November 13

What Are Macronutrients? Most Important Things You Need to Know About


What you’ll find

Macronutrients. You have seen the word on labels or the word has been mentioned while you talk about the latest diets with your friends., but what are macronutrients? What do we need to know about them when it comes to health and what about macronutrients and weight loss?

Here are the most important things you need to know about macronutrients.

What are Macronutrients?

“Macro what?”

“Macro” means large-scale and nutrients are things our bodies need for healthy growth, metabolism and those lovely little units of energy we refer to as calories.

Very simply stated, macronutrients are a classification of nutrients we need to consume as part of our diet in large quantities.

The Three Major Types of Macronutrients

You may not be as familiar with the term macronutrients, but we guarantee that you have heard about carbohydrates, protein and fat!

These are the three major types of macronutrients and if you hear someone say they are “counting macros”, they are counting their intake of the number of calories for each of these three types of macronutrients.

What about water and alcohol?

We need water as well, but water provides only traces of micronutrients and water doesn’t provide energy to the body so water is not considered a macronutrient.

Some sources include alcohol as a macronutrient, because alcohol can supply energy to the body and even The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (link to: does list alcohol as a macronutrient, however we don’t need to consume large quantities of alcohol although some people may disagree!

Here’s what you need to know about each type:


Carbohydrates or carbs are fibers, sugars and starches found in milk products, grains, vegetables and fruits. They are two types of carbs, simple and complex. Simple carbs contain just one or two sugars. Complex carbs contain more than two sugars. Your digestive system changes carbs into a sugar called glucose which provides energy to cells especially brain cells.

Calories: 4 calories per gram

The Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA recommends 45% – 65% of calories in your diet should come from carbohydrates.


Protein is mostly found in animal products but also in milk, beans and nuts. Proteins are super important for those who want to build muscle as they fuel muscle mass which helps to also speed up metabolism. You should also know that amino acids are the building blocks of protein and that protein provides energy when there is a lack of carbohydrates.

Calories: 4 calories per gram

The Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA recommends that 10%- 35% of the calories you consume per day should be from protein.


We will you spare you the scientific definition of fats, but just know that fat is well, fat. You can find fat in a lot of different sources from protein such as fish to plant based oils such as almond oil. The main thing you need to know about fat is that you do need fat so don’t try to limit it.

Fat helps us to absorb certain vitamins, but also help provide a cushion for our organs.

There are three types of fats, trans-fat, saturated, and unsaturated. The unsaturated fats are usually better then saturated due to their molecular structures.

However, you may want to read this article, “A Study on Fat that Doesn’t Quite Fit the Story Line” that questions if eating unsaturated fats versus saturated ones is indeed healthy.
Calories: 9 calories per gram

The Dietary Reference Intakes published by the USDA recommends that 20%- 35% of the calories you consume per day should be from fat.

What is the relationship between Macronutrients and Weight Loss?

Many people have stopped counting calories and have starting counting macronutrients or macros. Eating the right ratio or combination of these macronutrients can contribute to weight loss. So essentially, eat to lose weight.

For example, if you are wanting to lose weight and keep it off, the recommendation is to follow a 40-30-30 macro plan meaning that 40% of your diet would be carb calories, 30% of it would consist of protein calories and 30% would be fat calories.

Of course, the food you eat should always be of high quality and make sure you understand which foods are falling under which macronutrient type. For example, peanut butter is often mistaken for protein, but it’s a fat source. No worries however! We will provide an example list of macronutrients.

If you’re interested in a diet called, “If It Fits Your Macro (IIFYM)”, then check out this article (link to:  that helps you determine if eating this way would fit your lifestyle.

What are the differences between macronutrients and micronutrients?

Remember that “macro” means large scale and that macronutrients are nutrients we need in large quantities? Micro is the opposite. Micronutrients are vitamins and some minerals we need in small quantities.

We do need certain minerals in large quantities such as Sodium chloride, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium and Sulfur, however these are referred to as microminerals and not macronutrients.

Macronutrients and micronutrients are both required for good health.

List of Macronutrients

Are you a label reader? If not, you should be reading your labels so that you understand how to identify if the food you are about to eat contains any of the macronutrients your body needs.

Here is a list of macronutrients as you would find on food labels.


  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Ribose
  • Amylose
  • Amylopectin
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Galactose

Proteins – Amino Acids

  • Arginine
  • Aspartic acid (aspartate)
  • Asparagine
  • Cystine
  • Glutamic acid (glutamate)
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine (branched chain amino acid)
  • Leucine (branched chain amino acid)
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Tyrosine
  • Valine (branched chain amino acid)


Saturated fats

  • Butyric acid (C4)
  • Caproic acid (C6)
  • Caprylic acid (C8)
  • Capric acid (C10)
  • Lauric acid (C12)
  • Myristic acid (C14)
  • Pentadecanoic acid (C15)
  • Palmitic acid (C16)
  • Margaric acid (C17)
  • Stearic acid (C18)
  • Arachidic acid (C20)
  • Behenic acid (C22)
  • Lignoceric acid (C24)
  • Cerotic acid (C26)

Monounsaturated fats

  • Myristol
  • Pentadecenoic
  • Palmitoyl
  • Heptadecenoic
  • Oleic acid
  • Eicosen
  • Erucic acid
  • Nervonic acid

Polyunsaturated fats

  • Linoleic acid (LA)
  • α-Linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Stearidonic acid (SDA)
  • Arachidonic acid (ETA)
  • Timnodonic acid (EPA)
  • Clupanodonic acid (DPA)
  • Cervonic acid (DHA)

Essential fatty acids

  • α-Linolenic acid ALA (18:3) Omega-3 fatty acid
  • Linoleic acid LA (18:2) Omega-6 fatty acid

Examples of Macronutrients

Are you ready to put together a shopping list? Here is a list of some examples of macronutrients.


What you’ll find

Eggs, almonds, chicken breasts, broccoli, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, 2% milk (organic is better for you), lean beef, oats. Boneless pork chop, beef, halibut, anchovies

For more, check out this list of 40 protein foods. (link to:


Cabbage, beets, Zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, eggplant, breads, cereals, beans, dried apples, bananas, grapes, corn, potatoes, yams

Check out this list from Yale (link to: (link to: which was created for those with diabetes, but certainly provides some examples.


Avocados, whole eggs, nuts, peanut butter, chia seeds, dark chocolate, almonds, olive oil, parmesan cheese, flax seeds, olives, salmon

For more examples of fats, check out this list from EndMemo

There you have it! If someone were to ask you what are macronutrients, you have learned the most important things you need to know about macronutrients! Ready for a quiz?? Just kidding! No quiz, but would love to hear your comments!

About the author 

Mr David

Thomas David is a Nutritionist, Registered Dietitian (RD), Health and fitness writer and editor based in Boca Raton, Florida. Thomas is also an international member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the US.

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