Macros: What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

Before you get caught up counting macronutrients, it’s important to know what they are and why you need them.

Wildly colorful leggings. Aerial yoga. Weight-loss tea. Macros.

Have you asked yourself, “Why are people so obsessed with these things?” Perhaps you’ve let out a sigh and dismissed them as “fads” in the fitness industry. Those leopard print leggings will go out of style before anyone can finish sipping their skinny tea, right? While that’s quite possible, it’s not necessarily true for macros (or for aerial yoga, for that matter). Talk of macros is spreading like wildfire on the internet and social media, and rightfully so. Before you get caught up counting them, it’s important to know what they are and why you need them.

“Macros” are short for macronutrients. They consist of three food categories: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Each system in your body depends on the availability of these three macronutrients. Macronutrients affect things like body composition, appetite, satiety, likelihood of disease and its progression, perceived energy levels and your ability to recover from exercise. We’re going to talk more about the role of each, along with recommended food choices.


Carbohydrates are the brain and central nervous system’s primary choice of fuel. When carb intake is low, brain fog and a decrease in athletic performance may result. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests a minimum intake of 130 grams per day to meet basic energy needs to sustain bodily systems. However, your total carb intake will vary based on activity levels, goals, genetics and body size. In general, aim for a carb intake of 45 to 65 percent of total calories. Slow-digesting, minimally processed foods with sufficient fiber are the best choices.


• Vegetables

• Fruits

• Barley



There are many roles fat plays throughout your body. It is the most energy-dense nutrient, and it helps manufacture and balance hormones. It also helps transport fat-soluble vitamins. Overconsumption of fat may lead to an increased risk of heart disease. This effect seems to occur when saturated fat intake is high and the diet is also high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. Excess body fat also can result from this scenario. Avoid vegetable oils rich in omega-6 such as corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and cottonseed oil. Fats should make up 20 to 35 percent of your total calories.

• Walnuts

Chia seeds

• Avocado

• Salmon

• Olive oil


Carbohydrates and fats are managed efficiently by the body. However, it’s difficult to maintain adequate protein levels without a proper diet. If your diet lacks amino acids (building blocks of protein) that your body can’t make on its own, your muscular structure, hormone levels and enzyme levels will suffer. Protein quality will vary based on a food’s level of amino acids. Animal proteins typically rank higher, while plant proteins (although they do contain all the essential amino acids) rank lower. Most healthy adults require 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Some experts suggest aiming for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, since higher amounts of protein are associated with improved immune healthy, metabolism and weight management.

• Eggs

• Cottage cheese

• Lentils

Whey protein 

• Chicken

As social media noise continues to increase, it’s important to differentiate trends from the tried-and-true facts. Applying your knowledge of macronutrients to your dietary choices will ensure continued success and progress as you work toward achieving your goals.