Make no mistake: Our bodies need a careful balance of both macronutrients and micronutrients to function. These two categories of nutrients are essentially the building blocks of our nutrition, working in tandem to ensure that a variety of our different systems are running at a cellular level—sometimes even smaller.
That said, knowledge is power where your health is concerned—and understanding the difference between micronutrients and macronutrients is always a good first step to building good nutritional habits. Plus, it's a good idea to know whether to prioritize supplementation or food sources when it comes to the nutrients your body needs. School is in session below.
Macronutrients are the nutritional compounds we need more of.
Specifically: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. They’re all essential for unique reasons, and play a major role in the way our body functions—specifically functions like energy-yielding metabolism.
The carbs we eat are broken down into glucose and other monosaccharides, which is metabolized into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. If you remember from high school biology, ATP is a type of cellular energy used to fuel everything from exercise and brain function to cellular processes. A pretty big deal, right? As such, carbohydrates should represent 45% to 65% of your daily caloric intake, depending on how active you are.* (1,2)
Protein plays an important role in enzyme support and muscle protein synthesis. One crucial thing to understand is that proteins are actually made up of building blocks called amino acids—twenty amino acids used by the human body, to be precise. Nine of these amino acids are considered essential, which means they can't be made by the body—you have to get them through your diet. (One easy way to hit your protein intake requirements is with a high-quality protein powder—ideally one that delivers a complete amino acid profile, like Essential Protein.) When you consume protein, your body breaks it down into these individual amino acids to serve a variety of different essential functions in the body—including a role in the production of more protein. Pretty cool.* (3)
When it comes to fats, not all are created equal. To make the most of fats’ role in supporting energy storage, fat-soluble vitamin transporting, and organ protection, it’s important to aim for quality varieties like omega-3 fatty acids over saturated and processed fats, which can have unwanted impacts. (Hint: Fish, avocado, and nuts are all good sources.)*