You Need to Know What Macronutrients Are

What macronutrients are and what ranges of each you need to stick to for your overall health and fitness goals.

I wasted a lot of money working with a "coach" once. In this case, it was a "business coach" whom I did gain some value from but, something just didn't feel right. He couldn't tell me a word about how marketing worked and how to do it right.

When you're working with a mentor, sometimes you'll hear advice like "follow the damn instructions", "do as I say, not as I do", or a number of things in between.

If you're like me, those answers aren't good enough. I don't just want to blindly follow advice, I want to learn a little more basic information about why things work so, I can feel assured that I'm not wasting my time.

Luckily for me, I don't give up easily. Recently Seth Godin taught me about what real marketing is all about in The Marketing Seminar. (One of the best investments I've ever made in myself, if you're curious about it)

Before you look into what kinds of diets there are and which one you should be following, you need a little bit of background information first.

If you want to learn a little more about the basics behind some of the nutrition advice you'll from some personal trainers, read on.

You Need to Know What Macronutrients Are

Nutrients are the chemical substances that we get from foods that become the fuel your body needs to work properly.

There are 6 different classes of nutrients:

  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Fats
  3. Proteins
  4. Vitamins
  5. Minerals
  6. Water

There are a few different ways to categorize these but, for our purposes we'll put them into two broad categories, energy yielding nutrients (macronutrients) and non-energy yielding nutrients (vitamins, minerals and water).

Macronutrients or macros, are nutrients that your body is able to digest and produce energy from. The most common unit of energy is the Kilocalorie or simply, the calorie.

There are three main macronutrients:

  1. Protein
  2. Fat
  3. Carbohydrate

The food you eat is filled with various mixes of these and this is reflective in the varying amounts of calories available in each in relative amounts;

  • Protein contains 4 calories per gram
  • Fat contains 9 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrate contains 4 calories per gram

Foods that take up the same amount of room (1 cup for example) might have completely different macronutrient profiles, even if it's the same basic food.

For Example:

  • 1 cup of raisins (145 grams not packed)
    • 434 calories
    • 0.7 grams of fat
    • 115 grams of carbohydrate
    • 4.5 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of grapes (92 grams)
    • 62 calories
    • 0.3 grams of fat
    • 16 grams of carbohydrate
    • 0.6 grams of protein

Foods do contain other ingredients like fiber, phytochemicals, alcohols, additives and pigments but, those will be addressed at another time.

Also, technically there is a fourth macronutrient, alcohol that contains 7 calories per gram but, that will be covered another time.

Why it's Important to Know What your Macros are

Macros make up a large part of the results you get from fitness whether your goal is to weight loss, energy, or muscle gain.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies has established an acceptable macronutrient distribution range (AMDR) to tell you general ranges of each macro you need in order to not get sick.

All numbers are the percentage of your overall daily calories

  • For Children 1-3 years old
    • Protein 5-20%
    • Fat 30-40%
    • Carbohydrates 45-65%
  • For Children 4-18 years old
    • Protein 10-30%
    • Fat 25-35%
    • Carbohydrates 45-65%
  • For Adults 19+
    • Protein 10-35%
    • Fat 20-35%
    • Carbohydrates 45-65%

You macros will change based on your overall goals. If you want to lose fat, you may opt to go on the lower end with carbohydrates or fat and keep your protein high.

As you age, you notice that your protein needs might increase. (Read all about protein here, I wrote this a bit ago and it answers a ton of questions)

You can choose to go outside of these numbers as they are general recommendations but, they are backed by strong research.

Take it One Step Further

Now that you know a little bit about macronutrients and why they're important, start to pay attention to what you're eating on a daily basis.

Food labels will have nutritional breakdowns of what macros are present in a food. Ask yourself how that food with mostly fat made you feel after you ate it. Compare it to a food with mostly protein.

Is there a food that sits well with your stomach and gives you the energy you need to workout?

How about a food that keeps you feeling full while you're busy at work during the day?

You can find more IOM recommendations for vitamins, minerals and macros here.

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