What Are Micro & Macronutrients?
Written by: Heather Gerrish, RD
You might be thinking after all of this time tracking and being aware of what you are putting in to your body as fuel, what exactly is a micronutrient and how much do I need of certain vitamins and minerals? Or maybe you have come across the thought of macronutrients and specific ratios in tracking and reaching your goals in terms of protein or other components of your meal plan. This blog will review the basics of what macro and micronutrients are and how they function in the body as well as the benefit they provide us in terms of long term health. You will receive further information on this topic in the VIP group - but for now, let's break down the basics.
Macronutrients: major sources of fuel (carbohydrate, protein, fat) that are used in the body and obtained by the foods we eat.
Micronutrients: vitamins and minerals that are essential for the growth, development and metabolic functions that keep us going and thriving on a daily basis.
If you are curious to learn more about the specifics of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (carbohydrate, fat and protein) as well as the process of digestion and absorption take a look at these teaching videos:
*These videos are relatively detailed, but if you are curious about nutrition I would encourage you to take a look! They contain some medical terminology, but of course reach out to me or the group for further explanation or discussion about any topic reviewed in the videos below. Like we always say - our bodies are AMAZING and is just like a machine, we need to fuel it to ensure that it runs properly and efficiently for a long time!
How We Incorporate These in Our Diets:
I can’t say enough how important it is to consume a varied diet full of fruits and vegetables. These little beauties pack a punch when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. It is important to remember that being aware and focus on variety is important, but to also live life to the fullest and enjoy foods that nourish in a different capacity - satisfaction for the soul!
Focusing on variety allows us to incorporate diversity in the vitamin and mineral content of our diet as well as the total intake that we opt to include in our daily intake. For example, spinach is not only rich in color and can enhance a salad, omelette or side dish with ease, but it is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, magnesium, folate and calcium. What do these micronutrients provide our bodies?
Vitamin C: immune properties/collagen synthesis
Vitamin A: retinal function (eyes!), fat soluble vitamin for metabolism
Magnesium: multiple metabolic reactions
Folate: red blood cell metabolism and function
Calcium: bone strength, vitamin D metabolism
And you thought a few cups of spinach was just for looks. No way! It’s a powerhouse punch of micronutrients. These are only some of the amazing functions that these specific micronutrients have in the body!
Continuing with the topic of spinach, let’s switch gears and discuss macronutrients.
The Three Categories of Macronutrients Are:
Carbohydrate - aka “sugar” or “glucose”
Fat - some fat is good! Think: shiny hair and strong nails!
Protein - building blocks of cells, important in immune function and helps us to repair (and build!) lean body tissue (muscles!)
These comprise our primary source of fuel and assist in the repair, development and maintenance of our body every day. It’s important to consume adequate amounts of these macronutrients to balance out the processes that are going on in our bodies.
Some Quick Facts:
Carbohydrate (glucose) is the brain’s primary source of fuel. Think brain fog - running low on glucose?
Fats play an important role in keeping our skin glowing and hair shiny and strong (and we thought it was a bad thing! - think moderation)
Protein - there are 20 essential amino acid chemical structures, but we can actually synthesize some amino acids (non essential) - each have a specific function and path to keeping us healthy (immune function) and strong (muscle repair, lean body tissue maintenance).
Essential amino acids need to be obtained through the diet.
Thinking back to the monotony of tracking and how time consuming in the beginning it was to prepare meals and pay attention to the details of your meal, think about these components as a reason why we want you to be more aware of what you are eating and seek out fruits and vegetables, variety and balance in your diet. It’s important to not only consume adequate calories to fuel your training and allow your body to function to its highest capacity throughout the day with plenty of energy, but also to ensure that the details are covered (micronutrients!).
Our body and our metabolism is a set of chemical reactions that occur to allow us to live, move, breathe and thrive! It’s important to ensure that we are providing our bodies the best fuel we can in order to perform and train at our best.
From the moment you consume that serving of spinach your body is working to digest, metabolize and absorb the nutrients provided in that food. Breaking the food down in your stomach to be transferred to the small intestine where absorption of nutrients begins and later to your large intestine where water and bile salts are extracted and recycled for later use. The body is an amazing machine and we need to make sure it has what it needs to manage this crazy world we all live in!
If you think this is an exciting topic, just wait to hear more in the VIP module about macro and micronutrients!
Vanovschi, Vitalii. “Spinach, Raw.” Garlic, Raw: Nutritional Value and Analysis, www.nutritionvalue.org/Spinach,_raw_nutritional_value.html.
“Basics of Metabolism.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/stanford-medicine/growth-and-metabolism/v/basics-of-metabolism.