Macro Nutrients: Your Food Sources

The human body requires a variety of nutrients in order to function optimally. What we eat daily is essential for meeting these needs. Macro-nutrients help us grow, develop, repair, give us energy, and make us feel good. They each have their own role and functions in the body.

Macro-nutrients refer to the three basic components of every diet – Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein with a bonus fourth, Water.

Macro, meaning “large,” alludes to the fact that these nutrients are needed in larger quantities. Almost every food has a combination of macro-nutrients, but the difference lies in the composition of these macro-nutrients.

Proteins
Proteins provide four calories per gram, the same amount as carbohydrates but less than fats. Protein foods are made of amino acids, commonly called “the building blocks of the body.”

There are nine amino acids that are considered essential for health, which we must obtain from our diets since our bodies cannot make them on their own.

Some of the roles that amino acids/proteins have include helping to form and maintain muscle mass, providing energy for our cells and brain, helping store away energy for later use in fat stores, making your heart beat, and helping build the foundation of vital organs, including your heart, lungs and even your DNA, and supporting growth/development.

Protein is constantly broken down and used for energy, so you need to replenish your body’s supply on a daily basis by consuming foods that supply protein. Sources include eggs, yogurt, meat, beans and fish

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, like protein, provide four calories per gram. The body breaks down various carbohydrate foods (whether simple or complex) into glucose, which is used easily for energy or saved away in muscles and fat stores for later use.

Carbs are the body’s preferred, No. 1 energy source. However, they aren’t the only macro-nutrient that supplies energy to cells. This is why it’s possible to follow a low-carb diet and still have enough energy, endurance and muscular strength.

Carbohydrate foods are digested at different speeds depending on how much fiber, protein and fat they have. Refined and processed carbs release glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream more quickly, leading to symptoms like low energy levels, cravings, overeating, weight gain and brain fog. Eating lots of processed/fast carbs can also increase risk for insulin resistance and diabetes.

Fats

Fats provide nine calories per gram, making them the most energy-dense macro-nutrient. However, fats don’t make you fat they’re actually another source of energy for the body and important for controlling your appetite. In fact, fats are a totally essential part of the diet and also capable of helping with weight management and disease prevention.

Healthy fats in your diet have the roles of protecting your vital organs, regulating hormone production (including reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone), helping regulate your body temperature, allowing for proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, providing your brain with fuel, protecting you from depression and anxiety, and many more.

It’s best to get a variety of fats in your diet, including those that provide monounsaturated fats (like olive oil or avocados), polyunsaturated fats (like omega-3s from fish, nuts and seeds) and, yes, saturated fats too (like grass-fed beef, coconut oil, or milk and raw dairy).

Jon Najmabadi

Jon Najmabadi

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