Macros are short for macronutrients. These nutrients provide our body with calories and energy. These nutrients also play a vital role in our growth, metabolism and other body functions. The three macros are carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Each macro provides calories, but the amount varies.
Carbohydrate – 4 calories per gram
Protein – 4 calories per gram
Fat – 9 calories per gram
For an example, let us say a nutrition label of a product reads 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fat and 0 grams of protein per serving. We would then multiply 12 grams carbohydrates by 4 calories per gram. This means that the food product contains 48 calories.
Aside from carbohydrates, protein and fat, there is one other substance that provides calories. That is alcohol. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. However, it is not a macronutrient because it is unnecessary for survival.
The macro that we need in large amounts is carbohydrates. On a daily basis, our body should take in 45 to 65 percent of calories from carbohydrates. Here are some reasons why this macro is so important:
Main source of fuel
Body uses for energy
The central nervous system, kidneys, brain and muscles (including the heart) need it to function properly
Stored in the muscles and liver for energy used later
Intestinal health and waste elimination
We can find carbohydrates in starchy foods (grains & potatoes), fruit, milk and yogurt. It can also be found in lesser amounts in various vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese.
Our body should take in 10 to 35 percent of calories from protein. Protein requirements are easily met with a balanced diet. We need protein for the following reasons:
Immune support and function
Creating essential hormones and enzymes
Energy when we lack carbohydrates
Preserving lean muscle
Many types of foods and vegetables provide protein. Check out my previous post for a more detailed list of vegan protein sources.
Our body breaks down the protein into amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Some essential amino acids we gather from our diet. Other nonessential, our body makes them.
Our body needs 20 to 35 percent of calories from fat. Even though this macronutrient has a bad reputation for weight gain, it is still essential to a healthy, balanced diet. Here are the reasons why we need fat in our diet:
Normal development and growth
Energy (most concentrated source)
Absorption of certain vitamins (e.g. vitamins A, D, E, K and carotenoids)
Cushioning for organs
Cell membranes maintenance
Provide taste, consistency and stability to food
The three main types of fats are saturated fat, unsaturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat is in meat, butter, lard and cream. Trans fat is in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods and margarine. In studies, these are linked to an increase risk to heart disease.
To replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats, one should consume foods like olive oil, avocados, nuts and canola oil. These have shown to decrease the risk of heart disease.