A lot of people know what they are looking for in healthy food. Lean Proteins, whole grains and lots of colorful vegetables make up the shopping list of most following a healthy lifestyle, but what is it that actually makes up those foods.
What are macronutrients? And where do I find them?
What are Micronutrients? Are you getting enough of them?
What are macronutrients? Macronutrients are the essential makeup of our diet, they are the nutrients that we need in the largest quantities to provide us with energy and keep our bodies functioning. When talking about macronutrients, we are referring to the 3 major food groups, fat, protein and carbohydrates.
All 3 macronutrients are found in everything that we eat in varying percentages. This variation in percentage describes a food items "macronutrient ratio". It is important that the body receives all 3 macronutrients in order to function properly.
Fats refers to all dietary fat, But when focusing on weight loss one should try and obtain most of their fat intake from unsaturated, monosaturated and polyunsaturated sources. These healthy fats are found in:
- Nuts and seeds (peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts sunflower seeds)
- Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines)
- Plant-based oils (Rapeseed, coconut, olive, grapeseed)
Healthy fats are needed in the diet to maintain good HDL cholesterol levels whilst reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels. To promote healthy heart health and reduce the chance of stroke and heart disease. Fat is also needed to absorb fat-soluble micronutrients such as vitamin A, D and E.
Carbohydrates are the starches, sugars and fibres found mostly in the fruits, vegetables and grains that we eat. Carbohydrates are the bodies main source of energy, providing fuel for our brain, muscles, nervous system and metabolism. Basically, every bodily function is thanks to carbohydrates, so they shouldn't be avoided like so many weight loss diets suggest. Instead, we should focus on consuming mainly complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in:
- Potatoes (white, sweet, baby)
- Grains (brown rice, barley, quinoa)
- Legumes (peanuts, peas, beans)
- Vegetables (parsnips, broccoli, carrots)
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Filled with amino acids that contribute to muscle development, tissue repair and hormone regulation, it is important to get ample amounts of protein in the diet. High protein foods include:
- Red meat
So we've answered what are macronutrients, now for macronutrient ratios. Macronutrient ratio is the expression given to the amount of each macronutrient that makes up the total amount of calories consumed. For example, someone may eat 2000 calories in a day, 500kcal protein, 500kcal fat and 1000kcal carbohydrate. Their macronutrient ratio would be 1:1:2 or 25%:25%:50%. A "normal" diet should consist of between 10%-35% protein, 20%-30% fat and 45%-65% carbohydrates.
What are micronutrients? Macro and Micronutrients are both vital parts of our diet and wellbeing. Whilst macronutrients are made up of the big stuff, our major food groups, micronutrients are the little things, the vitamins and minerals.
Just because they're referred to as "micro" doesn't mean that they are any less important, we just need to consume them in far small quantities. Vitamins contribute to maintaining a healthy immune system, metabolism and cell production, amongst many other functions. Minerals play a key role in building strong bones, establishing nerve endings, and balanced hormone production.
Healthy growth and development is thanks to the micronutrient we receive in our diets, and without them, deficiencies with adverse symptoms would present themselves very quickly.
When looking at Micronutrients, Vitamins and minerals are measured not in grams but milligrams. These teeny tiny measurements are difficult to gauge on a daily basis, so its best to ensure that you are maintaining a balanced diet and including a variety of foods in your day to day meals to ensure you a receiving a broad spectrum of micronutrients.
If there are foods that you don't usually eat or have intolerances to, it may be necessary to supplement. For example, if you are a vegetarian and don't eat meat or fish, it would be advised that you take an iron supplement in order to keep your iron levels healthy.
Best Nutrient Ratio for Runners.
Unfortunately, the best macronutrient ratio for runners can never be "one size fits all", regardless of goals or practices. An endurance runner requires a different macronutrient ratio to that of a sprinter, and energy expenditure varies greatly between all levels of athletes. When looking to Taylor your nutrient ratio in order to match your specific goals, it is important to evaluate your output first (energy expenditure), and then figure out your input (calories required). A balanced diet is always recommended, even for runners. A ratio of 40% carbs, 30% fat 30% protein would be advised, but remember that total calories needs to be adjusted for optimal performance.
The Best Nutrient Ratio for Weight Loss.
Weight loss is no different from that of performance-based goals when looking at nutrient ratios. Balance is always key. Of course, depending on your activity levels and type of activities you perform it may be necessary to adjust macronutrients accordingly. A weight lifter may opt for a diet high in protein, or fat to aid in recovery. A cyclist may wish to increase carbohydrates to increase energy levels on long rides. In regards to weight loss, or more specifically fat loss, it is most important to have a balanced macronutrient ratio derived from the healthiest sources possible and to focus on consuming fewer calories than what they metabolise in a day.