[Episode 75] Macronutrients and Micronutrients Explained

by | Nov 5, 2021

This episode will go through Macronutrients and Micronutrients as part 1 of a little mini-series I’m gonna be doing over the coming weeks. We’re going to be looking at some of the most important things you need to know about your body.

Because often we aren’t really taught that much about our bodies. Yet we spend our lives having to look after them.

And there is so much misinformation out there about what is good and what is bad for our bodies. We spoke about diets back in Episode 31 and this episode will help highlight some points mentioned there.

So I’m going to clear a few things up for you and share some important things that you should know when to comes to your body and how you can care for yours.

 

 


 

Macronutrients and Micronutrients. Why are these important?

The reason I think it’s so important to know as much as we can about our bodies is because in order to take the best care that we can of them, we need to understand what it is exactly that we’re caring for.

 

Cartoon Police woman declaring "we're gonna get to the bottom of this!"

 

Sure as we grow up we’re taught very generalised things about caring for the body. I remember in school it started with being sun smart (which I still think is very important) and the healthy food pyramid, which has been revised so many times over the years that it can be hard to know exactly what is good or bad.

And chuck in the misinformation pushed by the fitness industrial complex and its anyone’s guess as to what is actually beneficial to your health and what is just a fad. Today we will go through some

 

It’s a pretty big topic so let’s dive in!

So I’m gonna start off today by exploring nutrition, seeing as it can feel like one of the most complicated areas when it comes to caring for ourselves.

Our bodies function by breaking down foods and taking nutrients from them. There are two categories that nutrients are broken into. These being macronutrients also known as Macro and Micronutrients.

 


Macronutrients

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein and fats. These are nutrients that your body uses a lot of. And they have a big influence over how your body functions. These macronutrients come from the foods we eat.

 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates or carbs are the main source of energy for the body. You have probably heard that carbs make you fat. Or that carbs are bad for you.

If you’ve ever heard of the keto diet or the Atkins diet, these are examples of ways of eating that exclude carbohydrates.

But the thing is, our bodies need carbohydrates. And they are not “bad” for us. Carbs provide energy for our muscles and central nervous system when we train or move our bodies.

What about Carbs?

Depending on your training or physical goals, you could be using carbs to make up 45%-65% of your daily calorie intake.

Your best sources of carbs are vegetables, whole grains, fruit, beans, lentils and peas. As well as dairy.

Limit highly processed carbs like bread, biscuits, crackers, cakes and sugar/lollies. As well as sugary drinks like soft drink and fruit juice.

 

Protein

Protein is a really important macronutrient. It is what helps our muscles grow. Not only that protein helps provide structure for our body tissue including our cells, organs, hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons and ligaments and our blood plasma.

Protein influences our metabolic systems as well as our hormones and the enzymes in our bodies.

What about protein?

When it comes to your daily intake of protein, again depending on your training goals it’s good to have between 0.8g – 1g of protein per kg of body weight each day.

So to use myself as an example, I’m currently working to build a little muscle mass and weigh 73kg so I have around 73g of protein a day.

Sources of plant based protein include beans and lentils, edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy milk. Nuts and seeds. And whole grains like quinoa, oats and brown rice.

Animal based proteins include red meats, poultry, fish, seafood and dairy.

As much as you can avoid processed meats like salami, frankfurts and bacon.

 

Fats

And lastly we have ever shunned and totally misunderstood fats. Our bodies literally can not function without fats.

They are used as an energy reserve (because they are a high energy, readily available source of fuel for the body, insulation, protection for the organs and for absorbing and transporting fat soluble vitamins which are micronutrients.

What about fats?

Around 20%-35% of your daily calorie intake need to be fats. But be mindful that you wanna keep your saturated fats low, to around 10% of your daily intake.

Great sources of plant based fats include vegetables oils like olive, canola or avocado oils. Avocados, flax seeds, chia seeds and olives. Nuts, seeds and nut butters.

Animal based fats include fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines.

 

Marco’s may seem complicated but it can be kept pretty simple. By eating foods that are as true to their natural form as possible, you’ll know that you’re getting just the good macronutrients that your body will use to function at it’s best.

Now this is not to say that you can’t ever eat processed foods. Quite the contrary, I think that it’s totally ok to eat the foods you love. And that restrictive diets are really harmful and totally unsustainable.

Just be mindful that so long as a majority of what you’re eating is unprocessed foods, then you’re all good. Because it’s not about being perfect.

 


Micronutrients

The second type of nutrients in our lives are micronutrients. They’re really important and helpful! Micronutrients are made up of vitamins and minerals that our body needs in very small amounts.

Even though we only require tiny amounts of them, they have a huge impact on our body when we lack them.

Micronutrients help our bodies perform many functions like enzyme and hormone production as well as producing other substances that allow our bodies to grow and develop.

A few things to remember about Micro’s are:

Our bodies cannot produce micronutrients on it’s own. With the exception of vitamin D. This means that we need to get them from the foods that we eat.

You may have heard of vitamin deficiencies or even had them yourself. Some can be quite common such as iron, vitamin A and iodine deficiencies.

And if you spend a lot of time indoors or are in a region that has dark winters you may end up with a vitamin D deficiency. Which interestingly enough, is the only micronutrient that our body can actually make itself.

 

The four penguines from the movie "Madagascar" sunbaking and getting sunburnt

 

Most micronutrient deficiencies are preventable by having a diverse diet and eating a range of foods and in some cases taking supplements (only when advised by your doctor).

Because too much of certain micronutrients can be as harmful as not enough. And on top of this, the supplement industry is unregulated which means that some supplements may not be good for you.

They can have fillers in them which can cause you health issues including organ damage.

Some of the most important micronutrients include iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, folate, and zinc.

 

Iron

Iron is a mineral in our body that is vital for our blood health. This is because iron directly influences our haemoglobin.

Haemoglobin is an iron rich protein found in our red blood cells and is what makes our blood red. It carries oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies.

Where and how much?

Plant based sources of iron are red kidney beans, edamame, chick peas, nuts, apricots, fortified (iron added) cereals and soy beans.

Animal based sources include red meat and liver.

Daily intake for people that don’t menstruate is 8.7mg while daily intake for people who do menstruate is 14.8mg

 

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a fat soluble compound, meaning it requires fat to be broken down and absorbed by the body. It supports our immune function as well as our eye health.

When we consume vitamin A from an animal source it’s called retinol. And when we consume it through a plant based source it’s called provitamin A carotenoids.

It’s involved in the growth and regulation of pretty much every cell in our bodies.

Where and how much?

Plant based sources of vitamin A include orange and green veggies such as orange sweet potatoes and leafy greens like spinach.

Animal based sources of vitamin A are dairy products, fortified cereals, liver and fish oils.

Daily recommended intake is 700 micrograms for AFAB folks and 900 micrograms for AMAB folks. But it would be worth chatting with your doc about this if you’re on hormones as that may change things for you.

 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. This is super important for our bone, teeth and muscle health.

Vitamin D is created by our bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. But we can also get small amounts of it from the foods we eat.

Where and how much?

Plant based sources of vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified cereals, fortified plant milk, fortified juices and sunshine.

Animal based sources include oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks.

The recommended daily intake for adults is 10-20 micrograms.

But it’s best to check with your doctor before you supplement with vitamin D as having too much can have some significant impacts on your health. It’s worth noting that it’s not possible to have too much vitamin D from sunshine.

 

Iodine

Iodine is a trace element that is found in some foods. It’s involved with our thyroid function as well as our metabolic rate, which is the rate at which our bodies generate chemical reactions.

Iodine is often found in soil and is absorbed by the crops that grow there, which is how we can consume it naturally in our foods.

Where and how much?

The best plant based forms of iodine are seaweeds such as kelp, nori, kombu and wakame as well as iodized salt. There are small amounts also found in soy milk and almond milk. Animal based sources of iodine are fish, seafood and eggs.

The recommended daily intake for adults is 150 micrograms.

 

Folate

Folate is a naturally occurring form of vitamin B9. It is a water-soluble vitamin meaning it is broken down by the fluids in the body and carried to body tissues, but it is not stored in the body.

It assists in the formation of DNA and RNA and is involved with protein metabolism. Folate also helps break down specific amino acids in the body that can be harmful in high doses. It also plays a role in our red blood cell production.

Where and how much?

Plant based sources of folate include broccoli, brussel sprouts, leafy green veggies such as cabbage, kale and spinach, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans and fortified cereals.

Animal based sources include liver.

Recommended daily intake of folate for adult humans is 200 micrograms.

 

Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that is involved with gene expression, enzymatic reaction, immune function, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis, wound healing as well as growth and development.

It is found in both animal and plant based sources, but plant based sources of zinc are not absorbed as easily by the body due to other plant compounds which inhibit absorption.

Where and how much?

Plant based forms of zinc include chick peas, legumes, black bean, kidney beans, mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, pumpkin and hemp seeds, cashews, oats, quinoa and brown rice.

Animal based sources of folate are shellfish, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs.

Recommended daily intake for adults is 8 milligrams for AFAB folks and 11 milligrams for AMAB folks. Though if you’re on hormones it’d be best to chat with you doctor about dosage before you take any supplements.

 

Too much on the plate to begin with??

 

Neil Degrasse Tyson from Star talk saying "That's a lot"

 

Now I know this has been a butt load of info and it’s totally ok if it feels like a lot. Just remember that in most cases if you’re eating a wide range of different foods than you’re likely going to be getting all the nutrients that you need.

If you are unsure, especially if you’re on a plant-based diet or don’t necessarily eat a wide variety of foods, than having a chat with your doctor and maybe getting some bloods done to check your levels could be really beneficial, before you just go out and grab a supplement that you may not even need.

Remember that in some cases, too much of particular vitamins or minerals can cause us harm.

 


 

Closing Recap

We’ve touched on a lot today.

Firstly we looked at what macro and micronutrients are. With macronutrients being carbohydrates, protein and fats. And micronutrients are vitamins and minerals.

Then we have a good look at what macronutrients do for the body and how much of each you should work towards consuming each day.

And finally we had a look at 6 of the most important micronutrients that our needs. These being iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, iodine, folate, and zinc. And also where we can find them to add them to our diets, whether this source is from our food or a supplement.

I do wanna re-emphasise that before you go take any type of supplement, it’s best to talk to your doctor about it first and make sure that this is actually something that you need.

The supplement industry loves to try and tell us we need all their products, but this may not necessarily be the case. And over time, taking supplements that we don’t need could cause us harm.

Until next week remember that our bodies are pretty incredible. And they are capable of exceptional things. And learning about what helps our bodies function to help us achieve our goals is super empowering.

Have a rad as day pals.

Bowie Stover Thinking Pose

Bowie Stover

Pronouns: they/them

My passion to help others through developing an active and healthy lifestyle, along with my desire to contribute as much as I can back to our queer community, has led me to co-found Non Gendered Fitness. To be a small part of your day that makes a HUGE impact on your life would be one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences that I could hope to have.

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