The name kind of says it all: Macronutrients are the nutritional compounds that we need the most of. Like micronutrients (aka vitamins and minerals), macronutrients help support pretty much everything our bodies do—we just need more of them to meet our daily needs.
Each type of macronutrient plays a uniquely vital role in our body’s daily functions—our energy-yielding metabolism in particular. You might already know that the three main macronutrients, or macros, are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (1). But why are macronutrients important and how do each of these three macronutrients lend support in the body?*
The carbs that we eat each day are broken down to supply the body with glucose and other monosaccharides. Glucose is important because it can be metabolized into ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a type of cellular energy. This energy can help fuel exercise, as well as power cellular processes like nerve impulses and muscle contraction.
Carbohydrates should represent 45% to 65% of your daily caloric intake, depending on how active you are (2). The more active you are, the more carbs you need to fuel movement. Healthy sources of carbs include: (3)
• Whole grains, such as whole wheat, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, and brown rice
• Whole fruits, including oranges and bananas
• Beans and other legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas
Dietary proteins support a wide range of processes in the body, including muscle protein synthesis. They’re made up of a combination of twenty different amino acids: Our body breaks down proteins into individual amino acids and uses them like all-purpose building blocks. Nine of these twenty amino acids are considered essential, which means they need to be consumed through diet. If you're looking for a healthy, delicious, streamlined way to up your protein intake, our life stage-specific pea protein powder, Essential Protein, features a complete amino acid profile.*
The National Academy of Medicine recommends taking in .8 grams of protein per kg of body weight each day—that adds up to about 7 grams per 20 pounds of body weight. Nutritious sources of protein include: (4,5)
• Eggs, dairy, and meat
• Some vegetables, including broccoli, corn, and asparagus
• Whole grains
• Beans, seeds, and nuts
• Soy products, such as tofu
Healthy fats are an important part of a balanced diet. Fats help our bodies store energy and transport fat-soluble vitamins.
Our daily caloric intake should be 20% to 35% from fat, although we should all focus on unsaturated fats and limit saturated and trans fats whenever possible. Foods that can supply us with the fats we need are: (2)
• Meat, fish, and dairy
• Oils, such as coconut oil and olive oil
• Nuts and seeds
Macronutrients vs. Micronutrients: Finding the Balance
All of our daily nutrient requirements can either be classified as macronutrients or micronutrients. As we saw above, macronutrients make up the bulk of our daily food intake and are needed in large amounts to help keep our bodies functioning.
Micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, are needed in significantly smaller amounts. If you eat a diet with balanced macronutrients, there is a higher chance that you are getting many of the micronutrients that you need from the food that you eat—though diet may not include all key nutrients , which is why we recommend filling the gaps with a quality multivitamin, like Essential for Women or Essential for Men.*