What are macronutrients, when do we need them, why do we need them? Macronutrients or “macros” are proteins, carbs, and fats. Easy enough, right? So, let’s dive right in!
Protein helps build lean muscle. When it comes to protein requirements, there are actually many factors that play a role: an individual’s daily exercise/physical activity levels, daily caloric consumption, body composition goals, and sports performance goals. If you’re wanting to pursue body fat loss goals, you must maintain a caloric deficit until you meet your goal as well as a higher protein diet. One of the great things about protein is its ability to help you feel full and satisfied, which, in turn, can assist in helping you stay on track with your nutrition. Typical and appropriate protein intake recommendations range from 10% - 35% of one’s total daily caloric intake. As you can see, it’s not a one size fits all situation; this range allows for differences in goals and activity as well as for bio-individuality in terms of satiety and performance. Protein is especially important around your workouts (before and after), but you also want to ensure that you’re getting protein throughout your day as well.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for all body functions and muscular exertion. Because of this, there is a rapid depletion of available land stored carbs, which creates a continual craving for the macronutrient. Carbs also help regulate the digestion and utilization of protein and fat. The GOOD carbs, that is! Most fruits, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, these are all sources of carbs that are more acceptable and a little more easily digestible. Carbs are extremely important for maximal sports performance (and boot camp workouts!). So, how should we be using our carbs? It is recommended that we consume a high-carb meal 2-4 hours before exercising for an hour or more. As for after a workout, the timing of carb ingestion can also be very important to maximizing recovery. It is recommended to consume your carbs within 30 minutes of completing your workout. As far as daily intake goes, for most moderately active adults, it is recommended to have a carb intake of between 45% and 65% of the daily caloric intake.
Fats are essential nutrients as well, but just as with everything else, not all fats are created equal. Unsaturated fats are the good ones (in moderation) and saturated fats are the ones we want to limit. Monounsaturated fatty acids (found in olive and canola oils) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (like omega 3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish such as salmon) are considered necessary and may play a role in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, and cancer. Athletes are recommended to consume 20% - 25% of total calories from fat. While we do need the good fats in our diet, it’s probably best to leave them out right before a workout as they both digest and absorb quite slowly and could even possibly compromise performance due to possible gastrointestinal upset.
Fats are typically going to be the smallest amount of your daily macro intake, while both carbs and protein will be the majority.