What Do “Macronutrients” Refer To, and Why I Need To Know

You may have heard people talking about “balancing my macros” and wondered what they are talking
about. Macronutrients simply refer to the essential food groups that the body needs in large quantities
every day to remain healthy.
There are 3 types of “macros”: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Our bodies need all three each day
and every day to function. Most fad diets will have you eliminate one of the macronutrients, thereby
creating imbalance and potential health problems if followed for a long period of time.
The Importance of Each Group
Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for most bodily functions and the primary energy
source for the brain. The three categories of carbohydrates include grains and the food made from
grains like cereals, breads, pastas as well as potatoes, as well as fruit and vegetables. We need all 3
categories in differing amounts based on our lifestyle and health status. Carbohydrates enable the body
to perform vital functions like muscle contraction, maintaining body temperature, keeping the heart
functioning and digestion and absorption of food.
Proteins are most readily found in meat, poultry, fish, soy, legumes, eggs, nuts, and dairy foods.
Adequate protein intake is essential for muscle repair, keeping bones and tissues healthy, the formation
of red and white blood cells, our immune system, biochemical reactions and fluid balance. Consuming
protein with the above carbohydrates keeps blood sugar even thereby helping you to maintain your
energy and mental focus.
Fats are an important part of our diet. In addition to making our food taste delicious, they provide
energy and help us to absorb important minerals such as calcium from our food. They are essential in
hormone production and energy storage. Most fats from fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil can reduce
inflammation in the body as well as being heart healthy.
What Is the Right Balance For Me?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 suggest the following breakdown of proteins, fats and
 45-65% carbohydrates
 20-35% fats
 10-35% protein
Your individual needs will vary greatly depending upon your age, your sex, your lifestyle and family
MyPlate Guide
As a good place to start experimenting with balance, visualize your plate. Half should contain veggies
and/or fruit, ¼ of the plate should contain starchy carbohydrates (grains, pasta, potato, bread, etc.) and
¼ of the plate should contain protein. Added fat from a good quality source like seeds, nuts, avocado,
olive oil, or other flavorful liquid oil (sesame oil) can be added sparingly for cooking and/or salad

dressing. This combination of all 3 macronutrients will help you feel satisfied, promote even energy and
help you maintain a healthy weight.
Fluids really should be considered as the fourth “macro”. Again, fluid needs vary but a good rule of
thumb is to take your weight in pounds and divide by 2. That number may represent the number of
ounces of fluids you deserve each day. If you are athletic and tend to lose fluids in sweat, you may need
to add a few extra cups of fluids to replenish losses.
The fluid of choice is always water, however, in one cup of juice, coffee or tea, or milk you will consume
6 oz. of water. These beverages can be used to fulfill your fluid requirements but it is suggested that
most of what you drink should be water.
Following fad diets or eliminating any group of macronutrient can seriously impair your health. For
example elimination of carbohydrates promotes muscle loss, not fat loss!!! Elimination of protein will
seriously impair immunity and prevent muscle building. Restricting fat intake severely will promote
hunger, loss of energy and prevent the absorption of vital nutrients. If you have particular weight or
health goals, you can usually achieve them by small adjustments to lifestyle rather than cutting out food
groups or severely restricting intake. Don’t do it.
Consulting your registered dietitian for specific recommendations for your particular needs is always
recommended. This can help take the guesswork out of choices and get you on a healthy routine without stress!