What’s the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients?
If you’ve spent significant time at the gym, you’ve probably heard people talk about counting macros (or macronutrients). It sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Maybe not rocket science, exactly, but you may have wondered why someone would go to all that effort.
And what about micronutrients? Are you supposed to count those, too? What’s the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients, anyway? Is one more important than the other?
Macronutrients and micronutrients both nourish your body, just in different measures. They even come from the same place — the food we eat.
Well, both are essential for good health.
Let’s discuss what makes macros and micros different, and how to be sure you’re getting enough of both.
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients are the basic components of a diet, present in everything we eat, from apples to steak to ice cream. Macros deliver calories and energy to the body, enabling it to grow, function, and repair itself — which is why we need lots of them!
The three main macros are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Almost all food includes some combination of two or all three.
- A chicken breast contains 44 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat (0 carbs).
- A large avocado contains 21 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, and 7 grams of protein.
- A banana contains 31 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of protein.
Let’s take a closer look into what the different macronutrients are and what they do for our bodies.
Protein, which is made up of amino acids, is an essential nutrient for growing and repairing muscle, which is why so many athletes eat a high-protein diet. But it’s is good for more than just muscle; protein is also the main component of your organs, bones, and hair, and helps the body manufacture hormones and maintain a healthy immune system.
Good sources of protein: lean meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, beets, and raw greens (like kale and spinach).
Carbohydrates are your body’s go-to source for fuel. They are made up of small chains of sugar, which your digestive system breaks down into glucose to use for energy. They also help keep your brain and nervous system healthy and can protect against cardiovascular disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Good sources of carbs: brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, vegetables, oats, beans, and fruit (especially apples and bananas).
Fat is a vital part of a healthy diet. It supports brain development and cell function, protects the organs, and aids with the absorption of vitamins. Because it’s the most calorie-dense nutrient, fat has gotten a bad rap over the years. But healthy fats (like Omega 3s and Omega 6s) can help balance your blood sugar and decrease your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Good sources of fat: fatty fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, avocado.
Counting macros is an alternative to counting calories, enabling you to tailor your diet to your body’s needs.
When counting macros, you start with your body’s caloric requirements (which depend on your age, sex, weight, and activity level), and divide them up into protein, carbs, and fat.
Each macronutrient delivers a different number of calories per gram.
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
Fat: 9 calories per gram
A common breakout for an active lifestyle is 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fats. (So in a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet, you would aim for 800 protein calories. Since there are 4 calories per gram of protein, you would need to eat 200 grams per day.)
Some bodies function better (or lose weight faster, if that’s what’s desired) with a higher percentage of fat and fewer carbs. A person following the keto diet might get 60% of their calories from fat, 30% from protein, and 10% from carbs.
It all depends on your goals.
What are micronutrients?
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals the body requires, and while they are essential to health and wellness, a little goes a long way. These nutrients are found within the macronutrients we eat for energy.
The three vital micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and water.
Vitamins are organic compounds our bodies need to work properly. They are vital for healthy bones, skin, vision, cognitive function, and a robust immune system. There are 13 essential vitamins our bodies need: A, C, D, E, K and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyroxidine, biotin, folate, and cobalamin). With the exception of Vitamin D, all are derived from food.
Minerals support the body in much the same way as vitamins. They help build strong bones and teeth, heal wounds, regulate metabolism, and maintain a healthy blood pressure and immune system. There are two types of minerals: macro minerals (calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur), which are required in larger amounts, and micro minerals (chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc), which are often called trace minerals – of which only small amounts are needed.
Water is critical for every single system in the human body. It improves brain function and mood, carries nutrients to cells, flushes out toxins, and acts as a general lubricant for the body. Even mild dehydration can affect physical and cognitive performance.
And while drinking plenty of water is always a good idea, remember that fruits and vegetables (like watermelon and spinach) are also a great source!
Are you getting enough micronutrients?
Ideally, we would get all the vitamins and minerals we need through a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables. But for busy families, that’s not always the reality.
Micronutrient deficiencies can cause a host of health problems — both physical and cognitive.
With 100% or more of the recommended daily value of 8 essential vitamins and minerals per serving, THRIVE Activate beverage can help you get the micronutrients your body needs to perform its best!