28 11 2021
Macronutrients and Micronutrients: The basics explained and everything in between.
Before we get into this, let’s get one thing straight. Macronutrients and Micronutrients aren’t a “Macro vs Micro” face-off. Instead, both are needed to work together for the best outcomes, whether just for ensuring good general health status or peak performance.
Typically, when someone appropriately balances out their macronutrient intake with nutrient-dense foods, their micronutrients are more than adequately met as a result. In this way, they both work in harmony as opposed to being on different bands.
As soon as you start thinking that nutrition is very black and white, then that’s when you’ll run into trouble not just with your thinking but with your training also. Let’s dive in and explain each:
Macronutrients, or what most fitness enthusiasts would coin them, “macros, are proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Typically, everything you eat can be divided into these macronutrient groups. Essentially, these are “energy-containing” nutrients which are pretty handy for the well….most things in life.
However, not all carry the same amount of energy or the same functions. Each is explained below:
- Protein carries four calories per gram; you’ll get good sources in meat, eggs, dairy, legumes and good quality protein powder. Its primary function is to help build and repair muscle and is the most satiating out of all the macros.
- Carbohydrates carry four calories per gram, and you’ll get it in fruits, starches, grains. Their primary function is to support energy levels and provide enough fibre to aid digestive health and help the absorption of nutrients.
- Fats carry nine calories per gram, and you’ll find it in fatty meats, nuts, coconut, oils, seeds. Sufficient fat is vital for good hormonal health and helps you absorb nutrients.
While all play essential roles, the amounts needed varies. Their quantities required differ depending on, for example, someone who has a sub-optimal fat intake would affect their absorption of specific vitamins (A, D, E, K). Therefore, their primary importance would be to start replacing this deficiency as soon as possible.
In contrast, a high-performing athlete with good fat and protein levels being met but not carbohydrates would find it a real struggle to maintain the pace at high intensities, as carbohydrates are best utilised in high-intensity environments.
Micronutrients are essentially your vitamin and mineral intake. At the same time, the name itself might suggest that micronutrients are of lesser importance to macronutrients that’s not the case. Without adequate micronutrients in the diet, the breakdown of energy stored from consuming macronutrients isn’t broken down, leaving those who neglect it feeling tired and lethargic, not to mention increasing their risk of infection.
A host of other vital functions will be affected. For example, if any of the below you were seriously lacking, look what you would be missing:
- Vitamin B12 is required for proper nerve function and to make red blood cells
- Vitamin A is needed for solid vision and immunity
- Vitamin D is necessary to form bone and vital immune function.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant and helps protect cells from damage
- Vitamin K is needed to form blood clots and to shuttle calcium into bone.
- Calcium is required for muscle contraction and to support bone building.
- Iron is necessary to transport oxygen throughout the body
- Magnesium regulates muscle contraction and nerve transmission. It also helps form teeth and bones.
- Potassium is needed for muscle contraction, proper nerve function and fluid and electrolyte balance.
This is where the saying “variety is the spice of life” rings true and why adding different colours of fruits and vegetables to your diet is a good idea.
So there you have it, the low down of common nutrition jargon with a few elements of evidence thrown in for good measure. If you want to learn more about the finer details of more nutrition topics, then our Nutrition 101 course is ready and waiting for you to join.
Article by: Declan Doyle PhD Scholar & Combat Fuel Nutritional Expert.