Understanding Macronutrients: Carbs, Fats, and Proteins Explained

Whether you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, eating a healthy diet is essential to achieving your fitness goals. Besides making sure that you consume the required number of calories, you also need to understand macronutrients and ensure that these calories come from the right sources!

When learning more about how many grams of this or that you should be eating, you might have stumbled upon the topic of macronutrients (“macros” for short).

But exactly what are macronutrients? What do they do for your body? And what kind of diet can you design with macros in mind? To help you answer these questions, here is a quick guide to understanding macronutrients:

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are a group of nutrients that your body requires in larger amounts than other nutrients. While many nutrition experts only mention three macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other agencies also include cholesterol, fiber, and water in this group.

When you are debating what kind of diet to follow, carbs, fats, and proteins are the three main macronutrients that are often considered to make the most difference. This is why many fitness and nutrition platforms highlight these three macronutrients over others.

What Role Do Macronutrients Play?

Macronutrients provide your body with energy so it can perform its essential functions. The three main macronutrients offer different benefits to your body:

  • Carbs give you energy and deliver dietary fiber.
  • Fats help you feel full, regulate your hormones, and let you properly process nutrients.
  • Proteins are essential for protecting and building muscle, as well as maintaining your immune system.

This is one of the many reasons why healthy snacks for weight loss often combine these three macronutrients.

Once you have the basic nutrition concepts in place for healthy eating, you can start to incorporate macros into your nutrition strategies.

How Many Macronutrients Do You Need in a Day?

While the actual amount of required macronutrients varies from person to person, you can still learn about the general ranges of daily macronutrient intake:

  • Carbs: 40%-65% of daily calories
  • Protein: 20%-40% of daily calories
  • Fat: 20%-35% of daily calories

But before you start using a diet app to choose your ranges for macronutrients, you must understand your personal needs and goals. This helps you develop a macronutrient diet that aligns with your objectives.

macronutrients explained

How To Determine Ideal Macronutrient ratio?

To determine your ideal macronutrient ratio, you should discuss your overall needs with a nutrition expert (see benefits of nutrition counseling). The two of you together can up with a macronutrient diet plan that is appropriate for your goals, your current lifestyle, your medical condition, and your current fitness regimen. Apps can’t do that!

Once you understand what ranges of macronutrients you need in a single day, and what types of foods you can get them from, then you can devise your exercise program. Depending upon your preference, you can work with your exercise coach through an online fitness platform, or from an in-person personal trainer.

It Matters Where Your Macronutrients Come From

Lining up your macronutrient ranges is just the start! If you continue eating everything that falls in those groups without seeing how it affects your body, you may take one step forward and two steps back.

For instance, consuming the right amount of complex carbs (such as whole grain, beans, and oats) can help you sustain energy for longer. But as you probably know, eating a lot of simple carbs (such as sugary drinks and candy) will contribute to unwanted weight gain. This makes it crucial to pay attention to where your macronutrients come from.

A Macronutrient Diet Can Be Effective, But It Involves a Learning Curve

Similar to any exercise and nutrition plan, consuming a macronutrient diet also requires sufficient knowledge in order for it to work well for you. Since manipulating macronutrient ranges can be a bit more difficult than other diet approaches, this practice also has a steeper learning curve than many other diets.

While you can use approaches such as writing in a fitness journal to keep track of your progress, you shouldn’t shy away from reaching out for help if you think you need it. Getting expert opinions to guide you through your fitness journey will give you better results.

With these suggestions in mind, you can make the most out of how macronutrients work for YOUR body. Because we’re all different. And if you want help designing a personalized nutrition program to suit your specific needs and life, just drop us a note and we’ll find a time to talk about options.

About The Author:

Dan DeFigio holds multiple certifications in sports nutrition. He currently works as a personal trainer and nutrition coach in Nashville. Dan is the owner and director of Basics and Beyond fitness & nutrition, and the author of multiple popular nutrition books (including the bestselling Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies).