Macronutrients are the nutrients that we use for energy: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Macronutrients can be counted in calories:
- Protein has 4 calories per gram.
- Carbohydrates has 4 calories per gram.
- Fat has 9 calories per gram.
Now, each person is going to have their own set of preferences when it comes to how they divvy up their calorie needs for the day between protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Someone following the Atkins diet will be low on carbs, while a plant-based eater might typically follow a high carb, low protein diet, and so on! The human body is amazing, and we can adapt to almost any diet in existence. People have had success with all kinds of diets. That’s why we won’t be telling you which diet is the “best diet.”
But, as functional fitness devotees, where we often find ourselves running, rowing, jumping, throwing, pushing, pressing, pulling, lifting heavy, lifting light, and everything in between, sometimes all in the same day — and in a myriad of time durations (we go long and steady, we go short and fast…), we do also need a nutrition plan that works with our activity level and the type of activity that we do.
For that reason, we usually advocate a more middle-of-the-road approach with enough of each macronutrient -protein, carbs, and fat- to support our body composition goals as well as our performance. If our goal is to build lean muscle and burn fat, to crush it in the gym AND out in the world, then each macronutrient plays a role!
If you want to look leaner and more muscular, finding the right amount of protein for your body is key. And as for all your hard work in the gym, well, adequate protein ensures our muscles recover by repairing the muscle tissue, so all that hard work isn’t going to waste. Protein is also very important for weight loss, because it supports a healthy metabolism and immune system.
Next on the list is carbohydrates. You might have heard that carbohydrates help provide fuel for our workouts. This is definitely true. Too little carbohydrates and you will have a lower power output for your workouts. You’ll also feel pretty defeated and depleted- no good if our goal is to look and feel our best. And what about too many carbohydrates in the diet? Well, if your body can’t immediately use carbohydrates for energy, then excess carbohydrate consumption will be stored for future use (as fat or glycogen). A prolonged state of excess carbohydrates in the body leads to chronic elevations in blood triglyceride levels, bad cholesterol, and insulin resistance.
The third macronutrient is dietary fats. As a society, we’re quite fat-averse, after many decades of a low-fat diet being thrust on us. But, not enough good fats can also cause health problems. Good, healthy fats are naturally occurring as opposed to industrially produced. These healthy fats include nuts, seeds, fish, seaweed, avocado, coconut, olives, and pasture-raised/grass-fed animals/eggs.
Because all three macronutrients play a key role in performance, health, well-being, and shaping body composition, we recommend a more balanced profile of all three macronutrients. The exact ratio of carbs, protein, and fat may vary from person to person, depending on their goals, age, activity level, and other factors. And of course, the total number of calories you eat in a day will also vary widely from person to person.
Now that you know why macronutrients are important, in our next series we’ll go over what you’ll need to know in order to successfully eat for your macros!