The Differences and Importance of Macronutrients and Micronutrients

If you’ve inquired about proper dieting before, then you’ve surely heard or read about macronutrients. Macronutrients or macros are made out of three key nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Micronutrients (micros for short), on the other hand, are also important nutrients—albeit being lesser known.

Everything you eat has a certain ratio of macros and micros. However, some foods may contain more or lesser nutrients than other foods. Having an excess or shortage of certain nutrients has different effects on your body. Because of this, it is important to understand what exactly macros and micros are and how to achieve the proper levels of each component that make them up in order to attain your lifestyle and fitness goals.

What are Macros?

Macronutrients are the nutrients that your body needs in large amounts in order to function properly. Carbohydrates, fats, and protein all have unique roles in the everyday health of your body; these things have been intended to work together. That is why there is no healthy diet that exists which eliminates the consumption of any particular nutrient. If there is, it wouldn’t be recommended, especially if you’re trying to achieve a properly functioning body. While there are consumables that are purely or mostly fat, protein, or carbohydrates, most food can contain all three.

  • Protein
  • Protein is a nutrient with a really good reputation. Many see the consumption of it as a necessity for muscle growth as well as for healthy skin, hair, and bones. While this is true, it is also important for infant growth and craving-maintenance.

    Proteins can do this by providing the 22 amino acids, which are considered to be “the building blocks of protein.” This is why proteins are highly revered in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, not all proteins are the same, which means that not all of them can offer these amino acids.

    Vegetarians, in particular, need to know this because fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, actually lack one or more amino acids. In order for them to get all 22, they must eat a variety of foods.

    Animal meat is the ideal source of protein because it delivers all 22 amino acids to your body upon consumption. With this, it is important to know the two types of meat:

  • White Meat
    • This meat is white in color.
    • It comes from the muscles that animals did not use during their lifetime.
    • It has more protein than fat; often described as lean.
    • It is blander in flavor than red meat, which makes it undesirable for a lot of people.
    • The most popular source of this is chicken breasts and fish.
  • Red Meat
    • This meat is red in color. This is due to the presence of Myoglobin—a red pigment found in muscles when oxygen is constantly delivered to it. This only happens when the muscles have been constantly used.
    • The best example of red meat comes from the leg part of most animal because they are always using them for walking.
    • This can be found abundantly in pork, beef, and lamb.
    • Pork may sometimes appear as white meat because pigs move less than cows and lambs. In fact, it was previously marketed and thought to be a source of white meat. But don’t be fooled because it is actually classified under red meat.
    • Chickens also have red meat on their body. Although, this has been termed as dark meat to avoid confusion.
    • Ultimately, red meat is stronger in flavor over white meat. This is the reason why most people crave it.
    • This has a higher fat content than white meat. However, its fat-protein ratio can get close to that of a white meat once the removable fats have been taken out.
    • This holds levels of zinc, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamins B6 and B12, amino acids, and iron.

    Eating white meat over red meat not only means more protein intake, but also a stronger immunity to several diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, and diabetes.

    Though animal meat is the main source of protein, plant-based consumables such as legumes, quinoa, soy, lentils, and rice are good sources as well.

    It is highly recommended by the U.S. Government and The World Health Organization that a person gets 0.45 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.

  • Carbohydrates
  • This nutrient is what gives your brain and body energy. This is why carbs are great for concentrating at work or preparing for the gym. The main sources of carbs are sugars or starches. But this doesn’t mean you should excessively consume it.

    There are two types of carbs: simple and complex.

    Sugars are considered to be simple carbs. These kinds of carbs easily make their way to the bloodstream fast, but are quickly used and depleted once it is there. This is why people experience a “sugar rush” and then quickly “crash” afterwards. While it is great to get a sudden burst of energy when needed, it doesn’t provide sustainable energy.

    Sustainable energy is basically long term energy that can be used throughout the day without “crashing.” One can get sustainable energy by consuming complex carbs. These come from healthy starches, which are naturally digested slowly by the body. This is why it can generate energy for the entire day and give you what is called endurance. Examples of healthy starches are winter squash, legumes, or whole grains.

    On the other hand, there are complex carbs like potatoes, green bananas, cashews, and raw oats. All of these are considered as resistant starch. Recent discoveries have shown that these are starches in which a small part of it is not digested. What does this mean? By being able to reach the colon without being digested, the starch is able to feed friendly bacteria, called gut flora, which reside in the intestines. These bacteria comprise 90% of your cells. Basically, these starches are able to feed 90% of your body. Studies have shown that this leads to improved insulin activity, lower blood sugar levels, reduced appetite, and proper digestion.

    Carbs can mostly be found in plant foods like grains, tubes, vegetables, and fruits.

  • Fats
  • These foods are the most satisfying, but have the worst reputation from the three. Because of its name, people think overconsumption of this is the leading cause of obesity. While this is true, fats are actually healthy for the body if consumed in moderation. They provide long term energy and help people avoid excessive hunger, spikes and drops in blood sugar level, and fatigue. Dietary fat (fat that is consumed) also contains micronutrients, namely vitamins A, D, E, and K. For these reasons, one should not fear consuming fat if they regulate the amounts they eat.

    Fats are healthy because of the presence of omega-3 and omega-6 in them. These are the components of cell membranes and precursors in the production of substances, which regulate blood pressure and inflammatory responses. Omega-3, in particular, has been shown in recent studies to help prevent fatal heart diseases. Furthermore, more research is being conducted to study the hypothesis that omega-3 can prevent diabetes and cancer.

    However, it is important to note that there are a few fats termed as “essential fatty acids.” These are the fats that cannot be produced by the body and must be consumed by eating dietary fats. Only two fats classify under this: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA; an omega-6 fatty acid) and linoleic acid (LA; an omega-3 fatty acid). Both of them are needed in the production of other fatty acids and promotion of body growth and repair. You can find them in plant and seed oils. Here’s a tip: use these oils instead of refined oils whenever you are cooking your food.

    In order to learn more about fats (which one is good or bad for you and why), here are some facts for you to read:

    • Saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Consuming this can cause high blood cholesterol levels, which increases the chances of heart attack, stroke, and clogged arteries.
    • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Consuming this improves cholesterol, insulin, and blood sugar levels, as well as decrease the risk of heart and coronary artery disease.
    • The American Heart Association states that only 7% of your total food and drink intake should contain saturated fats.
    • Trans fat is a type of fat that is found rarely in natural foods and ingredients. But it can be produced in oils through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. Consumption of this can lead to cardiovascular disease, rise of unhealthy cholesterol levels, and decrease of healthy cholesterol levels.
    • Other good sources of fat are unrefined oils from avocado, olives/coconut, grass-fed animal, wild-caught seafood, nuts, and seeds.

What are Micros?

The two types of nutrients considered to be micros are vitamins and minerals. These are the nutrients that your body needs in order to develop properly. They are, after all, responsible for regulating your metabolism, heartbeat, cellular pH, and bone density. The lack of micros in your body can lead to an underdeveloped body and to diseases like rickets, scurvy, and osteoporosis.

In order to understand which nutrients you can intake to avoid such complications, here are all the micronutrients that fall under vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamins
  • Vitamins can be either be water-soluble or fat-soluble:

    • Water-soluble vitamins are easily flushed out by the body (especially since the normal lifestyle of a human requires regular water intake). These include vitamin C and B-complex vitamins.
    • Fat-soluble vitamins can accumulate in the body and are found in dietary fats. These are vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Minerals
  • These also come in two forms in prefixes familiar to you by now:

    • Macro minerals are the minerals needed in large amounts by your body. These include:
      • Calcium
      • Magnesium
      • Phosphorus
      • Sodium
      • Potassium
    • Micro minerals, on the other hand, are the minerals needed in small amounts by your body. These include:
      • Iron
      • Copper
      • Iodine
      • Zinc
      • Fluoride

In order to get this fix of micros, you must rely on a good diet. In the beginning, it may seem difficult to maintain a good level of micros because of the number of nutrients that must be monitored. However, it is actually easier than it seems. By incorporating a good diet that includes an abundance of seasonal, colorful, fresh, and natural produce in your lifestyle, you can ensure that you get your proper levels of micros. It also won’t hurt having good protein and fat intake that should help manage amino acids and fatty acids; both of which are also considered as micros.

How Do You Monitor Your Macros?

Working with a trainer to practice maintaining proper macro ratios is the most ideal for those who are inexperienced. But for the sake of discussion, you must consider two things in order to do this: quality and variety.

The quality of your food is important because numerous processed foods do not have balanced macros within them. Moreover, there are various types of proteins, fats, and carbs which all contain different micros. Remember, being able to consume all types of macros while ensuring that you have good micro levels is important.

For your reference, the ideal macro ratio is as follows: 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 30% fats. This may be adjusted according to your desired lifestyle. You may increase protein and reduce fats in order to exercise and body-build efficiently or you can also reduce protein to become energized for long periods of time. Ideally, your carb intake should be comprised mostly of complex carbs for sustainable energy. This is available in fresh vegetables. Fats should mostly be unsaturated to keep the fatty acid levels in check. The rest of your food should be comprised of protein.

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The quality of your food is important because numerous processed foods do not have balanced macros within them. Moreover, there are various types of proteins, fats, and carbs which all contain different micros. Remember, being able to consume all types of macros while ensuring that you have good micro levels is important.

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