What are Macros?
In the world of nutrition, the word “macros” is pretty commonplace. Maybe you are familiar with the word but have no clue what it means, perhaps you or someone you know is “tracking their macros” or maybe you have never even heard this term before! Regardless, “macro” is really just an abbreviation for the full-term macronutrients. Macro is the root word meaning large. Therefore, macronutrients are the nutrients our body requires in large amounts; also known as carbohydrates, protein and fat. For the most part, these macronutrients make up all the food we consume. Food also contains micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals crucial for normal growth and function, but we require them in much smaller amounts than macronutrients. More to come on micronutrients in a future post!
Macronutrients affect many processes in our bodies including:
- digestion/absorption of nutrients
- hormone production and regulation
- immune system health
- cell structure and function
- body composition (how much lean mass and body fat we have)
- metabolic function
- and several more!
As you can see, these are all very important! Each macronutrient has particular responsibilities and functions. For example, carbohydrates are the fastest-acting macronutrient source for energy transfer, protein helps repair and rebuild tissue, and fats regulate hormones and provide us with energy when we don’t need it fast (like when we are asleep). Having an imbalance of macronutrients or avoiding one altogether can affect your ability to perform vital functions. Just to give you an idea, amounts and sources of macronutrients can affect energy levels, support activity demands, change or maintain body composition, affect sleep and recovery, encourage or prevent certain health risks (e.g. heart disease, types of cancers) and that is just to name a few. That’s why it is so important to have an understanding of each macronutrient and consume a variety of quality whole food sources to ensure your body is getting the nutrients it needs based on your particular goals.
Another thing to note is that macronutrient needs change based on the individual and what their current goals are. Age, height, activity levels, sex, current body state, and genetic factors are just some of the unique considerations that will alter someone’s individual needs. Your goals will also help determine your macronutrient needs; maybe you want to lose weight, gain weight, increase muscle mass, improve energy levels, maintain current body composition, support intense exercise, or improve sleep. Consider a young athlete who is training 2 hours per day, 6 days a week. They have very different nutritional needs than a sedentary middle aged individual who sits at a desk all day and does not exercise. Taking into consideration your current state, individual needs and goals will help give you direction in your nutritional choices, yet another reason macronutrients are important!
Some macronutrients can actually affect others, for example consuming a meal with fats alongside your carbohydrates will help slow down the digestion of those carbohydrates, since fats take hours to digest and carbohydrates alone are digested and absorbed the quickest. Since each macronutrient has different responsibilities in the body, all are very important and we usually don’t recommend avoiding or cutting out any of them altogether. We can however adjust the amounts of macronutrients and be particular about the sources in which we obtain them from (for example, getting carbohydrates from highly-processed sugary cereal versus plain oatmeal).
This is just a brief introduction to macronutrients in which we have highlighted:
- what macronutrients are
- why they are important
- how they can affect our bodies/lives
Our next 3 posts will feature each individual macronutrient in it’s own separate post. We will be diving into the details; how that macronutrient acts in the body, what it is responsible for, when you might require more or less of it, some high quality whole-food sources, and other interesting and helpful information to help you better understand macronutrients and make more informed nutritional choices! Up first will be carbohydrates!
I am currently enrolled in the Precision Nutrition Level 1 course, and hope to have it finished by the end of the summer. As I progress through the program, I am going to be sharing some information with all of you! My hope is that it can help you gain new nutritional knowledge, provide a different perspective on nutrition related misconceptions, help you become more informed and share helpful tips that will allow you to make sustainable changes to your nutrition. Keep following along, there’s more to come! And if there are any specific topics you want to hear about, just let us know!