the large building block category for the foods you consume on a day to day basis. Think of it as the super group to categorize all of the food you eat. This ranges from carbohydrates, fats, protein and water. To gain weight, lose weight, build muscle or lose muscle, the combinations you find from this particular group is what will directly influence the results you are looking for. The easiest way to grasp this is what typically is on a plate consists of a meat or meat alternative – vegetable (hopefully) – grain, bread or tuber (ie. yam, potato, cassava). Each one of these can fit into the categories of protein, fat or carbohydrate which are known as macronutrients. Based on your training and/or health goals the amounts you eat may be changed.
Vitamins and minerals are known as micronutrients. They are broken down into two categories –fat and water soluble. Some vitamins and minerals you can get from raw foods, grain, dairy and properly prepared meals. These will vary in amount based on what you are eating and can contain anything from trace minerals (ie. iron, zinc, iodine) to specific vitamins themselves (ie. B complex, A, D, K). The foods you eat throughout the week impact your overall health and can help you achieve your overall fitness and health goals.
The Macronutrient – Protein
By ensuring your diet consists some level of protein you are also allowing your body to have the main nutrient required for growth. Protein is an essential nutrient for the body relating to building muscle tissue and tissue repair. Your body needs it to maintain muscle mass, improve recovery with strength training and prevent cell breakdown. Eggs, lean meats (ie. turkey, chicken) and fish all classify as sources of protein which you can find in Grocery Stores, Farmer’s Markets or Butcher Shops.
When purchasing protein sources you have the option to have leaner cuts or fatter cuts of meat. Many options that are leaner do so to reduce the saturated fat amount or reduce total calories. Usually red meats and whole eggs can fit into the category of being fatty (ie. higher amounts of saturated fat).
The Macronutrient – Fat or Fatty Acids
As mentioned, your body requires fat to transport nutrients and to regulate hormones. Much like protein different types are available. Usually when discussing fats, the two type mentioned are saturated and unsaturated (ie. for unsaturated monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are subcategories). Saturated fats tend to remain solid in room temperature while unsaturated fats do not, based on the organic structure. When looking for sources of saturated fats coconut oils and fat from meats are primary sources. For unsaturated fatty acids various nuts (ie. peanuts and treenuts) are options including olive oil, fish oil, flax seeds and other seed oils. Many of these could be purchased at Health Foods Stores or Grocery Stores.
The Macronutrient – Carb or Carbohydrate
Our brain functions off of it and our muscles utilize it for performance, we are talking about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates themselves can be sorted into complex (ie. starches and grains) or simple sugars (ie. honey, fruit and other refined sugars). The body can use both to function. For quality, aim to eat carbohydrates that are less processed or less refined. They tend to have more nutrients. Most sources of complex carbohydrates can come from rice, potatoes and other grains along with pasta and bread. Simple sugars being monosaccharides or disaccharides can include table sugars, fruits, honey and milk (ie. galactose). As like all food these sources can be found in Grocery Stores, Farmer’s Markets, some Health Foods Stores or Butcher Shops.
To make the process somewhat easier to grasp see the diagram below outlining each macronutrients into columns with examples of foods that fit.
And that’s it for today. Be sure to post any questions you may have about nutrition on the STRENGTH FORUM many members have found that page quite useful. Otherwise have questions or concerns? Feel free to leave them below along with any comments, thoughts and feedback. If you are looking to get a better understanding of this article I will be sure to post a response.