Macronutrients vs micronutrients: What they do for your body | Norton Sports Performance Louisville, Ky.

Macronutrients vs micronutrients: What they do for your body

Nutrition can be complex. Marisa Faibish offers clear guidance on diet from a professional dietitian. She is credentialed in nutrition and in sport dietetics.

If you’re exploring nutrition, you’re probably hearing diet advice about macronutrients: Cut carbs! Bulk up with protein! Eat more fat! Or is it less fat? Track your daily macro intake!

To cut through the noise, it can help to understand the three macronutrients and what they do for our bodies.

Macronutrients and micronutrients help our bodies function properly.


A macronutrient provides energy for the body. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat.

All three serve a purpose in our diets and provide different benefits. And all three macronutrients are needed in a well-balanced diet.

Many foods have a mixture of at least two of these three macronutrients. For example, an egg includes both fat and protein. White rice has both carbohydrates and protein. And we can’t judge foods as good or bad based on macros alone.

It’s ideal to eat a variety of foods and get nutrition from all three types of macronutrients.

To meet our physical activity goals, we want to pay attention to the timing, type and nutritional value of our macros. This can help us plan meals that provide the energy we need, when we need it.


Carbs are our bodies’ No. 1 fuel source for activity as well as fuel for our brain. Carbohydrates also help our bodies stay hydrated.

Understanding the two kinds of carbs

Simple carbs are easy to break down and use immediately for energy. Some examples are fruit, fruit juices, pretzels and sports drinks. These are going to be generally low in fiber.

Carbohydrates and sugar are interchangeable. If something we are eating has sugar in it, this means it has carbohydrates in it.

Many people benefit from eating simple carbs before exercise. Simple carbs give the body the fuel it needs to perform quickly. They are also useful after exercise to replenish the fuel we just used for performance.

Complex carbs provide slow and sustained energy as well as fiber and micronutrients. All of these components are essential for a healthy body and mind.

Fiber helps our digestive system and helps reduce the amount of cholesterol flowing into our bloodstreams. Complex carbs provide slow and sustained energy because they are complex molecules that require more time to breakdown.

Examples of complex carbohydrates are vegetables, beans, legumes and whole wheat pasta. These are great to have throughout the day with your meals to provide you micronutrients and fiber for health and recovery.


Proteins are the building blocks to our muscles. They help repair, rebuild and recondition our muscles.

Protein can help speed recovery from an injury or surgery as well. Think about the last time you lifted weights, when the barbell got heavier and heavier. During this period your muscles are essentially having micro tears. In order to repair those tears and repair or increase the muscle, we must consume protein.

Chicken breast, eggs, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, salmon, tofu, whey protein powder and quinoa are examples of foods with complete proteins.

Is it best to eat protein immediately after a workout?

If you want to dive deeper into your personal nutrition, set up a free initial consultation by emailing or calling the Norton Sports Health Performance and Wellness Center: (502) 409-8888.

If we are trying to maintain or build muscle, it is recommended to consume at least 20g to 30g of protein at each meal. This looks like a chicken breast the size of your palm or 3 eggs.

Is it best to eat protein immediately after a workout?

While there is some advantage to including protein in post-workout meals, consuming enough protein throughout the day is much more important.

Athletes need more protein than non-athletes because of their activity levels and goals. An injured athlete needs even more protein to maintain their muscle mass and recover. To get a clear picture of your individual needs, speak to a registered dietitian.


Fat has many jobs when it comes to our health and performance. Fat is the body’s secondary fuel source to carbs, but it is the primary fuel source for low-intensity exercise and rest. As you are reading this post, you are using fat for energy. When we stretch or go to a low-intensity yoga class, we are utilizing fat as our fuel source.

Fats are essential for recovery from exercise. Fat also helps us utilize fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Without fat in our diet, we would not be able to get the benefit from any of these vitamins.

Understanding the two kinds of fat

Anti-inflammatory fats are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They help decrease inflammation in our bodies and allow us to heal and recover. Examples of foods that are good sources for this type of fats are walnuts, salmon, tuna, canola oil, olive oil, avocado and flax seeds.

Aim to have more of these fats in your daily intake.

Pro-inflammatory fats are high in saturated fat. These increase inflammation in our bodies and slow down the healing and recovery process. Examples of foods that are high in this type of fat are fried foods, cookies/cakes, fatty cuts of meat like bacon and 80% lean chuck ground beef.

Aim to have fewer of these fats in your daily intake.


Here’s another reason we want to be sure to eat foods that contain carbs, protein and healthy fat: our bodies need a wide variety of micronutrients.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. These are essential for our bodies to function and grow properly. If we do not eat them regularly, it can lead to deficiencies and diseases.

In the 15th and 16th century, European sailors on long voyages at sea used to have an extreme diet that eliminated a whole group of foods. They weren’t able to eat any fresh fruit or vegetables, because these foods spoiled during their travel. Many sailors died from chronic vitamin C deficiency, which caused the disease scurvy.

Think of micronutrients like a multi-purpose cleaner that helps remove rust, protects equipment from corrosion, decreases the wear and tear and keeps things running smoothly. That’s essentially what vitamins and minerals do for us. They keep every single thing in our body working properly and smoothly.

If you want to dive deeper into your personal nutrition, set up a free initial consultation by emailing or calling the Norton Sports Health Performance and Wellness Center: (502) 409-8888 .

We can find vitamins and minerals in a lot of foods that we eat. For example, beef is very high in all of our B vitamins, and tropical fruits are high in vitamin C. Variety in your diet can help you get all the micronutrients you need.

Whole foods and unprocessed foods almost always have more micronutrients. I like to compare an apple and a soda. Both are about 100 calories and have the same amount of sugar in them. But apples are going to be full of vitamins, minerals and fiber, while soda does not have any.

Curious if you are getting what you need in your daily intake? Set up an appointment with a dietitian to help determine if your diet is meeting your needs, especially if you have dietary restrictions!

Marisa Faibish, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN Lead Performance Dietitian at Norton Sports Health Performance & Wellness Center

Have a question for Marisa? Her goal is to make healthy eating something everyone can understand, drawing on her study of nutrition science, biochemistry, metabolism, anatomy and physics.</em

Search our entire site.