Beginners Guide to Dieting with Macronutrients

By Summer Banks FNS, SPT

Nutrients are the substances needed by humans to function and grow. Macronutrients are special nutrients that provide energy from calories. The prefix “macro-” means “large.” By breaking down this word, it’s possible to deduce that living beings need macronutrients in large quantities to function and maintain optimal health. A diet rich in macronutrients should provide much of the nutrition needed to stay healthy.


What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients divide into three separate categories: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Each of these macronutrient groups provide important and specific calories that enable a person to function optimally. However, the amount of calories provided by different macronutrients varies. Carbohydrates and protein each provide four calories for every gram. Fat provides nine calories for every gram. To calculate the caloric content of a food, you would multiply the number of grams of carbohydrates and proteins by four and the number of grams of fat by nine, then add these totals together.



Many people with a focus on fitness wish to avoid fats and try to eliminate them from their diets. Although too much fat is not healthy, humans need a minimum amount of fat to function. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people should not exceed 30 percent of their total caloric intake from fat. So for an adult who consumes 1,800 calories per day, not more than 540 of these calories should come from fat sources. The body uses fat for growth and development, for energy, and to maintain cell membranes. Additionally, fat serves as a cushion for organs. Fat also helps the body absorb some vitamins, such as A, D, and K. When foods have some fat in them, they generally have a richer taste and creamier consistency.



Professionals recommend that between 10 and 35 percent of total caloric intake should come from proteins. Proteins are present in poultry, fish, meat, dairy products, nuts, and legumes. Some starchy vegetables are also minor sources of protein. The body uses protein for growth and tissue repair. Proteins in the diet also help the body maintain a strong immune system. If carbohydrates are not available, the body can use proteins as a source of energy. Proteins also help the body produce enzymes and hormones. The body utilizes protein by breaking it down into amino acids. The body can manufacture some of the amino acids it needs, but others must come from the diet. Protein that comes from animals, such as meat, poultry, and fish, provides the body with every essential amino acid. Plant proteins contain only some of the needed amino acids, so they need to be eaten in combinations in order to make sure that all of the amino acids are included in a vegetarian’s diet.


What Users Are Saying

“You won’t get fat or lose weight as long as you eat what you burn. The macros in this sense doesn’t matter. I guess what you want is a body recomposition. Building muscle comes from protein though not so much from carbs. Carbs just provide the fuel for muscle to build.”

“You need to actually utilize the macro tracker for something other than figuring out what you want to hit as a goal. You need to put in your food that you’re eating. Just from reading your post and having a general understanding of nutritional content in foods, you are way under your 3,000 calorie goal. It takes a decent effort to eat 190g of protein in a day, too, without supplementing a protein shake here and there. If you plug in what you eat in a day, you’ll see exactly where you’re lacking. I don’t want to come off as insensitive, but you’re never going to know what you’re missing if you don’t know what you currently have.”

“OK well what I am trying to say is you don’t need to worry about other people’s macros, you are not coming close to enough food to gain muscle or enough protein. Eyeballing your day and looks like… 1800 calories? Maybe 2000? And like 80 grams of protein?Get a jug of whey protein and drink a shake made with 2 scoops and milk once a day. Double the meat in your meals. Throw in some nuts if you need more calories. If you are lifting weights 3 or 4 times a week with a plan to gain weight you have to eat enough and sleep. Eat more food.”


Of the three different macronutrient groups, the body needs the largest amount of carbohydrates every day. For optimal health, people should consume between 45 and 65 percent of their total calories in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates serve as the fuel the body needs because it can so easily convert them directly into energy. Optimal intestinal health is also connected with a regular diet of complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are present in grains, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and dairy products. Not all carbohydrates are the same, however. Simple carbohydrates come from single sugar molecules, glucose and fructose. Complex carbohydrates are present in starchy and fibrous foods. When the body receives simple carbohydrates, it breaks them down quickly. When the body receives complex carbohydrates, it breaks them down slowly into glucose.

About the Author:

Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.