We’ve all heard of them, but what are they really? They can be confusing at first, but they are crucial in order to achieve your goals.
Below we explain the three key macronutrients, and how they can be key to your success.
Many of us have counted calories, which will help you in reaching your weight goals, however, calories do not address the need to eat for optimal health – this is where macronutrients come in.
Macronutrients, or ‘macros’, can be divided into 3 separate categories – Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats. They make up the part of the food that gives us energy and are so called ‘macro’ as our bodies require them in larger amounts.
Carbohydrates – Carbs are absolutely essential for energy, they keep the brain and muscles working at their best (Obviously they must be taken from a healthy source!). A person will need 45%-55% of their macronutrients, in the form of carbs per day. Within the carbohydrate family, there are 3 sub-groups
- Sugar – one type that is added to food and drink, such as biscuits & fizzy drinks, the other occurs naturally, and is found in foods such as honey and unsweetened fruit juices. It is recommended that these sugars should make up no more than 5% of a person’s total calories per day.
- Starch – starch is found in food that originates from plants, and generally have a slow release, keeping you fuller for longer & releasing energy through the day. They are considered to be the main form of carbohydrate in our diet, and we would typically find starch in foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Starchy foods also contain fibre, vitamin B, Calcium and Iron.
- Fibre – fibre can be found in the cell walls of food that originate from plants, and it is an essential part of our diet, as it helps to regulate digestion and moves waste more smoothly through the body. Eating enough fibre is also associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Protein – mainly used for building muscle mass, repairing tissues, growth, helping to maintain a healthy Ph balance, and aiding immunity. These are just a small handful of the functions of proteins, they are widely used in the body for many different reasons.
Below we list where you can it:
- Chicken, Lean Beef, Fish
- Milk, Cottage Cheese, Greek Yoghurt
- Nuts & Seeds
- Beans & Pulses
Another handy tip about Protein, is that it keeps you fuller for longer! That’s why you’re full until lunch time when you’ve had scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast!
Fats – ahh the dreaded word! Fats seem to have developed a bad name for themselves over the years, this is down to two things:
- The number of calories they hold per gram.
- Different types of fat are better for you than others, and others can play a role in Cancer, Heart Disease and other illnesses.
- First and foremost, we do need a small amount of fat in our diets, as our bodies cannot produce essential fatty acids itself.
- Fat helps the body to absorb Vitamins A, D & E, and they could not be absorbed without the use of fats.
- Like any macronutrient, any that is not used by the body, is converted into body fat.
Eating too much saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol, strokes and heart disease. It is recommended that men should limit their intake to no more than 30g per day, and women 20g. Saturated fats are found in many foods, such as:
- Meat products, such as sausages, pies, burgers.
- Butter, Cheese, Lard
- Chocolate, Biscuits, Cakes, Pastry
- Palm Oil
For overall health, it is suggested that we swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats – these come in two forms
- Monounsaturated – these types of fat are known to maintain levels of good cholesterol and keeping the heart healthy. They can be found in foods such as: Olive & Rapeseed oil, Avocados, Brazil Nuts, Peanuts and Almonds
- Polyunsaturated – these fats are also known to keep down levels of bad cholesterol in our blood. They can be found in Rapeseed Oil & Sunflower Oil, and many types of oily fish such as Herring, Sardines & Salmon.
So now you know a little bit more about Macronutrients, but what are you supposed to do with this information? If you are interested in starting to count your macros, there are plenty of free apps available, to help you do just that, or alternatively you can just be mindful about what you’re eating on a daily basis!
If you would like to find out more information, please visit the links below:
Author: Performance To Summit Team – Dave Pickles & Rosie Machin