Macronutrients explain how our body gains energy through the food that we eat. Macronutrients are broken up into three parts: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Discovered by Justus von Liebig in the 1860s, he opened the doors to other nutritionists and chemists around the globe to experiment and gather further information about how food powers our mind and body. So how do macronutrients and what does each one do for our body?
According to Avita Health, carbohydrates contain 4 kcal per gram and they are considered to be the main energy source for your body. There are simple carbohydrates that are easy for the body to break down like honey/agave, table sugar, molasses, etc. Then, there are complex carbohydrates that take more time for the body to break down and these include: rice, bread, pasta, potatoes, corn, beans, nuts, seeds, etc. Not only are carbohydrates broken down into glucose to help sustain your energy but it is also stored for later in your liver. This also affects your blood sugar!
As Avita Health describes protein, also 4 kcal per gram, they call it the building block to building our muscles through amino acids. The website simplifies it by saying: “There are 2 types of amino acids: non-essential and essential. Non-essential amino acids are not required to be consumed through the diet as your body can actually make these. Essential amino acids are required through your diet. Essential amino acids can either be used on their own or in some cases they are transformed into a non-essential amino acid.” There is both animal protein such as meat, fish, egg, poultry, and dairy products; also, there are plant proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds, soy and more. Whether you live an omnivorous lifestyle or a plant-based one, you’ll find protein in a variety of sources.
Out of all of the macronutrients, this one has the most calories at 9 kcal per gram. According to University of Michigan Health, the purpose of fat is to store energy but “the first job is to help with making hormones, muscle, and other proteins.” There are three different types of fat which are saturated, unsaturated, and trans fat. However, trans fat should be avoided or consumed in moderation since it is mostly found in baked goods and fried foods. Saturated fat is mostly found directly from animals such as fatty beef, cream, etc. and this is a fat that should also be limited. Finally, unsaturated fat is known as a “healthy fat” and can be found in avocados and nuts or fish.
In order to maintain this balance of our health, we need to make sure we eat balanced macronutrients. According to the American Society for Nutrition, “The IOM set an acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) for carbohydrates of 45–65% of total calories.” Healthline says that protein should make up 10-35% of your diet and fat using the remaining percentage which is between 20-35% of your daily calorie intake. Really, it depends on your personal goals and whether you want to maintain, lose, or gain body mass. Tracking your macronutrients through an app and speaking with a registered dietitian is the best route to go!