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What are Macronutrients / Macros ? (part 1)


Here's a whistle-stop tour of what the word 'macronutrient' means. You may have heard people refering to 'macros' in the context of creating balanced meals, and here's why...


What are they?

Macronutrients (macros) are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. They are required by the body in larger quantities than micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).


Varying amounts and ratios of macros are required depending on the individual, the life stage you are at e.g. during pregnancy, post infection/surgery, your health goals e.g. weight loss/gain, building muscle, your activity levels, balancing blood glucose, and supporting various disease states/medical conditions.


Often, foods are broadly categorised into one macronutrient group such as meat (protein-based) or a croissant (carbohydrate-based), but actually most foods contain more than 1 macro, especially plant-foods, which contain varying ratios and quantities of all 3 macros.


How much of each macro do I need?

All macros need to be consumed daily in sufficient quantities to meet the body’s needs, but how much is right for you? Well, it will depend on various factors so the amount will vary from person to person. Age, weight, activity levels, life-stage demands (e.g. pregnancy, post-surgery etc), and health goals (e.g. weight loss, muscle gain) are all examples for consideration, but here is a guide on what to roughly aim for:


Carbohydrate

50% of total energy intake per day. This is a bit vague as not all carbs are equal in quality. We'll talk about this more in another post. Also, this does not include fibre requirements.....(another post for this too). Here's a clue: focus on whole foods!


Protein

  • Children from birth to 10 years: 12.5-28.3g per day depending on age. More info here.

  • Adults: 0.75g per Kg of lean body mass, per day

  • Pregnancy: an additional 6g/day

  • Lactation: an additional 11g/day (infant aged 0-6 months), an additional 8g/day (infant aged 6 months+).


Here's a couple of examples to illustrate:

  1. A man weighing 70kg (fat-free mass, not total body weight) would calculate his protein requirement like this: 70kg x 0.75g = 52.5g/day. However, this number will vary with increased exercise levels, post-surgery etc.

  2. A pregnant woman weighing 78kg: 78kg x 0.75g = 58.5g + 6g = 64.5g/day.


Note: protein requirements should not be based on total body weight, they should be based on fat-free mass, or lean body weight, which means total body weight minus fat mass. For example, a very lean athlete would require more protein than an inactive obese person in order to fulfill their protein needs. If we measured the protein needs based on total body weight, the obese person's protein intake would be calculated far higher than necessary to sustain muscle, repair cells etc and this excess would likely push up their caloric intake too, further increasing fat storage.


Total fats (includes all types of fats):

Not more than 35% of total energy intake per day.


However, beware that not all fats are created equal or have the same effect in the body. We'll discuss this in another post.

 

To learn more about nutrition and how it effects your health, sign up to my mailing list here to stay up to date. This post is part 1 of a series about Macros. In the next few posts we'll delve into each one in more detail.


For a tailored nutrition plan that suits your specific macronutrient needs, book a consultation today. Head over to the booking page here for more information.


References:




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