Micronutrients and macronutrients

macronutrients
The major food groups we consume can be broken down into two main categories: macronutrients and micronutrients.

These are terms you might have heard thrown around in the past, but perhaps you’re unsure what they mean? Here we will look at the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients
The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. You define a macronutrient as something that you require in large quantities in your diet (or sometimes as the major sources of energy), so these are the three food groups that should sit at the top of your pyramid.

Protein
Getting enough protein in your diet is key if you want to build muscle and aid fat burning. Protein contains 4 calories per gram, but these calories are used in a different way when compared with carbohydrates as the amino acids get converted to tissue and muscle. It is generally advised that you aim to get about 30-40grams of protein per day. If we don’t get enough from the diet, our health and body composition can suffer.

Good Unsaturated Fats
Fat has often had a bad rap, but actually it’s an important part of your diet and supports brain function, energy supply, protein absorption and more. The only type of fat you need to avoid is hydrogenated ‘trans fats’ which are found in things like ready meals.

All types of fat provide the same number of calories (9kcal/g) regardless of where they come from. This means that too much of any type of fat can encourage weight gain. Foods that contain a lot of fat provide a lot of energy and are called energy-dense foods.

Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates come from things like bread, potatoes and other sources. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down very quickly by the body resulting in a very rapid release of sugar into the blood. This spike results in an insulin release which in turn causes the sugar to be stored as fat.

Micronutrients
Well as you might have guessed, this is something that you need to get in your diet in small amounts. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t also essential – it just means that a small amount goes a long way.

Micronutrients include things like minerals and vitamins and these include zinc, iodine, vitamin C, vitamin A. Normally we get our micronutrients from our macronutrients. For instance you would consider something like a banana to be a carbohydrate (a macronutrient), yet it contains micronutrients such as potassium.

So consider your micro and macronutrients when creating your diet, but realise that you need to be getting other things in there too and not to focus on it too much.

Instead read the science and learn how each individual nutrient will affect your body and go from there!

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