Understanding Macronutrients To Boost Health & Wellbeing

If you are reassessing your diet or exercise routine, then you might have heard a lot about macronutrients. These are the nutrients that are the building blocks of a consistent energy supply, and understanding them can help you to achieve your overall health and fitness goals, whether that’s to gain muscle or get leaner. 

Here’s a closer look at the role of these essential nutrients and how you can ensure you are getting the right balance in your meal prep

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients include protein, fats, and carbohydrates. They are vital for our bodies to function and we need them in larger quantities than other nutrients, which are sometimes labelled micronutrients. These are nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that we tend to consume in smaller quantities, although most foods contain a mixture of both.

The role of proteins

Proteins are broken down into amino acids by our digestive system and used to build and repair tissues and muscles in the body. They also support healthy hair, skin and nail growth by providing structure to the cell membranes, and maintain a healthy balance of enzymes and hormones in the body. 

Many foods contain protein, but those looking to optimise their fitness or muscle mass may monitor their protein intake. Good sources of animal based-protein include chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, red meats, and dairy products. Plant-based protein sources include beans, pulses, and wholegrains. 

The role of fats

Fats can get a bad rep, but not all fats are bad for us, and in fact healthy unsaturated fats are essential to help the body store energy and transport vitamins and minerals around the body. Fats also support healthy cell membranes and insulate our organs. 

Good sources of fat in your diet include extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, and dairy products. Saturated fats such as butter and cheese should be consumed in moderation, and trans fats that are found in some processed foods should be avoided because the body cannot break them down, and they may clog your arteries. 

The role of carbohydrates

Carbs are broken down into glucose by the body and can be stored or used as a quick source of energy. We need a good balance of carbs in our diet to support the central nervous system and brain function; promote healthy digestion; and to keep us feeling full in between meals. 

Complex carbs slow down digestion and provide sustained energy release throughout the day. Sources include brown rice, quinoa, legumes, and vegetables. Simple carbs provide a quick energy boost, and this can be derived from fruit and dairy products. 

Planning your macronutrient intake

Most of us will get all the macronutrients we need by eating a balanced diet; generally meals that are composed of 50 per cent non-starchy vegetables, 25 per cent protein, and 25 per cent complex carbohydrates. 

Refined carbs and sugar that are present in a lot of convenience foods will lower your macronutrient intake, and will lead to lower energy levels, worse mental clarity, and potential weight gain.