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What Are Macronutrients and Why Are They Important?

If you’re trying to eat a healthier diet, you may be overwhelmed by all the information telling you to eat this but not that. In your research, the term “macronutrient” may have popped up. 

But what are macronutrients, and why are they important?

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are the three major groupings of nutrients your body needs to gain energy through calories. Each food naturally contains some or all of the different macronutrients, which include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

Your body needs adequate amounts of all three macronutrients to function properly and stay healthy. While some diets limit or even exclude certain macronutrients like carbs or fat, a healthy diet naturally includes each of the three macronutrients.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates include fibers, sugars, and starches and are used in the body as a primary source of fuel. The body breaks carbohydrates down into glucose, a type of sugar used to provide energy to the cells through the digestive process. 

Carbohydrates are classified in two ways: simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates consist primarily of sugar molecules alone, while complex carbohydrates contain micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. 

Simple carbohydrates are more likely to cause rapid increases, or spikes, in your blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, increase blood sugar more uniformly. 

Sugars

Sugars are simple carbohydrates commonly associated with a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels. That’s why many people feel a burst of temporary energy not long after eating sugar, quickly followed by a rapid decline in energy. 

While many people have a negative association with sugar, sugar does occur naturally in foods like fruit and milk. Regardless of whether you consume natural or added sugars, they are processed by the body similarly, so your body’s reaction is the same.

Starches

Starches are usually considered complex carbohydrates and contain vitamins and minerals your body needs. Because of their molecular structure, the body breaks down complex carbohydrates like starches more slowly than sugars, preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes. 

Find starches in foods like beans, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and some vegetables, including corn, peas, and potatoes.

Fiber

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that appears in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber is only found in plant-based foods. The body cannot easily digest fiber, so it passes through the intestines intact, helping the digestive process. People who suffer from constipation may not get enough fiber in their diets. 

As a complex type of carbohydrate, fiber is broken down slowly and helps prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. Foods high in fiber include beans, legumes, fruits with edible skins or seeds, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and vegetables. 

Adults should seek to get about 25 to 30 grams of fiber from their diet daily.

Protein

Protein is scattered throughout your entire body, including your blood, muscle, skin, bone, hair, and nails. Protein is made up of combinations of 20 different types of molecules called amino acids. Some amino acids are naturally produced by the body, and some amino acids must be obtained through food. The amino acids that must be obtained from your daily diet are known as “essential” amino acids because you need to consume enough of them for your body to function properly. Protein is found in both plant-based products and animal products. 

Protein is critical to the body’s most important systems, including: the musculoskeletal, hormone, digestive, metabolism and transport system. Protein is the building block of your muscles. 

The grams of protein you need can depend on your activity level. People who exercise regularly need more protein than those who are sedentary. The average adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight each day. 

Protein is naturally found in poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs, fish, beef, pork, beans, nuts, whole grains, lentils, and seeds. Protein sources containing all nine essential amino acids are said to be “complete” sources of protein. It’s also possible to add more protein to your diet through protein powders and other supplements designed to support athletic performance.

Gainful Personalized Protein is crafted according to your diet and lifestyle habits and body composition so you can fuel your fitness journey right. 

Fat

While fat often gets a bad rap, your body relies on fats and fatty acids to perform many important functions in the body. Fat is found within the walls of every cell and serves as a source of energy. 

In fact, fat even protects your organs, insulates your body, and helps to process fat-soluble vitamins. However, not all fat is created equal. There are three primary types of fat: unsaturated, saturated, and trans fat.

Unsaturated Fat

Unsaturated fat is considered a “good fat” because it has important health benefits. Unsaturated fats may be classified as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but both support your body. 

Unsaturated fats help lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that can be damaging to your heart (and are known contributors to heart disease and stroke). Unsaturated fats also contain important fat-soluble vitamins that your body needs. 

Examples of unsaturated fats include olive oil, avocado, nut butter, peanut oil, canola oil, salmon, and many nuts and seeds.

Saturated Fat

Typically found in animal-based foods like beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and dairy products, saturated fats consumed in excess can contribute to higher levels of LDL cholesterol. Consuming an abundance of saturated fat may increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. 

When considering your diet, only about five to six percent of your daily caloric intake should come from saturated foods to protect your heart health.

Trans Fat

Believe it or not, trans fat occurs in small amounts naturally in foods. Most people take in excess trans fats through processed foods that have added hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. 

Trans fats grew in popularity during the 1990s before we fully understood their dangers. It’s no wonder. Trans fats are inexpensive, long-lasting, and can improve the taste and texture of food. But, trans fats are known to increase the amount of LDL cholesterol in the blood and lower the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (known as “good” cholesterol). 

Too many trans fats can increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. The US and Canada realized the dangers of these substances and banned artificial trans fat back in 2018. 

Why Are Macronutrients Important?

Macronutrients are important to understand because your body needs them in ample quantities to function properly. Eating too much or too little of one macronutrient can impact your health, athletic performance, and overall well-being. 

The USDA notes that macronutrients vary from person to person depending on factors that include:

In general, the USDA recommends that people follow the below dietary guidelines when it comes to consuming macronutrients:

Gainful Personalized Protein can help you reach your optimal protein intake with protein sources like Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Isolate, Pea Protein, or Brown Rice Protein. 

The Bottom Line

Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates, and fat that your body obtains from your daily diet in order to function properly and maintain good health. Getting the right amount of each macronutrient is critical to ensuring that your body feels and functions at its best. 

Gainful’s supplements and personalized blends can help you hit your recommended daily intake of protein so you can achieve your fitness goals. Take our quiz today to discover your Personalized Protein blend.


Sources:

Carbohydrates: Types & Health Benefits | Cleveland Clinic

Dietary Fats | American Heart Association

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 | United States Department of Agriculture

How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day? - Harvard Health

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