Macronutrients: Types and Their Benefits
Did you know that you need a higher quantity of certain nutrients than others? Today, we're learning more about macronutrients.
Unlike micronutrients, macronutrients supply the body with most of the metabolic energy it needs for everyday life. Learn more about them in our post today!
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are responsible for giving us metabolic energy. In other words, they’re responsible for our growth, survival and providing energy for our daily activities. They’re extremely important!
These nutrients–mainly carbohydrates, lipids and proteins— work together with micronutrients, which are composed of vitamins and minerals. Our bodies rely on them to stay healthy.
There are different ways to understand macronutrients:
- As chemical elements that are consumed in large quantities (sulfur, phosphorus, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon).
- As chemical components that provide the body with energy (lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates).
- Or as nutrients that your body needs more of than micronutrients (potassium, magnesium, and calcium)
Characteristics of the main macronutrients
At the beginning of this post, we mentioned three main macronutrients that play an important role in giving the body energy. They are:
Carbohydrates are made of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. They can be simple or complex sugars: saccharides, glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, glycogen, and starch.
When carbohydrates enter the body, they turn into glucose. Glucose is the body’s main energy source but it also works to metabolize fats and protect nervous tissue.
Proteins are also comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen but they also have nitrogen and sulfur. The body can’t synthesize these macronutrients alone and needs help from amino acids. Protein helps build tissue and also plays a role in some anabolic processes.
Lastly, you can find lipids in solid fats–saturated fats, and oils. We often consider lipids to be the bad guy, but the only problem is their excessive consumption. If you consume too many lipids, fat begins to accumulate underneath the skin and cells, creating rolls of fat.
You could even count water as a macronutrient because you need large quantities of it to survive. While people could survive for weeks without food, they would only last a few days without water. Water regulates body temperature, eliminates waste by producing urine, transports nutrients on top of hydrating cells and organs.
What’s the difference between micro and macronutrients?
We’ve already gone over macronutrients, but taking a look at micronutrients will help us understand them even better. Although they’re just as important as macro counterparts, micronutrients are nutrients that living beings need in small quantities.
They’re responsible for many functions ranging from catalyzing enzymes to strengthening the immune system. There are two main groups of micronutrients:
Vitamins help the body grow, function properly and develop its cells in addition to protecting the defense system against free radicals. There are fat-soluble vitamins, which dissolve in fat, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K; there are also water-soluble vitamins such as B and C.
You can find minerals in plants and animals. Most of them, however, are plant-based. Minerals are responsible for creating enzymes. You need different kinds of minerals: micro (copper, zinc, cobalt, chromium, and fluoride) and macro (magnesium, sodium, iron, potassium, and calcium).
You need both macro and micronutrients to maintain your everyday health. The only difference is how much you need of each. Your body needs more macro than micro to carry out its daily tasks.
Everyone needs to consume a minimum of both types of nutrients, but the minimum will vary from person to person. A person who wants to lose weight, for example, will require different amounts than a person who wants to build muscle mass.