Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy. Nutrients are substances needed for essential bodily functions. Since the word “macro” means large, macronutrients are therefore the nutrients we need in large amounts, as opposed to micronutrients, which are needed in relatively small amounts. There are three macronutrients:
While each of these macronutrients provides energy in the form of calories, the amount of calories that each nutrient provides per gram varies.
- Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.
- Proteins provide 4 calories per gram.
- Fats provide 9 calories per gram.
If you look at the Nutrition Facts label of a product and it said 11 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of fat, and 8 grams of protein per serving, you would know that this food has about 121 calories per serving:
11 grams carbohydrate multiplied by 4 calories = 44 calories
5 grams fat multiplied by 9 calories = 45 calories
8 grams protein multiplied by 4 calories = 32 calories
The numbers on the Nutrition Facts labels of food typically either detail the macronutrient values for an arbitrary amount, i.e. 100g, or per serving.
Besides carbohydrate, protein, and fat the only other substance that provides calories is alcohol. Alcohol provides a whopping 7 calories per gram, almost double the amount of carbohydrate and protein. It is not, however, classed as a macronutrient because we do not need it for survival. That said, when tracking your macro's, you should include it under the heading of carbohydrates.
The importance of macronutrients has caused much controversy of late, with some people flat out stating that the only thing you need to consider is calories. Others say that you can eat whatever you want as long as you hit certain macronutrient targets.
The reality is that as far as weight loss is concerned, in 90% or more of cases, calories are king. HOWEVER! As far as body composition is concerned, i.e. how much of your weight is fat, macros can make a huge difference.
Additionally, for an average healthy person, strict macro targets are probably unnecessary. For someone with a history of sub-optimal eating and unhelpful dietary habits, finding the optimal macronutrient ratios can be essential to your short term progress.
The following lists detail the optimal, most common or most convenient sources of each macronutrient. Most green veg is low in calories so don't be to concerned about quantities.
- Poultry - Chicken, Turkey, Duck
- Red Meat - Beef, Lamb, Venison
- Protein Powders
- Wild Meats - Crocodile, Kangaroo, Ostrich
- Oils - Olive, Macadamia, Avocado, Coconut
- Cheese - Feta, Parmesan
- Beans - Kidney, Aduki, Pinto, Black Eyed
- Potatoes - New, Sweet
- Rice - Wholegrain Basmati, Wild