Which Macronutrients are Most Important to a Diet?
Protein: For body composition purposes, the most important dietary macronutrient is protein. It is mostimportant for the sole reason that muscle is literally made out of it. Protein not only provides the building blocks for muscle growth, it also supplies the amino acids needed to reduce muscle breakdown. In essence, protein both builds new muscle and saves existing muscle from being lost; both functions are very important in maximizing muscle and minimizing fat.
Carbohydrates: For body composition purposes carbs are the most important dietary macronutrient after protein. In the body composition setting, the primary role of carbs is to provide energy for the hard workouts that build muscle. During high intensity exercise, the primary fuel used is a stored form of carbohydrate called glycogen. Glycogen is stored mostly in the muscles that use it (some is stored in the liver as well), and is the dominant contributor of energy to hard workouts. If glycogen levels are low, hard workouts become increasingly difficult to complete, and almost impossible to complete with a consistently high level of performance. But the benefits of carbs don’t end with glycogen’s role in fueling workouts, they also include supplying the nervous system with its preferred fuel, and refilling glycogen stores.
Fats: Dietary fats have several important functions in the body. Essential fats, or fats that cannot be made from converting consumed proteins and carbs, are required for survival. In addition, fats serve as the basis of many hormones and intracellular chemical messengers. If dietary fats drop too low for too long, some unfortunate hormonal alterations may result (decreases in testosterone, for example). But past meeting a minimum intake, fats don’t seem to offer much of a body composition enhancement benefit so that’s why they are ranked third.
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