“Counting Your Macros” or “If It Fits Your Macros” have become common phrases used when discussing meal plans, diets, and food choices. But what is a macronutrient? What is a micronutrient? How do you balance these nutrients to help ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle?
The word “macro” implies “big”, and “big nutrient” is actually a good way to start describing macronutrients. Macronutrients consist of the carbohydrates, protein, and fats found in food. These are the major components of food by weight. Macronutrients, unlike micronutrients, provide the calories in food:
- Carbohydrates provide 4 Calories per gram
- Protein provides 4 calories per gram
- Fat provides 9 Calories per gram
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans¹ recommend that 45-65% of daily Calories come from carbohydrates, 10-30% from protein, and 25-30% from fat. So for an individual aiming to consume 2000 Calories per day, this would mean eating about 225-325 grams of carbohydrates, 50-150 grams of protein, and 55-67 grams of fat per daily. Keep in mind that everyone has a different calorie goal based on age, gender, activity, and weight goals.
When someone is “counting their macros”, they are tracking how many of each macronutrient they are consuming to fit in their goal range. As you can see, these ranges can be very broad. Someone working to gain muscle may be aiming to get closer to 30% of their Calories from protein. An individual working to lose weight may aim to get about 45% of their Calories from carbohydrates. Diligently reading nutrition labels and using calorie tracking apps can help keep track of macronutrient intake. However, please remember to always work with a Registered Dietitian or physician to help determine your calorie goal and determine how much of each macronutrient you should be consuming to keep you healthy!
In addition to “counting” macronutrients, being mindful of micronutrient intake is also important to support a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals present in food, but by weight make up much less of the food. These micronutrients are vital for health. but do not offer any energy in the form of calories. Examples of micronutrients include sodium, potassium, zinc, calcium, and Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Micronutrients are often listed below the macronutrients on a nutrition label. Most Americans do not consume enough choline, magnesium, potassium, and Vitamins A, C, D, and E¹. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fortified foods (such as Soylent) can help increase consumption of these micronutrients.
Nicolette DeAngelis, RDN, LDN
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.