Macronutrients and Micronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Vitamins, Water and Minerals Explained (Video)
Most of the nutrients that help the body function in a healthy and normative manner can be categorized as either a macronutrient or a micronutrient. Macronutrients are needed in larger amounts and include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts and include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. It is very beneficial to have a solid understanding of each individual nutrient and its role in keeping the body healthy.
A normal dietary program should consist of approximately 10-35% protein. The primary functions of proteins are to aid the body in repairing tissue, strengthening the immune system, and making the essential hormones and enzymes the body to function. Proteins also work with carbohydrates in the system to provide a form of energy. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, cheese, milk, and nuts.
Protein is fundamental to individuals who are looking to build muscle. Protein helps to build, maintain, and repair the body’s tissue in order to allow for healthy muscle growth. Protein also helps to strengthen the immune system as well as to improve biomechanical structure. Some research shows that protein shakes can also help improve biomechanical responses.
Many individuals believe that fat is bad for the body and should be avoided. It’s important to understand that there are “good” and “bad” types of fat. Research shows that around 20% of any diet should consist of good fats. While bad fats consist of trans fats and saturated fats which are found largely in fast food and junk food, good fats such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can be found in fish, nuts, and butter.
These good fats are responsible for insulating the body’s organs and promoting biomechanical growth and development. Fat also helps to break down vitamins, especially during periods of exercise. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, which means they need fat in order to be broken down and used properly by the body.
Carbohydrates function as the body’s primary fuel source. Carbohydrates are sugars that dissolve and become glucose, which is essential to the body. 40-60% of the diet should consist of carbohydrates. Carbs like fats, have been misunderstood and often labeled as bad to individuals looking to lose weight. However glucose is the preferred source of energy for the brain, heart, and central nervous system.
Carbohydrates are usually found in foods like pasta, potatoes and rice. These foods also contain higher levels of fiber, which is important to intestinal and digestive health. In addition, these foods help to lower cholesterol and aid the body in proper biomechanical operations.
Minerals and Vitamins
Minerals such as calcium and iron are important for maintaining healthy teeth and bones, helping to control bodily fluids inside and outside of the body, and help break down carbohydrates into glucose. Minerals are primarily found in bread, meat, milk, fish, and vegetables. Although minerals are a micronutrient, their importance should not be understated.
Vitamins aid the body in various ways including improving the health of the eyes, bones, skin, teeth, immune system, and digestive system. Fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K, are predominantly stored in the liver and fatty tissue for future use. Water soluble vitamins such as C, B, and folic acid, are required slightly more often since the body cannot store them and will dispose of excess amounts through urination.
Trace elements are similar to vitamins and minerals in that they aid dental structure and bone health. These nutrients are required in extremely small amounts as compared to other micronutrients. Trace elements are found predominantly in fish, meats, cereals, dairy, vegetables, and nuts.
Water is an absolutely essential part of a healthy diet. Without proper hydration the functions of many nutrients cannot be performed properly. Water is required for carbohydrates to dissolve into glucose, for minerals to function properly, and for fat to protect vital organs. Four to six glasses of water are recommended per day. The presence of water in the body works with nutrients to provide proper function.
Water is also important for appetite control and aids the body’s digestive process. While some individuals prefer to use sports drinks during workouts, there is no substitute for water. In its natural state, it can nourish the body without adding additional chemicals and compounds to the system.
It is important to have an understanding of macronutrients, micronutrients, and hydration. However it is even more important to understand how nutrients, in their recommended amounts, work together (along with proper hydration) to provide for better health overall. Whether an individual desires to add muscle, lose weight, or simply obtain a better level of health, understanding how the body functions and what it requires is a solid foundation for any fitness goal.
A healthy and balanced diet that follows doctor-recommended guidelines will usually yield most of the nutrients needed for the body to function in a healthy manner. Proper nutrition is something that can be difficult to understand at first, but the benefits are well worth the work.