Macronutrients – Everything You Need To Know
You might have heard people talking about macronutrients and wondered what it
meant. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand all about this
important topic. We’ll cover what macronutrients are, why you need them and how
to calculate your requirements. Phew!
What are macronutrients?
Put simply, macronutrients are the
building blocks that our bodies need to function. We need them to stay healthy.
They are broken down into three groups;
carbohydrates, fats and protein. Despite what fad diets may tell you, all of these food groups are essential to keep the
body healthy. They all serve a different purpose. They provide us with energy,
calories and keep our bodies thriving. Depending on
your fitness goal, you might need to make sure you get these three
macronutrients in different amounts. We’ll talk about that below.
Most foods tend to be a mix of two or more macronutrients. For
example, 100g of chickpeas provides 61g of carbohydrate, 19g protein and 6g
Carbs are our main energy source. Essentially,
they are made up of sugars. The body digests
these easily and converts them into glucose. This
type of sugar is vital for energy. It gets to the body’s cells and gets to work
Good sources of carbohydrate include fruits such as apples and bananas. Or
veggies like cauliflower and carrots. You can also choose legumes, beans and
pulses. Bread, rice, pasta and grains are all high in carbs. Opting for
wholegrain varieties tends to be healthier. They are
absorbed more slowly, giving a more sustained
energy hit. They are also higher in fibre, which is great for keeping your
digestive system healthy.
Fats may have a bad reputation, but we need healthy fats to keep
the body healthy. They give us energy and support cell growth. They also help us to absorb important nutrients, support
healthy brain function, protect our organs and keep us warm.
But not all fats are equal. Trans fats should be avoided. These are also known as partially hydrogenated oils. They are often present in
ready-made foods such as packaged cakes and pies.
Consume saturated fat sparingly. You'll
find it in fatty cuts of meat, high dairy foods, and oils such as palm oil and
cocoa butter. Unsaturated fats are good for us, and are present in nuts and
seeds, vegetable oils, oily fish, soy beans and tofu.
Proteins build, repair and regenerate cells. They help us to build
muscle and to recover from tissue damage. Protein is
made up of amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acid, 9 of which the
body cannot manufacture itself. These are referred
to as essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all 20.
Protein can be found in meat, eggs
and dairy. But for those on a vegan or plant-based diet, it is easy to get
enough protein from other sources too. You can eat beans, pulses and legumes,
as well as seeds and nuts. Raw greens such as kale and spinach are a good
source. You can also get protein from veggies such as avocado, beetroot and
How do you calculate your macronutrient requirements?
First you need to find out how many calories you need to be taking
in every day. This is often referred to as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure
(TDEE). There is a fairly simple formula for this.
There are also lots of easy calculators online that will do it for you, like this one.
Once you know how many calories you are aiming
for, you can start looking at how many grams of fat, protein and carbs should
make up this allowance.
1 gram of protein = 4 calories
1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
How much protein do you need to gain muscle?
The general rule if you’re working out to gain muscle is that you
need 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 160lbs, you’ll
need 160g of protein as part of your daily allowance. Times this by 4 to work
out how many calories this is.
A starting point for your fat intake would typically
be around 25%. Remember these should be mostly good fats such as nuts,
seeds and oily fish, and a limited amount of saturated fats. If you’ve
already worked out your TDEE, times this by 0.25% to see how many calories you
should be getting from fat. Divide this number by 9 to get a figure in grams.
For example, if your TDEE is 2500, you need 625 calories from fat, or 70g.
The rest can be allocated to
carbs. So, if you’ve worked out that you need 2500
calories a day, of which 625 are from fat and 640 are from carbs, that leaves
1235 from carbs, around 310g. Carbs will
give you energy for a workout, whereas protein will help your body to recover
There are lots of different calculators online offering to work out the sums
for you. But remember to listen to your body. If you don’t see results after a
few weeks try adjusting your ratios.
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