Macronutrients are basically primary nutrients found in our body and food. Those nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. There’re different types of carbohydrates, proteins and fats and our body responds differently to them.
Carbohydrates are nutrients made from molecules of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There’re simple and complex carbohydrates. The meaning simple and complex refers to theirs structure and rate at which they’re absorbed and digested. Simple carbohydrates are monosaccharides, disaccharides, and oligosaccharides.
Monosaccharides are made from one sugar molecule and they are the simplest form of carbohydrate (glucose, fructose, and galactose). Disaccharides are made from two sugar molecules like sucrose, lactose and maltose. Oligosaccharides consist of 3-10 monosaccharides like maltodextrin, corn-syrup, and high-fructose corn syrup. Glucose is considered as the primary energy source for our body, especially for the central nervous system. Now, complex carbohydrates on the other hand consist of long chains of sugars, and they’re called polysaccharides. Complex carbohydrates include any type of whole-grain (oat bran or whole-grain rice), vegetables and fruits like cabbage and strawberries. Not every complex carbohydrate can be fully digested.
The difference between simple and complex carbs besides structure is the rate at which they’re absorbed and digested. They have different glycemic index. Simple carbohydrates will enter in the bloodstream quickly and will spike the insulin. On the other hand, complex carbs will provide energy for longer period, and steady-state blood glucose levels.
Proteins can be divided in two categories: fast and slow protein. These macronutrients are responsible for building tissues, decreasing muscle breakdown, formation of hormones and enzymes, help transport oxygen and nutrients within the blood, balance the body’s systems, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, promote the immune system and they can be used as energy source both during exercise and rest (low-blood glucose). Proteins are made from amino-acids. There’re 20 amino-acids, 9 of them are essential and 11 non-essential. From these 11 non-essential, 5 of them can be named as conditionally essential.
Fast protein (whey) can be digested rapidly. This protein is excellent choice right after a workout because it will provide our body with amino-acids needed to stop the catabolic processes and to promote protein synthesis. Slow protein (casein) takes more time to be digested and absorbed. This protein is relatively insoluble so it forms so called micelles that increase solubility in water. That’s the main reason why this protein is called “slow”. This protein will provide our body with amino-acids over time. Since fast proteins are promoting protein synthesis and slow proteins are preventing muscle breakdown, mixing both of them will lead to great gains.
Dietary fat comes in forms of triglycerides, phospholipids and sterols (cholesterol). Fat plays a very important roles in our body such as: vitamin absorption, provides fatty acids that are essential for making hormones, regulations of heart rate, blood pressure and function of all body’s cells, also it provides energy during rest and exercise.
Fat can be classified as saturated on unsaturated, and the differences in structure can have a major impact on our health. Saturated fats are usually solid in room temperature (e.g., butter), and their fatty acids are saturated with hydrogen. These types of fat can be found in chips, dairy, red meat, margarine, cookies and oils such as palm, coconut, and palm kernel. Unsaturated fats are usually liquid in room temperature. These fats can be divided into: monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. Trans fats are fats that are hardened using hydrogenation, making them even worse than saturated fats. These types of fat are usually found in fried food, crackers, chips, processed foods and margarine. They can increase the amount of LDL (low-density lipoproteins) or “bad” cholesterol, and decrease HDl (high-density lipoproteins) or “good” cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats have a positive effect on the heart and proper blood vessel function by improving the ratio between good and bad cholesterol. These fats are found in foods like avocado, salmon, trout, walnuts, etc. They also contain vitamin E which is known as an antioxidant.
Polyunsaturated fats come in form of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They cannot be made by the body so we have to take them through diet. They are of extreme importance for us and especially for athletes because they help decrease inflammation. The ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 should be 1:3. They can regulate blood pressure and cholesterol.