Macronutrients - Everything You Need To Know

Macronutrients – Everything You Need To Know

You might have heard people talking about macronutrients and wondered what it meant. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you understand all about this important topic. We’ll cover what macronutrients are, why you need them and how to calculate your requirements. Phew!

What are macronutrients?

Put simply, macronutrients are the building blocks that our bodies need to function. We need them to stay healthy. They are broken down into three groups; carbohydrates, fats and protein. Despite what fad diets may tell you, all of these food groups are essential to keep the body healthy. They all serve a different purpose. They provide us with energy, calories and keep our bodies thriving. Depending on your fitness goal, you might need to make sure you get these three macronutrients in different amounts. We’ll talk about that below.


Most foods tend to be a mix of two or more macronutrients. For example, 100g of chickpeas provides 61g of carbohydrate, 19g protein and 6g fat.



Carbs are our main energy source. Essentially, they are made up of sugars. The body digests these easily and converts them into glucose. This type of sugar is vital for energy. It gets to the body’s cells and gets to work fast.

Good sources of carbohydrate include fruits such as apples and bananas. Or veggies like cauliflower and carrots. You can also choose legumes, beans and pulses. Bread, rice, pasta and grains are all high in carbs. Opting for wholegrain varieties tends to be healthier. They are absorbed more slowly, giving a more sustained energy hit. They are also higher in fibre, which is great for keeping your digestive system healthy.



Fats may have a bad reputation, but we need healthy fats to keep the body healthy. They give us energy and support cell growth. They also help us to absorb important nutrients, support healthy brain function, protect our organs and keep us warm.


But not all fats are equal. Trans fats should be avoided. These are also known as partially hydrogenated oils. They are often present in ready-made foods such as packaged cakes and pies.

Consume saturated fat sparingly. You'll find it in fatty cuts of meat, high dairy foods, and oils such as palm oil and cocoa butter. Unsaturated fats are good for us, and are present in nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, oily fish, soy beans and tofu.



Proteins build, repair and regenerate cells. They help us to build muscle and to recover from tissue damage. Protein is made up of amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acid, 9 of which the body cannot manufacture itself. These are referred to as essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all 20.


Protein can be found in meat, eggs and dairy. But for those on a vegan or plant-based diet, it is easy to get enough protein from other sources too. You can eat beans, pulses and legumes, as well as seeds and nuts. Raw greens such as kale and spinach are a good source. You can also get protein from veggies such as avocado, beetroot and broccoli.


How do you calculate your macronutrient requirements?


First you need to find out how many calories you need to be taking in every day. This is often referred to as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). There is a fairly simple formula for this. There are also lots of easy calculators online that will do it for you, like this one.


Once you know how many calories you are aiming for, you can start looking at how many grams of fat, protein and carbs should make up this allowance.

1 gram of protein = 4 calories

1 gram of carbohydrates = 4 calories

1 gram of fat = 9 calories


How much protein do you need to gain muscle?

The general rule if you’re working out to gain muscle is that you need 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if you weigh 160lbs, you’ll need 160g of protein as part of your daily allowance. Times this by 4 to work out how many calories this is.


A starting point for your fat intake would typically be around 25%. Remember these should be mostly good fats such as nuts, seeds and oily fish, and a limited amount of saturated fats. If you’ve already worked out your TDEE, times this by 0.25% to see how many calories you should be getting from fat. Divide this number by 9 to get a figure in grams. For example, if your TDEE is 2500, you need 625 calories from fat, or 70g.

The rest can be allocated to carbs. So, if you’ve worked out that you need 2500 calories a day, of which 625 are from fat and 640 are from carbs, that leaves 1235 from carbs, around 310g. Carbs will give you energy for a workout, whereas protein will help your body to recover afterwards.

There are lots of different calculators online offering to work out the sums for you. But remember to listen to your body. If you don’t see results after a few weeks try adjusting your ratios.


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