Let’s take a closer look at each of these macronutrients and what they do for the body.


Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates act as a significant energy source for the body, and are broken down into glucose once ingested. The glucose is then used for energy, and any glucose that is not used is stored in both the liver and the muscles. (1) Carbohydrates include sugars, fiber, as well as food groups like fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

If you are not following a ketogenic diet, and are just looking for a dietary plan that focuses on balancing your macronutrient intake, the Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 45-65% of your calories from carbohydrates each day. (2) However, keep in mind that it’s essential to avoid refined carbs like sugar and processed foods, and to choose complex carbohydrate food sources to help support overall health.

Some great options include:

  • Non-starchy vegetables: Cauliflower, broccoli, dark leafy greens
  • Rolled oats
  • Quinoa
  • Fiber-rich fruits: Apples, berries, bananas
  • Legumes

Fat: Fat plays such an important role in brain health, hormone balance, and energy balance. We also need fats to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E, and K. (3) Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to dietary fat is that we need to obtain essential fatty acids from food since the body is not able to synthesize these types of fats on its own. Things like wild-caught salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds happen to be excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

For a non-ketogenic diet, a balanced diet generally contains about 20-35% of calories from healthy fat sources. If you are following a keto diet, you will need about 70% of your calories from fat to sustain your energy levels.

Some healthy fat options include:

  • Avocados
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Fatty wild-caught fish
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Eggs

Protein: Protein plays an important role in muscle and tissue repair and maintenance, and is also needed for hormone and enzyme function in the body. Generally speaking, a well-balanced diet is comprised of about 10-35% protein. (4)

Here are some great sources of protein:

  • Eggs
  • Lean meat & poultry
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Tempeh

How are Macros Measured?

Macros are measured in grams, with each macro providing a different number of calories per gram.

Carbs: Carbohydrates will provide four calories per gram.

Protein: Protein also provides four calories per gram.

Fat: Fat provides nine calories per gram making it more energy-dense.


Why Macros Play an Important Role in Weight Loss

When it comes to losing weight, there’s so much focus on counting calories. However, it is just as important to pay attention to your macronutrients as well since macronutrients are really what makes up those calories, and not all calories are created equal. For example, 200 calories from a candy bar vs. 200 calories from dark leafy greens drizzled with coconut oil may provide you with the same number of calories, but will be used very differently in the body. This is where the importance of macronutrients comes in.

The candy bar is primarily made from refined carbs which is going to spike your blood sugar causing a sudden spike and then crash. The steamed vegetables with coconut oil will provide your body with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fat to help stabilize blood sugar, keep you full, and provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals. As you can see, the two are very different in how they act in your body. One will provide an excellent fuel source, while the other can be damaging to overall health and can stall weight loss efforts.

Looking at your macronutrient intake instead of just looking at how many calories you consume each day can be a huge way to help support weight loss. Many people struggle with losing weight, especially if they are just counting calories. While you may be sticking to a certain calorie intake per day, it ultimately comes down to what makes up those calories, and what percentage of those calories are made from carbs, protein, and fat. Remember that the quality of the macronutrients you are taking in is just as important as the number of carbohydrates you are eating.


What Macros Have to do With Dieting

Different diets also look at macros differently. For example, a ketogenic diet is largely a high-fat and very low carbohydrate diet. When following a keto diet, you will be eating about 70% of your calories from fat and only about 5% from carbohydrates. However, if you are not following a keto diet, finding your ideal macronutrient intake is going to depend on a few different factors. Age, activity level and weight all play a role, and you may have to adjust to see what works best for you.

You can adjust your macronutrient intake to see what makes you feel your best as each person is going to be slightly different. A general rule of thumb,  is to focus on adding plenty of healthy fats to your diet, fiber-rich veggies, and lean animal or plant-based protein to help support energy levels and help you feel your best.

It may take some trial and error to determine what works best for your body. For some, a diet lower in carbs and higher in fat is going to work best, while others may require more complex carbs with a balance of fat and protein.  For starters, We provide a custom macro calculator based on your specific personal information to help recommend macros to lose weight.


How to Know What Works Best for You?

What works for one person may not work for anyone, and individual macronutrient intake is really going to depend on what you are trying to achieve with your diet.

Here are some general guidelines when it comes to macronutrient ranges depending on different dietary approaches.


Ketogenic Diet Macronutrient Range

Carbs: 5-10%

Fat: 60-75%

Protein: 15-30%


Balanced Diet Recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine

Carbs: 45-65%

Fat: 20-35%

Protein: 10-35%


Moderate Carb/Paleo-Style Diet

Carbs: 15-30%

Fat: 40-65%

Protein: 20-30%


If you are new to macronutrient counting, it may take some trial and error to see what is going to work best for your body. However, the most important thing is to listen to your body and stick to what makes you feel your best! When you are just getting started, make things simple by downloading a fitness and diet tracking app to keep track of your macros by using apps like My Fitness Pal, or My Macros. Over time, it will just become second nature and you will find your own individual macronutrient sweet spot that nourishes your body best for optimal functioning.  

About the Author

Rebecca Jacobs

Rebecca Jacobs

Rebecca Jacobs N.C is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant, specializing in digestive and women's health. She takes a holistic approach to wellness, doesn't believe in "dieting," and believes that healthy eating must be delicious. Rebecca is also a health writer and recipe developer and creates healthy alternatives to traditionally unhealthy foods.