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Are Macronutrients Important? Why Macros Matter

Are Macronutrients Important? Why Macros Matter

When starting a new diet or workout plan, there’s one question that many people ask: Are macronutrients important? While many people understand what calories are, macros are another story. Whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, learning about macros can help you achieve your goals.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients, or macros, are sources of energy that we get from our food. The macronutrients that should be included in all diets are carbohydrates, fat, and protein. If you check the nutrition label on food packaging, you can see the macronutrient content of the food.

Similarly, calories are a unit that is used to measure the amount of energy that the macronutrients provide. Per gram, carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories while fat provides 9 calories. On the other hand, do not confuse macronutrients with micronutrients. The latter are substances that do not provide calories but are still necessary for the body. Examples of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.

How to Read Food Labels for Healthy Eating

Why are macronutrients important?

Macronutrients are important because they give the body energy or calories. Each type of macronutrient provide the body with essential building blocks and resources for cells and tissues.

Carbohydrates, such as glucose, provide the most readily accessible source of energy. In fact, the brain prefers to use glucose. Without it, you may start experience changes in mood or mental acuity. Although carbohydrates typically make up the largest percent of most diets, you shouldn’t go overboard. Carbs that are not used up are converted to fat and can lead to weight gain and insulin resistance.

Protein is an essential macronutrient for everyone, not just bodybuilders. Proteins are made up of amino acids and each have different roles in many metabolic processes. If you exercise or do a lot of physical labor, it is important to eat enough protein each day to promote healthy muscle growth and repair. Deficiencies in protein can lead to muscle wasting and serious diseases such as kwashiorkor and marasmus.

Lastly, fat is one of the essential macronutrients (despite its negative reputation). There are many types and sources of fat in food. Unsaturated fat is preferred over saturated fat, as it is less likely to clog the arteries and cause cardiovascular diseases. Fat is an essential part of the cell membrane, provides cushioning for organs, and helps regulate body temperature. However, too much fat is not a good thing. Always consumer it in moderation.

Counting macros

Fortunately, the internet has a wide range of tools and references to help you determine your macronutrient needs. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines (FNRI) has released a reference for the nutritional needs for every Filipino. The Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes (PDRI) is a collection of tables that give the recommended nutrition for people based on age, sex, and pregnancy or lactating status.

According to the PDRI, an adult’s diet should consist of 10-15 percent protein, 15-30 percent fat, and 55-75 percent carbohydrates. For a 2000-calorie per day diet, the macronutrient breakdown would look something like this:

  • Protein: 50 to 75 grams (200 to 300 calories)
  • Fat: 33 to 67 grams (300 to 600 calories)
  • Carbohydrates: 275 to 375 grams (1100 to 1500 calories)

By following these recommended guidelines, you should be able to maintain or improve your health status. If you intend to lose or gain weight, reduce or increase your daily calorie intake and adjust your macronutrient counts accordingly.

Are Macronutrients Important

For special diets

As stated previously, there are general guidelines for calorie and macronutrients recommended by the FNRI. However, these may not be suitable for people who are on special diets or have specific dietary needs.

On the ketogenic or keto diet, carbohydrate intake is kept to a minimum while fat and protein are increased. A general guideline for the keto diet is 55 percent to 60 percent fat, 30 percent to 35 percent protein, and only 5 percent to 10 percent carbohydrates. Take note that the sources of fat should still be “healthy fat” to avoid the risk atherosclerosis.

In addition, diabetic patients need to watch their sugar and carbohydrate intake. There are no specific percentages, but it is best to avoid food with simple sugars like candy, pastries, and soft drinks. Instead, choose complex carbs such as whole wheat bread and brown rice because they have a lower glycemic index.

Are Macronutrients Important

Key takeaways

In summary, macronutrients are important not just for everyone. Calculating your macros may seem like a daunting task, but it is well worth the extra effort. As a reminder, macros calculations are dynamic and estimated. As you lose or gain fat and muscle, your caloric and macronutrient needs also change. Talk to a doctor or dietician before you start a new diet or exercise plan.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.

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Sources

Macronutrients, https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/macronutrients, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Overview of nutrition, https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/nutritional-disorders/nutrition-general-considerations/overview-of-nutrition?qt=&sc=&alt=, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Macronutrients, Food Groups, and Eating Patterns in the Management of Diabetes, https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/35/2/434, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes (PDRI), https://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph/index.php/tools-and-standard/philippine-dietary-reference-intakes-pdri, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Associations of dietary macronutrients and micronutrients with the traditional and nontraditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease among hemodialysis patients, https://journals.lww.com/md-journal/FullText/2018/06290/Associations_of_dietary_macronutrients_and.80.aspx, Accessed December 22, 2020.

Ketogenic diet, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499830/, Accessed December 22, 2020.

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Dec 22, 2020
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