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What Are Macronutrients & Why Are They Important?

Understanding Macros

You’ve probably heard that word thrown around by a few fitness enthusiasts but what an earth actually is it?

Macro (Macronutrient): The main types of food consumed within the diet. The 3 macronutrients are carbohydrates, fat and protein.

It’s worth mentioning that there are also micronutrients.

Micronutrients: Chemical substances that are required in smaller amounts by the body. Also known as vitamin and minerals.

So your diet should be built up from macronutrients in suitable divisions and micronutrients sprinkled in for optimal health. Let’s take a look at each macro in detail to understand how you should be eating.

Carbohydrates

Carbs refer to sugary and starchy food that act as the body’s main source of energy. They are broken down to glucose to give us a near-instant energy surge. Any excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver.

Carbohydrates have 4kcal per gram.

Examples of Carbohydrates are:

  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • All types of sugar

Carbs are important in everyday life to keep your body fueled and functioning. When you’re taking part in a training routine, consuming carbohydrates is crucial for replenishing stores of glycogen that have been used up during exercise. Consuming carbohydrates before a workout may give you an added boost in your workouts as well.

The recommended intake of carbs suggests that 45-60% of your calories should be coming from carbohydrate sources. For people exercising frequently, the higher end may be required, especially for endurance athletes.

Protein

Protein is a food that is made up of long chains of amino acids. Their main function is to repair and help with the growth of cells in the body.

Protein has 4kcal per gram.

Examples of Protein sources are:

  • Meat (chicken, lamb, beef, pork)
  • Fish (tuna, cod, salmon)
  • Sea Food (prawns, squid, crab, muscles)
  • Milk Proteins (whey, casein)
  • Dairy Products (cheese, milk, yoghurt)
  • Soy Protein (tofu, protein powder)
  • Pea & Plant Protein

Protein is needed in everyday life to build and repair cells within the body. It helps regulate tissue and organs. For people training, protein should be prioritised. It’s essential for repairing and building back the muscle fibres that have been broken down during exercise. It also helps ensure that, during weight loss phases, muscle mass is not lost. During muscle gaining phases, having a good supply of protein also means that weight gain will be predominantly due to muscle gain rather than an increase in fat.

The recommended allowance of protein is 10-30% of your calories to be consumed via protein sources. At Flamin’, we recommend working out your protein based on your bodyweight. That is 0.8g- 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight. Now, this may fall way above the recommended doses but having a sufficient protein intake is crucial to reach your fitness goals.

Fat

Dietary fat can be split into 3 main categories:

  • Unsaturated Fat
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat

Fat has 9ckal per gram.

Fatty acids are needed by the body as a source of energy and are also used to help regulate hormones. Fats also play a role in the absorption of some vitamins such as Vitamin A, D & E. Unsaturated fats are brilliant at removing the ‘bad cholesterol’ that can clog up your arteries.

Examples of Unsaturated Fats are:

  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Oily Fish
  • Avocados

Unsaturated fats should be the majority of fat sources you’re consuming.

Saturated fats refer to most protein sources from animals. Eating too much saturated fat can increase the ‘bad cholesterol’ in your arteries which could lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Examples of Saturated Fats are:

  • Fatty cuts of meat
  • Cheeses
  • Processed food
  • Palm Oil

Try to limit your saturated fat intake by eating mainly lean sources of protein and unprocessed food.

Trans fat is essentially the ‘bad fat’. It doesn’t really have any beneficial purpose for the body. They should be kept to a minimum. Examples of trans fat sources are:

  • Processed snacks like biscuits and cakes
  • Margarine

Basically, if it feels unhealthy, it probably has trans fat in.

The suggested intake of fat is between 15-25% of total daily calories. Due to the calorie-dense nature of fat, you may tend to lower that amount. DON’T. Fat is needed to regulate the body and hormonal processes. During periods of a very low-fat diet, the body can experience some pretty nasty stuff such as the irregularity of the menstrual cycle.

The Flamin’ Fitness Approach

Now, it is very easy to go overboard when viewing food as numerical values rather than, well, food. The basic understanding of macronutrients is beneficial in seeing food as a source of fuel to push your body and mind further, but it is not necessary to micro-manage every single piece of food based on their macronutrient breakdown.

Here at Flamin’, we believe that if you focus on the calories you’re consuming for your goal. So either, calorie deficit, calorie surplus or maintenance. Set that goal and stick to it as long as weight loss/gain is healthy and within the right boundaries. (Check out our weight loss and bulking blog to find out).

Once you’ve started eating around that calorie mark, prioritise protein. Try consuming 0.8g-1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight. If you are going balls to the wall with muscle gain that can be upped to 1g-1.2g per 1lb of bodyweight.

Now you’ve smashed your calorie and protein goal, you can fit your carbs and fats in as you see fit. As long as your fat intake is not going below 15% you’re good to go. It may be you’re a carb junkie (aren’t we all) or you prefer to use your calories on fatty foods such as cheese. On days where you have a heavy or long training sesh, try upping the carbs for an added boost of energy.

But don’t stress over the intricacies of it all. As long as you’re hitting your calorie and protein goal, you’re more than likely on your way to smashing those fitness goals.

Conclusion

So macros are the 3 main types of food that make up the diet.

Carbohydrates come from grains, cereals and fruit & veg. They are used as the body’s main source of energy. Try to consume whole grain, unprocessed carbs.

Protein comes from animal products and some plants. It is used to help build and repair the body’s cells and is crucial for maintaining muscle. Try consuming lean sources of protein.

Fats can be beneficial and harmful to the body. They are used as a source of energy and then for the regulation of the body’s tissues and hormones. Try to mainly get your fat intake from unsaturated fats.

Don’t worry too much about the breakdown of your diet. Focus on boshing out your calorie and protein goal, and the rest will slot in nicely.

For any more nutrition support or guidance, get in touch with one of our coaches to see what we can do for you.

Check out all our balanced, healthy recipes.

Not quite getting all the fitness Jargon? Head over to our flamin' jargon buster for a breakdown.

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