Breaking Down Nutrition: Macronutrients
Have you ever wanted to dive deep into nutrition? Not sure where to start? Or you're a personal trainer looking for a refresh? Then we are here to help! We are taking it back to the basics with Macronutrients. We will cover what they are, where you can find them and how they help you!
Nutrition is really important. When aiding your clients, whether you're a personal trainer, sports massage therapist or fitness professional, offering the correct nutritional advice is fundamental in helping them achieve their goals.
Table of Contents:
What are macronutrients?
"Macronutrients are the 3 main food groups that we consume on a daily basis. They are fats, protein and carbohydrates."
Along with macronutrients, we need micronutrients, (vitamins and minerals) and adequate water to help us form the basis of a healthy, balanced diet.
We often hear the term "macronutrients" being passed around on the internet, being talked about without any real definition or breakdown. Saying we need them in our diet is one thing, but understanding where to get them from will really benefit your clients.
Macronutrients: The Three Main Food Groups
Did you know that your body can’t grow and repair without protein? It can’t sustain hard exercise without carbohydrates? And needs fats for essential brain development?
Our 3 macronutrient food groups are; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Collectively they are needed in greater amounts to sustain fuels and offer structure and function to our bodies.
There are many different ways you can get macronutrients from food, whether you follow a specific diet, are vegan or use supplements, your body requires all groups to sustain a healthy diet.
Let’s take a closer look at each group of micronutrients, starting with protein.
Protein: What, Where and Why?
Proteins are the building blocks of life, we need protein so our body can mend and repair itself, therefore, every cell in the human body contains protein.
Belonging to a family of organic compounds, proteins are made from building blocks called amino acids and there are 20 of these in total. With alphabetical structures, each protein will be different according to the structure of letters creating individual words.
There are lots of sources of protein that we can extract that goodness from to help our bodies maintain the growth and repair process that we need to live a healthy lifestyle. We can consume turkey or chicken, lean cuts of beef or pork, fish or shellfish, beans, nuts and seeds, eggs, tofu, cocunut milk and soy protein and low-fat dairy products to gain our needed levels of protein.
For most adults, 2 or 3 servings of rich protein foods will help meet their daily needs, however, this can vary on a person's activity level, training schedule or additional dietary needs.
To meet the protein requirements we can consume complete, incomplete and complementary proteins.
Complete proteins are formed from animal and non-animal sources and contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Incomplete proteins are plant-based sometimes not including all 9 amino acids with generally smaller contents of proteins.
Finally, complementary proteins are carbohydrate-based foods that contain energy in form of glucose such as rice and pulses containing smaller amounts of proteins.
To calculate protein requirements, we can follow this activity type formula to grams of protein per KG of body weight.
Carbohydrates: Yes, We Definitely Need Them!
Our next Macronutrient is carbohydrates. This food group is an ideal source of energy for our bodies. We can convert this food group easily into glucose, a form of sugar that is transported and used around the body.
We must, however, maintain a balanced level of carbohydrates in our diet as if exceeded it can cause our blood sugar levels to fluctuate affecting our mood and energy levels.
Made up of units or molecules of saccharides, Carbohydrates have 3 basic types that you may have heard of before; Simple, complex and Fibre (Non-starch Polysaccharides).
Simple carbohydrates are basic in their structure and usually contain one or two units of sugar. They are usually heavily refined in their production, therefore, they lack the required vitamins to help them digest correctly, therefore providing us with a small amount of energy. They are broken down quickly in our bodies, giving us a short spike of energy.
Complex carbohydrates aren’t as sweet tasting as simple carbohydrates. They release energy slowly due to the correct amount of vitamins and minerals within the carbohydrate product, therefore helping us digest the food.
These food sources are usually the ones we avoid at the supermarket yet they are the most nutritious for our bodies. For example; whole grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, peas and green vegetables.
Fibre (Non-starch Polysaccharides):
Finally, we have Fibre; essential to a healthy diet, consisting of indigestible plant-based materials. These are found in fruit, vegetables and beans. Fibre does not necessarily provide energy, it helps food move through our digestive tract.
Fats: It's not what you think!
A major source of energy, Fats help absorb vitamins and, they just taste really good. Fats are often called lipids, when lipids are at room temperature, they are liquid and therefore are oils. When solid at room temperature, are called fats.
Lipids help form cell membranes, assisting in the regulation of enzymes. This means they help insulate and protect internal organs. Lipids, even with great functional benefits, are also under much debate regarding how they affect our bodies. Fatty acids are produced when fats are broken down. The function of the fat can be determined by the structure of its fatty acids that’s why some are saturated and some unsaturated.
Saturated fats tend to be solids at room temperatures such as butter, coconut oil, meat, peanut, butter, margarine and cheeses.
Unsaturated fats are sometimes liquid at room temperature, therefore, can be oils such as soybean oil, canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and fish oils. They can also be avocados, walnuts, flax and red meats.
So there you have it; a basic breakdown of your macronutrients and what each of them includes. Having an understanding of what we put in our bodies will lead to a healthier lifestyle. We hope you enjoyed this blog and if it inspires you to learn more, we can help you get qualified.