Macronutrients - Everything you need to know about macros

Macronutrients understanding
We eat foods every day. Nutrients are found in these foods and so the consumption of these very foods will cause us to gain these nutrients. Our bodies need these nutrients for survival. What are these nutrients that are found in foods? These are macronutrients and micronutrients. In this blog post, I’m going to look at macronutrients. Macronutrients are needed in large amounts whereas micronutrients are needed in small amounts.


Most people will say macros instead of macronutrients. Macros is just short for macronutrients.

What are macronutrients?

 Macronutrients are:
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

Alcohol is a macronutrient also.

Food fuel our bodies and we obtain energy from the foods that we eat. The human body needs a constant supply of energy and as a result, uses macronutrients to produce this energy. It is important to keep in mind that we need a variety of foods.

Food ------converted-----> energy

How does the food we eat become energy and what do our bodies do with the excess energy that it produces?

The food is broken down in the gastrointestinal tract and release into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, this glucose can be used for energy immediately by the body or it can be stored in the body for later use.

Energy storage in the body:
  1. Fat
  2. Protein
  3. Glycogen 
  4. ATP (adenosine triphosphate)

Well, what do we need this energy for?

For our bodies to function we need energy and without it, we cannot. Each and every single cell in the human body requires energy to carry out the life processes.

The life processes are:
  1. Respiration
  2. Reproduction
  3. Movement
  4. Nutrition
  5. Growth
  6. Excretion
  7. Sensitivity

Aside from energy production what do the macronutrients in foods do?

Our bodies require certain materials for growth and repair. Foods supply our bodies with the materials that are necessary for growth and repair.

Calories per gram for each macronutrient

Image via pixabay.

Macros provide calories. How many calories does 1 gram of each macro provide?

1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories

Or it can be written as:
4 kcal per gram

1 gram of fat = 4 calories

1 gram of protein = 9 calories

So therefore 2 grams of protein will provide you with 18 calories and so on.

1 gram of alcohol = 7 calories

How is heat produced in the body?

The body produces heat from the oxidation of the foods that we consume. This heat is however continuously lost from the body.

The total amount of energy that leaves the body equals the amount that was received by the body. A small amount of the energy that the body receives does come from the sun and appliances that produce heat and the largest amount of energy comes from the foods that we eat.

Let’s look at each individual macronutrient in detailed!

Carbs and fats are Carbonaceous (C)

Proteins are Nitrogenous (N)

Let’s says you have a food that is considered a carbohydrate. This food can also contain other nutrients like proteins or fats. So the reason why it is considered a carbohydrate is because the carbohydrate content is large compared to the other content which is small.

If you consume more foods (any food, carbs, fats, proteins) than is needed by the body then the body will store the excess as fat.


Sometime in your life, you might have heard of the word photosynthesis - the process in which green plants make food. Well, carbohydrates are produced by the process of photosynthesis.

carbon dioxide + water ------sunlight------>  glucose + oxygen

In our bodies, carbohydrates will enter the bloodstream as glucose. However, they do so at different rates simply because not all carbohydrates are created equally. So, therefore, some will enter at a faster rate than others. Based on that carbohydrates are classified as either high glycemic index carbohydrates or low glycemic index carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are found in:

- vegetables
  1. roots and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, beets, turnips, carrots)
  2. green leafy vegetables/green vegetables

- fruits

- grains

- milk

- processed sugar
Sugar can be derived from the sugar cane and beet.

- Natural sugar

The types of carbohydrates that are found in the above foods are:
  • sugars
  • starches
  • fibers

Strawberries. Image via pixabay.

Some importance of carbohydrates are:

- Use as an energy source

The body changes carbohydrates to glucose. This glucose is used for energy by the body and whatever the body doesn't use is stored for later use.

carbohydrates -----> glucose

- Maintain healthy bowel movements and great to control weight

Above I mentioned that the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. However, our body can't digest fiber and so it will leave our bodies as undigested fiber or in other words our body can't convert it into glucose. Nevertheless, fiber is still beneficial to us. Fiber is responsible for healthy bowel movements. It also makes us feel fuller longer which is great for weight loss or to prevent weight gain.


The body doesn't store protein like it does with the other two macronutrients so you need to consume it every day.

Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are 20 occurring amino acids. These 20 amino acids fall into two different groups:
  1. Essential amino acids
  2. Non-essential amino acids

Essential amino acids
There are 9 amino acids that the body can't synthesize and so they are called essential amino acids. These amino acids are acquired from the diet. These essential amino acids cannot be stored by the body and so you need to eat foods that provide them every day.

Non-essential amino acids
The remaining 11 amino acids can be synthesized by the body and so they are called non-essential amino acids.

Certain proteins are complete proteins. This means that these proteins contain all of the essential amino acids. Most proteins that are derived from animals are complete proteins. On the other hand, the proteins that are derived from plant sources are incomplete proteins. These plant proteins don't have all of the essential amino acids. However different sources of plant proteins should be consumed in order to obtain all 9 essential amino acids.

Some importance of proteins are:

- Growth and repair
Proteins are used for the growth and repair of tissues. If you’re extending or repairing a house, then you need the materials that the house was built with to do so. Similarly, for growth and repair of the human body, you’ll need the same substances that the body is composed of and protein contains these substances.

- For energy production
Protein in the tissue that is not used for growth and repair will be oxidized to yield energy.

- Used in the production of other proteins
Protein is used to make enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and hemoglobin.

- For weight loss
Protein makes you feel full for a longer time and it takes more calories to digest.

Some foods that contain proteins are:
  • chicken
  • fish
  • eggs
  • beans
  • oats
  • yogurt
  • nuts
  • broccoli
  • quinoa
  • nut butters

Grilled chicken. Image via pixabay.


Fats are needed in our diets. Out of the other two macronutrients fats takes the longest time to digest and absorbed by the body. All fats are not created equally and so some are bad while others are good. Saturated and trans fats are bad fats whereas unsaturated fats are healthy fats. Even though fats are essential to a healthy diet and some are good this doesn't mean that you should eat too much. Too many fats will give rise to too many calories which can lead to obesity among other health issues.

Fats can either be liquid or solid at room temperature.

Some importance of fats are:

- Fats are used in the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins
Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble vitamins. When I say fat-soluble vitamins it means that these vitamins can dissolve in fats. Additionally, they don't dissolve in water. Fat plays an important role in helping the body absorb and move these vitamins through the bloodstream. Without fat, these vitamins can't be absorbed or stored.

- Fats as an energy source
Fats are another energy source. As stated above the body's main source of energy is carbohydrates. However when the body has used up all of its calories from carbohydrates or carbohydrates are not available then the body will rely on fats/fats source as a source of energy.

- Protect the body
There is a layer of fat that protects the body's main organs, bones, nerves and so on. If for some reason you're hit in that region the fat layer absorbs the shock as much as it can.

Types of fats

1. Unsaturated fats
Unsaturated fats are healthy fats.They are liquids at room temperature. These fats have one or more double bond in the fatty acid chain and based on that they can further be classified into two types.

The 2 types of unsaturated fats are:

1. Monounsaturated fats
Contains one double bond. 

2. Polyunsaturated fats
Contains more than one double bond.

Some foods that contain unsaturated fats are:
  • avocados
  • certain fish like salmon, anchovy, tuna, sardines, halibut
  • nuts like almonds, macadamia nuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, etc.
  • peanut butter
  • olives
  • oils like canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, vegetable oils (such as sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil)
  • flax seeds
  • sunflower seeds

Avocado. Image via pixabay.

2. Saturated fats
Unlike unsaturated fats, saturated fats have no double bonds.

According to the American Heart Association, "eating foods that contain saturated fats raises the level of cholesterol in your blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood increase your risk of heart disease and stroke."

Some foods that contain saturated fats are:
  • animal meat including processed meats
  • dairy products like cheese, milk, cream, butter, dark chocolate
  • eggs
  • lard
  • gee
  • oils like coconut and palm

Coconut oil. Image via pixabay.

3. Trans fats
Trans fat can raise cholesterol levels also.

Types of trans fat

- Natural trans fat
Certain animal products contain natural trans fat. This type is safe to eat.

- Artificial trans fat
Artificial trans fat is produced from vegetable oils by the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is the process of adding hydrogen to the vegetable oils. This trans fat is used in processed foods and for frying.

Some foods that contain trans fats are:
  • fried foods
  • cakes
  • cookies
  • margarines

French fries. Image via pixabay.

No fat is never going to be pure unsaturated or pure saturated fat. Instead, it's going to be a combination of different fats. So to classify a fat as a saturated fat, it must have mostly saturated fat and the same goes for the other fats.


Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, etc.

Beer. Image via pixabay.

How do I calculate my macros?

Do we all have the same macronutrient/energy/calorie requirement?

Your macronutrient/energy/calorie requirement may differ from another because it is dependent on some factors. Some of these factors are:
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Physical activities/how active the individual is
  • Goals (whether you want to lose weight or not, build muscle, gain weight)

Steps to determine your macronutrients requirements

Step 1
Calculate your calorie requirement you need daily

Step 2
Divide your calories among macronutrients