Helpful Tips to Understand the Differences Between Macronutrients

Macronutrients are dietary requirements that your body needs in large amounts. There are three main types: protein, carbohydrates and fat. While there are many differences between these macronutrients, they each work together to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients that you need and that your bodily functions are, well functioning properly. In this article, we’ll explain their specific roles and why you need them.

The differences between nutritional macronutrients

Protein

Starting with arguably the most revered macronutrient—protein. Protein is the building block of muscle. This is why it’s a common sight to see people chugging down protein shakes after a workout, especially if it’s their goal to build muscle and become stronger. It consists of chemicals called amino acids. The body uses these amino acids to then repair not only muscle but also skin, hair and bones, so, you can definitely say that protein is a vital macronutrient.

There are 20 different types of amino acids. Your body makes 11 of them itself, which are known as non-essential amino acids. However, the remaining nine are called essential amino acids. You need to get these essential amino acids through your nutrition as your body cannot produce them itself.

Different types of protein

Protein comes from various sources. It can come from animal products such as chicken, beef and fish as well as plant-based ones like beans, legumes and lentils. While it’s very possible to get enough protein from a plant-based product, it’s important for those following this type of diet to vary their sources to get all the essential amino acids.

Grams to calories

One gram of protein equals four calories.

Daily protein intake

According to Harvard Chan School, the National Academy of Medicine recommends 10-35 percent of your daily calorie intake to be protein. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, then 200-700 of your calories should be derived from protein.

Carbohydrates

The health and fitness industry has given carbohydrates a hard time. People tell you that if you want to manage your weight, then it’s best to avoid them or at least extremely limit your intake. However, it’s an important macronutrient that certainly has its own place and benefits in your diet. To put it simply, it’s our energy source.

Different types of carbohydrates

There are many types of carbohydrates including sugar, starches and dietary fiber. Fiber is what keeps our stomachs full and our bowels healthy. It promotes regular bowel movement and digestion. Starch and sugar produce energy.

You may also hear the terms low GI and high GI. This is a score that refers to the foods that contain carbohydrates and how quickly or slowly they take to break down in the body. Low-GI foods take longer while high-GI foods can produce a spike and drop in a person’s blood glucose level. 

Understanding the Glycemic Index

When a person’s blood sugar levels drop, they may begin to feel hungry, which can increase the likelihood that they’ll have something more to eat or snack on. It doesn’t keep you as satiated as low-GI foods, hence why people believe that consuming low-GI foods is beneficial when it comes to weight management.

Low-GI foods (scoring 55 or less on a scale of 100) are most fruit, whole grains, legumes and lentils. High-GI foods (70+) include starchy vegetables such as potatoes and heavily processed grains like white rice or bread. Everything in between is considered mid-GI (56-69). However, use this list as a guideline as other factors, such as cooking preferences, may change the GI levels.

Grams to calories

One gram of carbohydrates equals 4 calories.

Daily carbohydrate intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that 45-65 per cent of your total calories from macronutrients should be carbohydrates. This translates to 900-1,300 calories for the average person consuming 2,000 calories a day.

Fat

Similarly to carbohydrates, fat was also once seen as the enemy. However, just like carbohydrates, it serves a vital function to the body and so their importance should not be underestimated. Fat improves brain health and enables the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K). The body can’t produce all the important fatty acids though, like omega-3. This is where you come in; what the body can’t make, can be sourced from foods.

Different types of fat

The three main types of fat are saturated fat, unsaturated fat and trans fat. The ‘healthier’ option of this macronutrient is unsaturated fat. This includes avocado, nuts, olive oil and salmon. It’s important to consume them because it lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke, protects your organs and promotes good cell health. ‘Unhealthy’ fats are saturated and trans fat. In particular, trans fat lowers your good cholesterol levels while simultaneously raising your bad ones. It also increases the risk of heart disease.

Grams to calories

One gram of fat equals 9 calories.

Daily fat intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 20-35 per cent of your total calorie intake to come from fat. For a person consuming 2,000 calories a day, this is approximately 400-700 calories.

Each macronutrient is important

The differences in macronutrients mean that each of the three macros plays a specific role in the body that are just as essential as each other. They all contribute to ensuring that your body is functioning properly and is receiving all the minerals and nutrients it needs to be healthy. With the exception of those who require specific diets due to medical/health reasons, a well-balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates and fats, will put most in a good position to reach fitness goals and optimal health.

Use the Jefit App

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Emily Trinh
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