Macronutrients. Part 1 of 3: The Basics


Whether you’re trying to lose weight, bulk up, improve your endurance, or build overall strength, the hard truth is, you just can’t out-exercise an unbalanced diet. And, while there are just about as many diet programs as there are humans walking this earth, nutrition really comes down to one simple thing - macronutrients.

MACRONUTRIENTS are the key nutrients that provide energy (aka calories) and are needed in large amounts by the human body to function (macro = large, nutrient = substance that provides life). 

There are only three macronutrients:  carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Each macronutrient offers a set amount of energy (remember, energy = calories!) per gram. 

Carbohydrate:         4 calories / gram
Protein:                    4 calories / gram
Fat:                           9 calories / gram

While many fad diets have, over the years, touted the near elimination of one of these macronutrients, nutrition science proves that there are very good, and very necessary, functions for each macronutrient. So, before you go off hating on carbs, or fat-fearing yourself into oblivion, read on.



  • Serve as our primary energy source. Quickly available!
  • Required for brain, kidneys, muscles, and the central nervous system to function properly
  • Can be stored in the liver and muscles for future energy requirements (…hello carbo-loading!)
  • Aid in proper digestion and elimination of food


  • Crucial for tissue growth and repair
  • Aids in proper functioning of the immune system
  • Required for hormone production
  • Development and maintenance of lean muscle mass
  • Provide energy when carbohydrates are unavailable


  • Required for normal growth and development
  • Cushions vital organs
  • Needed for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K)
  • Provide concentrated, slow burning energy

Foods by Macro

Below, you’ll find a chart with examples of foods in each macronutrient category. 












Vegetable Oils

One very important point to keep in mind is that whole foods are a blend of various macronutrients. When you’re referring to whether a food is a “carb” or a “protein” or a “fat”, you’re really noting which macronutrient is most present in that food. 

For example, most people refer to spinach as a carbohydrate. However, there is also protein and fat present in spinach. The actual construction looks like this:

Carbohydrates:     56%
Protein:                  30%
Fat:                         14%

USDA Guidelines for Macro Intake

According to USDA guidelines, for general health, percentage of total daily caloric intake should be broken down by macronutrient in the ranges provided. Depending on your specific goals, those macronutrients will need to be adjusted up or down in each category.

Carbohydrates:      45% to 65%
Protein:                   10% to 35%
Fat:                          20% to 35%

Understanding macronutrients, and maintaining a diet based on balancing the three, is a sure fire way to help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Want to learn more about setting macro ranges to support your goals, or how to meal plan and track your macros?


Natasha Siedsma, CrossFit Reanimated Member, Certified Personal Training, & Health Coach.

With the help of our resident Health Coach, Natasha, you can get the support you need to take a deep-dive into where you’ve been, where you are, and how to finally get where you want to be!