Macro & Micro Nutrients (And Why They Are Essential)
We all know about carbohydrates, fats, and protein. But, did you know that these are three of the major macronutrients?
We also know about vitamins and minerals. But, did you know that these are micronutrients?
Even more important for us to know is what macronutrients (macros) and micronutrients (micros) are and why they are essential for our everyday wellbeing.
What Are They?
As the name implies, macros are those nutrients that our bodies need in large amounts on a daily basis.
The primary sources of macros needed for healthy growth and development are carbohydrates, protein, fat, and water.
Each macro performs a distinct function that supports all of our major systems; including weight maintenance, immunity, mental acuity, energy, and hormonal balance.
Why Are They Essential?
This is the main source of the body’s energy. Carbohydrates are converted into the blood sugar as they enter your bloodstream and fuel your body’s ability to breath, maintain mental clarity, support weight management, and aid the digestive systems. Fibre rich carbohydrates aid in appetite satisfaction, help with weight loss, and work to prevent accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries.
Every cell in your body, including your nails and hair, contains and needs protein. Unlike other macros, your body is not able to store protein and needs daily replenishment. Proteins are converted into hormones, enzymes, and amino acids, and they play an important supporting role for healthy cartilage, muscles, blood, bones, tissue repairs, skin rejuvenation, and cardiovascular performance.
Healthy, unsaturated fats are macros that fuel your body’s energy levels and promote the optimal performance of your internal systems.
Fat-soluble vitamins rely on a supply of fat for absorption and to flow throughout the body. The fat-like substance known as cholesterol is needed for the growth and maintenance of some hormones, and it is in the makeup of every cell membrane in the body. Unsaturated fat macros help to reduce inflammation, to reduce high cholesterol, and to promote normal blood pressure.
Water may not be an official macronutrient, but it is the conduit that both distributes all nutrients throughout the internal and exterior of the body, it removes bodily waste through urine, it aids in body temperature controls, and provides ionic blood balance. Water is vitally important for metabolism and lubrication. Half of the body’s water comes from macros.
The majority of minerals are micros, meaning that only small amounts are essential to the body’s daily requirements. Other minerals are needed in larger amounts and are referred to as macro-minerals.
Macro-minerals essential for human growth and development include magnesium for normal blood pressure and strong bones, potassium for blood pressure stability, sodium chloride for ion balance in our tissues and fluids and to stimulate muscle contractions, iron to provide oxygen throughout the body, calcium for bone strength, and phosphorus to boost energy levels and for metabolism, strong bones and teeth.
Some dietary guides also include fibre and antioxidants as macros. Fibre is actually an indigestible form of carbohydrates that cannot be broken down into dietary molecules, but fibre serves to support the digestion system and to maintain regularity. Antioxidants are beneficial properties derived from the various natural components contained in nutritious foods, both macro and micro.
What Are They?
As the name implies, micros are those nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts on a daily basis. The primary sources of micros needed for healthy and wellness are vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Each micro performs a distinct function that supports all of our major internal systems and aids in the body’s ability to promote blood synthesis, metabolism, healthy growth and development, for resistance to non-communicable illnesses, to protect from free radicals, and to slow the signs of ageing.
Why Are They Essential?
Micros work in sync with macros to nourish all of our tissues and organs, they are important aids for growth, development, and internal repairs, and they help in the production of essential digestive enzymes.
Micros help in the production of hormones, work to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for usable energy, support tissue repair and cell rejuvenation, and slow oxidative damage from free radicals.
The antioxidant properties in vitamins support inflammation control and protection from viruses and bacteria. The electrolytes in minerals are essential to balance bodily fluids, to prevent acid build up, to support control muscle contractions, to assist with normal blood pressure, and to promote normal bone strength.
How to Calculate Macro Ratios for Wellness Goals
There is no one-size-fits-all ratio of macros. Your personal macro goals will be dictated by your individual needs based on your wellness plan, your sex, and your current health and fitness abilities.
To illustrate how we can manage our macro intake for various wellness goals, we’ll look at different scenarios for an average 75kg person. Micro intake can be obtained from either daily supplements or from natural food sources rich in specific vitamins and minerals.
- To Lose Weight: The goal for losing weight in a healthy manner is to increase the rate that fat is burned. This macro ratio standard is recommended as a low carbohydrate diet consisting of 10 to 30% calories from carbohydrates, 40 to 50% calories from nutritional proteins, and 30 to 40% calories from healthy fats. So, for our 75kg person to lose weight on a 1200 calorie diet, the total daily consumption of macros might be 240 calories from carbohydrates, 540 calories from protein, and 420 calories from fats. As our person reaches a plateau where weight loss stops, the macro ratio can be adjusted lower.
- To Build Muscle Mass/Maintain Athletic Performance: Building muscles and maintaining physical activity requires a higher macro ratio of carbohydrates and proteins. To enhance athletic performance and to build muscle, the recommendation is a diet consisting of 40 to 60% calories from carbohydrates, 25 to 35% calories from protein, and 15 to 25% calories from fats. Our 75kg person will be on a 1600 calorie diet consisting 800 calories from carbohydrates, 480 calories from protein, and 320 calories from fats.
- To Maintain Current Weight and Fitness: There are a number of different opinions on weight maintenance, most fitness authorities recommend a diet consisting of 30 to 50% calories from carbohydrates, 25 to 35% calories from proteins, and 25 to 35% calories from fats. Our 75kg person will be on a 1200 calorie diet consisting of 480 calories from carbohydrates, 360 calories from proteins, and 360 calories from fats.
- To Gain Weight: For anyone who is underweight and wants to add a few kilograms, there is a need to increase the amount of carbohydrates and fats eaten. A weight gaining diet recommendation is 50 to 70% calories from carbohydrates, 15 to 25% calories from protein, and 15 to 25% calories from fat. Our 75kg person will be on a 2000 calorie diet consisting of 1200 calories from carbohydrates, 400 calories from protein, and 400 calories from fats. Once the desired weight has been gained, this person can follow the macro weight maintenance plan described above.