What are they and why do we need them?
Following a complicated eating plan to be fit and healthy and trying to use a food tracking app can be confusing and make the whole process feel way more complicated than it needs to be. I want to show you that once you understand macros, a healthy diet can be quite simple.
A nutrient is a source of nourishment, an ingredient in a food. There are Seven major types of nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamin, mineral, fibre, and water.
Macronutrients (Macros) are the nutrients we need in a relatively large amount, these refer to carbohydrates (includes fibre), fats, protein, and water.
Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals required by the body in very small amounts. These have no calorie value and little direct impact on hormonal response, but these are essential to achieving optimal health.
Most foods contain a combination of some, or all the nutrients classes. To be healthy, you need to eat a variety of different macronutrients to get the micronutrients that you need to stay healthy. We require some nutrients regularly and others less frequently. Poor health may be the result of either not enough or too much of a nutrient, called an imbalance.
A big misconception people have about carbs is, 1. That they are bad for you, and 2. That it is just found in bread, pasta, or rice. What a lot of people do not realise (or just forget) is that carbs are also vegetables and fruit!
There are 2 main types of carbs; sugars and starch. Carbohydrates provide energy, which you need to function during the day. They contain fewer calories than fats and provide fibre, which promotes good digestive system function.
You want to eat mainly complex carbohydrates from vegetables, such as potatoes, legumes and lentils, nuts and whole-grain cereals, whole grain pasta, flour, bread, and brown rice. Carbs are not found in meats or fats but can be found in small quantities in some cheeses.
Simple sugars found in snack bars, cakes, chocolate, and pastries should be avoided as much as possible.
Sources of healthy carbs to include are:
- Whole grains
- Beans and legumes
- Fruit and root vegetables
- Green leafy vegetables
Your body uses protein to build and repair the tissues of your body (including muscle tissue). If you are someone who works out regularly, getting enough protein from food is essential for your recovery. It is still important if you don’t exercise too, as protein is important for healthy bones, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein can also help provide energy if you are on a low carbohydrate diet.
Most people think of milk, eggs or meat when they think of protein, however protein is found in animal and plant food such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy, cereals, nuts and pulses.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, and different food contain different amounts and combinations of amino acids.
Vegans and vegetarians can get all the protein they need by combining different plant sources or protein.
Sources of protein to include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily Fish (also a good source of omega-3)
- Red meat (also is high in iron)
If you are struggling to eat enough protein, you can include a protein shake to help, but these may not contain the micronutrients that you get from whole food sources, it is best to get all the protein from your food, if you can.
Fat is another one that has a bad stigma and people believe you should avoid all fats. Fat is also known as lipids, which are stored in the body as a source of energy. There are 3 different types of fats:
· Monounsaturated fatty acids are healthy fats found in tofu olive oil, rapeseed oil, groundnut oil, avocados and certain nuts (and nut oils).
· Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in oils from vegetables, seeds and also some nuts (sunflower oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil and sesame oil).
In addition to these oils, fatty fish such as sardines, herring and salmon also contain polyunsaturated fat.
· Saturated fatty acids can be found in Full fat dairy products (butter, cream, cheese), egg yolks, lard, suet, palm oil and coconut oil.
Most fatty foods contain more than one type of fat. Healthy fats are a great way to get essential micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids. These are important to keep your brain and hormonal system healthy so that you feel your best. Try to stick to the healthier unsaturated fat options and avoid/have little of the saturated fat options (things like deep fried food) and cook with vegetable oils instead of butter or coconut oil.
Sources of healthy fats you can include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butters
- Oily fish
Everyone is going to be different with what they need in their diet depending on their goals, health conditions, allergies, weight, and activity level. So, I could not tell you here exactly how much of each you need to be eating.
If you are trying to reach specific fitness goal like building strength, then you would need to eat more protein and carbohydrates to speed up your muscle repair and recovery. If you have a weight loss goal, the amount of each macronutrient that you eat is not as important as the total energy (calories) that you consume each day.
If you do not have anything affecting what you can and cannot eat, then eating a wide variety of foods from each food group you should get the nutrition your body needs to support your lifestyle. Eating a good combination of all these macronutrients will also help keep you fuller for longer, keep your body healthy inside and out and it will help your mood so that you have more energy.
AND REMEMBER, IT IS OKAY TO HAVE ‘BAD’ FOOD OCCASIONALLY, IN MODERATION.
Daina Hutchins, Qualified Personal Trainer
Daina has been in the fitness industry since 2016 and is the co-owner of Down Under Barbell (www.downunderbarbell.com). A weight trainer herself, she enjoys training others in high-intensity groups. Currently pursuing diploma in weight management, she is a qualified strength coach, boxing (for fitness) coach and pre- and post-natal fitness.
You can purchase per personal fitness program packages here.