What Are Macros?

December 28, 2023

Macronutrients form the essential building blocks of our diet, supplying the energy needed for various bodily functions while contributing to overall health. Comprising carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, these three main categories play unique roles in supporting our body’s functions. Developing healthier eating habits involves understanding and balancing the intake of these crucial macronutrients.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for the body. They are made up of sugars, starches, and fibers. When consumed, carbohydrates break down into glucose, which fuels our cells and powers our brain. There are two main types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple and complex carbohydrates differ in their structure and how quickly they’re digested and absorbed in the body.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates consist of one or two sugar molecules (monosaccharides or disaccharides). They are quickly digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar levels if eaten on their own (without a fat, or protein source). 

1. Monosaccharides: Glucose, fructose, galactose – found in fruits, honey, and some vegetables.

2. Disaccharides: Sucrose (table sugar), lactose (found in dairy), maltose (found in some grains and beer).

Simple Carbohydrates provide quick bursts of energy due to their fast digestion and absorption, making them useful for athletes during intense workouts or for a quick energy boost.

Often, sources of simple carbohydrates like refined sugars lack essential nutrients and in excess can lead to blood sugar spikes followed by crashes, causing hunger, cravings, irritable mood, and stress on the body.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are made up of multiple sugar molecules linked together (polysaccharides). They take longer to digest due to their complex structure, resulting in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream.

1. Starches: Found in foods like whole grains (brown rice, oats), legumes (beans, lentils), and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes).

2. Fiber: Found in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Complex Carbohydrates provide a steady release of energy due to their slower digestion, keeping blood sugar levels more stable and providing longer-lasting energy. Whole food sources of complex carbohydrates also contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients essential for overall health.

Balance is Key

In a balanced diet, both types of carbohydrates play a role. Whole, unprocessed sources of complex carbohydrates tend to be more nutrient-dense and offer sustained energy, while simple carbohydrates can be useful in specific situations (after strenuous exercise for example) but should be consumed in moderation, especially when sourced from refined sugars.

For overall health, it’s recommended to focus on complex carbohydrates from whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, while being mindful of the intake of simple carbohydrates from sources like sweets, sugary drinks, and processed foods.

Protein

Proteins are essential for the growth, repair, and maintenance of body tissues. They consist of amino acids, which act as the building blocks for various bodily structures, including muscles, enzymes, and hormones. If you’re struggling with finding easy recipes, download our eBook: 5 quick & healthy high protein recipes.

Types of Proteins

Complete Proteins: Found in animal sources like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, containing all essential amino acids.

Incomplete Proteins: Found in plant-based sources like legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, lacking one or more essential amino acids.

Protein Food Sources

– Animal Sources: Chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese).

– Plant Sources: Lentils, chickpeas, tofu, quinoa, nuts (almonds, peanuts), seeds (chia seeds, hemp seeds).

Protein Benefits

Protein plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, serving as the building blocks for tissues, muscles, enzymes, and hormones. Beyond its well-known function in muscle repair and growth, protein supports immune function by aiding in the production of antibodies, contributes to enzyme activity crucial for metabolism, and acts as a key component in maintaining cellular structure and integrity. Additionally, protein-rich foods often promote feelings of fullness, assisting in weight management, and help regulate appetite. From fostering tissue repair and strengthening hair, skin, and nails to facilitating nutrient transport and supporting overall health, protein’s multifaceted benefits provide an essential role in a balanced diet and for optimal bodily function.

Fats

Fats are a concentrated energy source and play a crucial role in various bodily functions, including cell structure, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. There are different types of fats: saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats.

– Saturated Fats: Found in animal products (ghee, butter, tallow, lard) and some plant oils (coconut oil).

– Unsaturated Fats: Found in avocados, fish, nuts, seeds, and olives.

– Trans Fats: Found in processed and fried foods.

Fat Benefits

Healthy fats are vital for various bodily functions, offering a myriad of benefits essential for overall health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish, play a crucial role in heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These fats are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, pivotal for brain function, aiding in cognitive abilities and mood regulation. Additionally, healthy fats support nutrient absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, contribute to cell structure and flexibility, and help maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails. Their inclusion in a balanced diet not only provides long-lasting energy but also supports overall well-being and optimal bodily function.

Final Thoughts On Macros

Ensuring a well-rounded inclusion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in every meal stands as a cornerstone for sustaining optimal health, achieving balance, and fostering sustained energy levels throughout the day. Carbohydrates provide immediate energy, proteins aid in tissue repair, muscle maintenance and satiety, while healthy fats contribute to nutrient absorption, brain health and prolonged satiation. This trifecta not only offers a diverse array of essential nutrients but also regulates blood sugar levels, ensuring a steady release of energy and preventing energy crashes. By incorporating these macronutrients in each meal, one cultivates a balanced diet that supports bodily functions, promotes a feeling of fullness, and maintains stable energy levels, contributing to an overall sense of well-being and nutrition wisdom.

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