Understanding how your body responds to various nutrition can be very complicated. But by following a few general rules and knowing a handful of major pieces to the puzzle can get you very far. Therefore, here are the basics for you!
When it comes to the different types of nutrients, it’s important to understand these two: macronutrients and micronutrients.
But what is a nutrient?
Nutrients are chemical substances, which we derive from the food we eat. In fact, we get the energy we need for the metabolic processes in our bodies from those nutrients. All our basic functions — like breathing, heart beat and brain work — are fuelled by the nutrients we eat.
“Macro” suggest that our bodies needs them in a larger amount. Basically these are nutrients that simply provide calories or energy to grow, develop, repair and feel good.
There are three main macronutrients that you probably already know: carbohydrates, protein and fat. They all serve different but essential purposes, therefore you need the right amount of them in your diet.
As a side note: Protein and fat are mandatory for our bodies, carbohydrates are not — although you should not be scared of them as the media sometimes wants you to believe.
Some of you may wonder, if water is also counting as a macronutrient. It sure is an essential nutrient needed in a large amount. But water contains no calories and no energy.
You can find each macronutrient in almost every food in different percentages. Let’s discuss each of them in more detail:
Carbohydrates: Or short carbs, are comprised of small sugar chains that the digestive body breaks down into glucose to use as energy for our body’s functions. The more active you are, the more carbs you need to have the necessary energy to perform. If you are an office worker you will need smaller amounts of carbs as you burn less calories.
Protein: Is our body’s building block. It’s essential, because it’s needed to build and maintain almost everything that makes up the body, such as skin, hair, tissues, bones and muscle mass. Consuming an adequate amount of protein will slow down the ageing process and the break down of body tissue.
Fats: These are stored by our body for future use. Most people think, that you should avoid fats, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are necessary for the proper function of the body. The truth is fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. Excess calories will make you gain body fat!
These nutrients are needed in a smaller amounts. Maybe you know them better as vitamins and minerals. But because they are needed in smaller quantities, doesn’t mean that they aren’t crucial for our bodies. Working together in tandem with macronutrients, they keep our bodies working properly, maintain energy levels, cellular function and physical and mental well-being.
Basically macronutrients provide the energy and building materials and micronutrients provide the “workers” to make the body function.
Focus on unprocessed foods, because they contain a better quality and quantity of macronutrients and micronutrients. For example the quality of protein in a McChicken is not the same as the protein in a lean chicken breast. Understanding this is the first step towards getting your nutrition plan align with your health and fitness goals.
Always remember: “You are what you eat.” Don’t put crap in your mouth. But don’t focus too much on how much vitamin a/c/d/etc. you need per day. Follow a diverse diet with lots of vegetables and some fruits and you’ll most likely be fine.