Ever wonder how much protein, carbs, and fat you need on a daily basis? Also known as macronutrients, these compounds provide calories or energy to the body. They play a key role in cardiovascular function, metabolism, immunity, muscle-building and other biological processes. Unlike vitamins and minerals, these nutrients are needed in large amounts. Each has unique properties and contributes to the proper functioning of your body.
What Are Macronutrients?
Macronutrients are substances needed for growth, breathing, muscle repair and other body functions. Carbohydrates, the most important macronutrients in your diet, are the body’s main source of fuel. These nutrients have four calories per gram. When ingested, they’re either used for energy or stored in the muscles and liver.
The second most important macronutrient in your diet is protein. With four calories per gram, protein plays a major role in muscle growth and repair, bone development, metabolism, and immune function. Under special circumstances, it can be used as a source of energy. Depending on your fitness goals and activity levels, aim for at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Don’t forget about fats, which are essential for survival. These macronutrients enhance vitamin absorption, maintain cell membranes, and provide cushioning for your organs. They also support normal growth and development of muscles, bones, and tissues. Each gram of fat delivers nine calories.
Food Sources of Macronutrients
A balanced diet should provide adequate amounts of protein, fat, and carbs. Make sure you choose lean sources of protein, such as chicken, turkey, tuna, egg whites, and low-fat dairy. Opt for complex carbs and skip refined sugars. Your daily meals should include green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes, legumes, and whole grains.
Avoid saturated and trans fats, and fill your plate with healthy fats like those in salmon, avocado, walnuts, almonds, seeds, and extra virgin oils. Macronutrient ratios can be adjusted based on your goals. If you want to build muscle, increase your protein and carb intake. To slim down, cut back on carbs and reduce your total calories.