Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the basic building blocks of our diet. They provide the body with energy and are therefore a vital basis for humans. But how many macronutrients do we need every day? what is too much What is too little? What is the optimal distribution for a healthy and balanced diet? And which individual aspects should be considered when calculating macronutrients and calories?
What are macronutrients?
“Macronutrients are the three groups of nutrients that are essentially available to us to meet our energy needs,” says Dr. medical Stefan Kabisch, study doctor in the Department of Clinical Nutrition at the German Institute for Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke. Macronutrients are often referred to as the body’s energy suppliers or “macros” for short. “These nutrients are not only sources of energy, but also the basis for cellular structures. Some fat building blocks and some protein building blocks are essential because they cannot be produced by the body itself and must therefore be supplied through food. This adequate supply is therefore necessary for a healthy life, regardless of the energy supply,” explains Dr. Kabisch further.
What are the most important energy suppliers?
The macronutrients are divided into three different groups. Each of the individual nutrients fulfills a different function in the body. Together, as suppliers of energy, they form the basis of all metabolic processes and thus the prerequisite for the entire organism.
- Carbohydrates are made up of carbon and water. They are further divided into simple sugars such as glucose, double sugars such as lactose, and multiple sugars such as starch. Carbohydrates usually provide the largest proportion of the energy required. In addition to their function as an energy supplier, they also serve to build up structural substances and amino acids.
- Unlike carbohydrates, proteins cannot be produced independently by the body and are therefore considered essential. Proteins perform a variety of tasks in the body. On the one hand, they form the basis of the cell structure and act as biocatalysts (enzymes) in metabolic reactions. On the other hand, they serve as building blocks for carbohydrates and some fats. In addition, proteins support the immune system, supply the body (especially the brain) with oxygen, and are important for muscle building and the structural development of skin, hair, nails, tendons, and cartilage tissue.
- Fats are partially essential. In other words, they are indispensable in the diet, but sometimes not essential. Some fats can also be formed by the body itself. In any case, they perform vital functions in the human body, such as storing energy in adipose tissue, building cell membranes, and forming biologically active compounds.
The optimal distribution for a balanced diet
The daily requirement for macronutrients and the recommended ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates is called the macronutrient distribution. This distribution varies depending on height, weight, physical activity, and many other individual factors. It also has a major impact on whether you’re currently trying to lose weight, maintain the weight, or build muscle. There is no single optimal distribution. This is also confirmed by Dr. Kabisch: “In particular, the question of which person needs which relationship has not been well researched. So far, this can only be tried out in individual cases and checked by closely monitoring metabolic values.”
However, there are rough guidelines that can serve as a guide and point of reference for your macronutrient distribution. “For a long time, an energy ratio of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat, and 20 percent protein was derived from observational studies as optimal,” reports Dr. Cabish. Other sources give similar recommendations for a balanced diet: 50 to 60 percent carbohydrates, 15 to 25 percent protein, and 20 to 30 percent fat.
Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates – you should know that
Before you determine your personal needs and your optimal distribution of macronutrients, you should find out enough about the individual macros. What carbohydrates do I need? Which foods contain valuable fats and proteins? And which foods should I rather avoid despite a high proportion of macros?
- Carbohydrates: Dr. Kabisch recommends: “Carbohydrates should come exclusively from whole grain products, legumes, vegetables, and fruit. Not from highly processed industrial convenience foods, sweetened beverages, white flour products, or other high-sugar foods.” Especially if your goal is to lose weight, you should pay special attention to the carbohydrates you eat.
- Fats: Vegetable fats with a high proportion of unsaturated fatty acids such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, linseed oil, sunflower oil, kernels, seeds, and nuts are ideal. “Coconut and palm oil are not recommended,” warns Dr. Cabish. “Fatty fish, on the other hand, is very cheap.” In addition, “fats from meat and dairy products should only be consumed in moderation,” the nutrition expert continues.
- Proteins: To cover the protein supply, Dr. Consume cabbage with a mix of plant-based protein sources such as legumes and grains, and fish, poultry, dairy, and red meats in small amounts.