What the Heck are Macro's?!
What are macronutrients and why do you need them? Macronutrients are foods required to be present in your diet in relatively large amounts in order to keep your body functioning at optimal levels. These comprise of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. They provide your body with nutrients and calories used as energy for basic body functions, so if your body is lacking in a macronutrient it can cause damaging effects to your body.
The recommended daily intake of carbohydrates is 30 – 50% of your diet.
Foods containing carbohydrates include fruit, vegetables, milk, grains, and food with added sugar (cakes, biscuits, beverages, etc).
Once ingested, carbohydrates are converted into glucose and used as our body’s main fuel source, powering vital systems such as our organs, muscles and the brain. There are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates.
Complex carbohydrates taste savory and can contain starches and dietary fibre. Fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate that is important for intestinal health. Foods containing complex carbohydrates include breads, cereals, and vegetables. Wholegrains and vegetables are the best option to go with, as they are highest in nutrients and fibre. Some examples of these are: all vegetables, oats, brown rice, quinoa, seeds, and rye.
Simple carbohydrates have a sweet taste and are ingredients often with words ending in ‘ose’ e.g. sucrose, lactose, maltose. Some foods contain naturally occurring simple carbohydrates, such as fructose in fruit. These types of carbs are good for you as they come in foods that provide a variety of nutrients. Simple sugars to be avoided are sugars that are added to processed foods. When checking out food labels, be on the lookout for ingredients such as sugar, sucrose, corn syrup, dextrose, and fruit juice concentrates.
Carbohydrates will only cause you to put on fat if you are consuming an excess number of calories daily, meaning you are eating an overall sum of calories that is more than what your body is burning throughout the day (from all macronutrient groups). Carbs play an important role in your body so it is never necessary to cut them out of your diet completely.
The recommended daily intake of protein is 20 – 40% of your daily diet.
Body tissues are constituted of proteins, making up more than 50% of our dry weight. Once ingested, protein is broken down into amino acids which allow the body to carry out tasks such as helping to regulate normal body functions, being used as energy when carbohydrates are unavailable, repairing damaged tissues, and developing enzymes which are used for digestion, protection and immunity.
Protein is found in meat, dairy, nuts, legumes, and some vegetables. Vegetarians are able to have a diet containing a substantial amount of protein. You will not greatly increase your muscle mass just by including large amounts of protein in your diet as many other factors come into play to achieve this.
The recommended daily intake for fat is 20 – 30% of your daily food intake.
Fat is broken down in our body into the form of lipids and is used for processes such as source of energy, transportation of vitamins through the body to where they are needed, helping proper function of the nervous system, and forming hormones.
There are ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats’. Good fats help control your weight, assist in keeping you in a good mood, fight fatigue, and help you stay mentally focused. Bad fats cause you to put on weight and cause an array of other unwanted health problems such as clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Good fats are monounsaturated fat (e.g. olive oil, avocados, nuts, peanut butter) and polyunsaturated fat (e.g. flaxseed oil, seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame, and fatty fish such as tuna, trout, and salmon).
Bad fats are saturated fat (e.g. butter, whole fat dairy products, lard, and high fat meats such as lamb and pork) and trans fat (e.g. commercially baked goods, fried foods, packaged snack foods, and chocolate).
Your body needs healthy fats to function, so do not cut out the good fat from your diet. Limit or eliminate bad fats from your diet to prevent future health problems and help to cut down on current body fat levels.