Macronutrients are the building blocks of all of the food we consume on a daily basis. Macros are broken down into calories, protein, fats, and carbs. Calories are simply a unit of energy for the body, and our body needs a certain amount each day in order to fulfill our daily energy requirements and maintain the current body composition. When the body is in complete caloric balance, it will meet daily energy requirements and maintain the individual’s current bodyweight. When the body is in a negative energy balance or caloric deficit, the body will breakdown stored fats and lean mass in order to meet daily energy requirements, resulting in weight loss. On the contrary, when the body is in a positive energy balance or caloric surplus, the body will have an excess of calories after daily energy requirements have been met, and this process forces the body to grow or gain weight. The body’s energy state and exertion will determine what kind of body composition change will or will not occur.
Protein is comprised of amino acids and is the building blocks of muscles. Each gram of protein equals 4 calories. Protein plays a role in lean mass gain/preservation and is a key component in overall muscle recovery. Without adequate intake of protein, the body will lose lean mass. Each individual will need to take in a different amount of protein in order to maintain or gain lean mass. In order to ensure adequate amount of protein, each individual will need to consume around .7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, as this will help preserve lean mass. In order to gain lean mass, protein intake needs to be high. An individual would need to intake 1.2-1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to build additional muscle tissue. Protein also has the highest thermic effect out of the macronutrients, meaning the body will expend more energy while digesting each gram of protein than it would for carbs and fats. The fact that protein has the highest thermic effect can also be beneficial when an individual is in a caloric deficit or negative energy balance, which can play a beneficial role in losing weight. In addition, protein intake will help curb appetite and aid in overall recovery from intense exercise bouts.
Carbohydrates are the body’s major source of energy, and play a key role in pre-workout fuel and post-workout recovery. Similar to protein, each gram of carbs equals 4 calories. Carbs are broken down into simple carbs (glucose, fructose, galactose) and complex carbs (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). Simple carbs consist of pretty much anything that has a high sugar content or any processed foods. Simple carbs are most efficient for energy production, as they can play a beneficial role in pre-workout or post-workout meals due to the fact that they can be broken down and utilized quickly. Simple carb intake should however be moderate. Complex carbs consist of vegetables, whole grain products, and sweet potatoes. Complex carbs are what the body needs to function properly and they play a beneficial role in overall energy production. The goal in terms of health is to eat more complex carbs versus simple carbs. A common misconception about carbs is that they equate to more body fat, which is absolutely incorrect. Carbs play the largest role in energy production when performing anaerobic (high intensity) exercise bouts and are considered the most efficient form of energy for the body.
Fats are comprised of many different structures, including saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. Each gram of fat equals 9 calories, which makes this macronutrient the most calorically dense. Fatty acids play a large role in maintaining proper function of natural bodily functions, and also play a role in energy production, but are not as efficient as carbs as a fuel source. Saturated and unsaturated fats are found in various meats, butter and cheese. Polyunsaturated fats are found in olive oil, various nuts, and fish. Polyunsaturated fats consist of omega-3 & 6, which are essential fatty acids needed by the body in order to function properly. An adequate mix between saturated and polyunsaturated fats will ensure that the body receives the needed essential nutrients via fatty acids. Fats are the primary source of energy used while at rest, and will also be used as the primary energy source for all aerobic (low intensity) bouts of exercise.
Understanding the make-up of macronutrients allows individuals to be more aware of their food intake and aid in body composition changes. Knowing the role that each macronutrient plays can be helpful when looking to make adjustments to a diet. Tracking macronutrients and calculating caloric intake is the number one determinant when wanting to actually make a body composition change. An individual simply cannot out work a poor diet, so understanding the breakdown of macronutrients is crucial when wanting to achieve a personal fitness goal. In order to take one’s fitness to the next level, nutrition needs to be the main focus when wanting to achieve a personal fitness goal. I made nutrition a priority and ultimately was the biggest difference maker in my personal progress.