Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients: Understanding the Difference

If you’ve read fitness blogs and magazines or scrolled through fitness TikTok, then you’ve likely heard a lot about tracking your macronutrients, or macros. It seems like every article about eating for fitness or healthy eating at all hyper focuses on them. 

“Eat whatever you want, as long as it fits your macros!”

“I can’t eat that. I’m counting macros, and I’m over my fat limit for the day.”

Why is that? Especially when there are two pillars that you need to know about for healthy eating. 

Have you ever heard of micronutrients? If you haven’t, that wouldn’t surprise us. Most people outside of nutrition circles don’t pay very much attention to them even though they should be the star of the show.

If macronutrients are the divas of the fitness world, micronutrients are the singers behind the curtain while macros take all the credit. 

Let’s take a plunge into the world of macronutrients vs. micronutrients and help you understand the difference. 

What are macronutrients?

Put simply, macronutrients are grams of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. If you were looking at a food label, it would be the first thing that you see at the top of the label (at least in the US). Counting macros has been associated with losing weight or weight gain, fat loss, and gym gains. 

These are the nutrients that you use in the largest amount. Your body needs macronutrients to store and expel energy. For example, if you’re someone with a high activity level, then you’ll likely need to eat more macros than someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle.

Let’s say that you want to lose the extra body weight that you gained over the holiday season. You would likely limit carbohydrate and fat intake and up your protein. 

These are macronutrients, and in the mind of the modern fitness enthusiast, counting calories has been replaced by counting macros. 

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. Think of them as the essential nutrients that are delivered via macronutrients when we eat. 

They help your body function at optimum levels, and a deficiency here can cause serious health problems. For example, way back when, scurvy was very common on ships because of the lack of access to fruits and vegetables, essential foods that give us vitamin C. 

Scurvy was a massive problem before supplementation and enriched foods helped supply the recommended daily dose for those who don’t have access to specific foods like fresh produce. 

Here is a list of essential micronutrients that our bodies need, especially our brains: 

  • Fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K
  • Water-soluble vitamins: The B vitamins (folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, and B12) and vitamin C.
  • Minerals: Magnesium, iron, selenium, zinc

Micronutrients don’t affect your daily calorie intake the way that macronutrients do.

The case for micronutrients

Did you know that our brains use roughly 25% of our energy intake? The brain is a micronutrient-hungry organ that needs vitamins and minerals just to function properly.

Because our brains are responsible for every little biological thing that we do, – like the beat of our heart, the automatic expansion of our lungs when we breathe, the production of happy and sad chemicals– we should be doing more to take care of it. 

The brain needs a near-constant supply of micronutrients to function properly. Micronutrients help with neurotransmitter synthesis and action, hormone regulation, and so much more. We made a case for this in our blog, How Food Affects Your Mental Health

Oregon State University published a great article that goes into depth on how micronutrients affect cognitive function. It’s a fantastic resource if you want to dive deeper into the world of food and brain health.

Counting macronutrients doesn’t equal health.

Suppose you listened to a lot of the dietary advice from companies promoting counting only macronutrients. In that case, you could eat a greasy cheeseburger, a bag of baked chips, and a diet soda and consider it okay because they fall within your macronutrient counts. 

Sure, you may reach that weight loss goal, or have the six-pack you’ve been working for, but would you actually be healthy? That’s the real question here. You would be able to justify eating butter-soaked noodles and all of the food additives you want because you are still following your diet. 

Before you jump on the macronutrient train, ask yourself: is your goal to be healthy or just to lose weight?

It’s about balance

We aren’t saying to ditch counting your macronutrients completely; they’re vital for the proper functioning of our bodies. 

What we are advocating for is paying more attention to both your macronutrient and micronutrient intake. This is the key to a healthy diet that will still get you the results you want to see in the gym.

The power of knowing

Are you ready to start the journey to a better you? Take a food sensitivity test and find out if those allergy symptoms are being caused by the foods you’ve been eating. 

Our Bloodprint Panels can identify whether you have a gluten intolerance, a dairy intolerance, and even a sensitivity to nuts and seeds. 

We guide you through your food sensitivity journey, even providing you with resources on how to complete an elimination diet successfully.

Eating the foods you want shouldn’t cause discomfort. Contact us to learn more about our Bloodprint panels today!

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