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Health Bite: Macronutrients 101

Brian German Features, Health Bite

If you’ve ever heard the term “macronutrient” short for “macros”, it’s in reference to the nutrient profile of a particular food.


Hi I’m Rachel Eslick with your AgNet West Health Bite. Today we’re doing a crash course on macronutrients. What they are and how they can be used to your advantage.

Calories are a way to measure energy in food, and macronutrients are a broad way to measure the nutrients in food. There are three main macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Most foods are a combination of macronutrients. For instance, a piece of whole wheat bread falls into the bucket of a carbohydrate, but sometimes can have protein too, and even a little fat too.

Let’s do a mini dive into each of the macronutrients. Carbohydrates or carbs are things like fruit, bread, and pasta. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates get a bad rap because diets like Keto vilify carbs and promote eating more fat and protein. But on a positive note, carbohydrates provide quick energy for the body and many healthy foods are primarily carbohydrates, like most fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. But also sugar and highly processed foods like chips and baked goods.

Like carbohydrates, protein is also 4 calories per gram. It’s pretty easy to spot protein because all animal meat is protein. So yeah, chicken, beef, fish, pork and more. Lean protein refers to the absence of a lot of fat in the meat. Other protein sources are yogurt, protein powders, eggs, and beans, to name a few. It’s important to note they aren’t pure protein, so they come with more fat and/or carbohydrates.

Fat is 9 calories per gram, more than double carbohydrates and protein. Fat sources are nuts, butter, cheese, olives, and oils like olive, coconut, and vegetable. A little bit of fat goes a long way since it’s calorically dense. It’s easy to overdo fat because a smear of peanut butter, a sprinkle of cheese, or dribble of salad dressing can add hundreds of calories without feeling like you ate more food. Fat and protein are satiating and take longer to digest than carbohydrates. 

Counting calories is a common way to lose weight. Counting macronutrients is a more detailed version. Instead of just counting energy consumption, you’d be keeping track of energy from each of the macronutrients. One of the reasons this can be beneficial is because the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat helps maintain muscle mass and decreases excess stored fat.

In the fitness community, a common recommendation for the ratio of macronutrients is 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. The protein percentage is much higher and the carbohydrate and fat percentages are much lower than folks eating a standard American diet would normally eat. 

In general, I recommend my clients eat at least one serving of protein, fat, and carbohydrate at every meal. A serving of protein is the palm of your hand (minus your fingers), a serving of carbohydrates would fit in a cupped hand, and a serving of fat is about the size of your thumb. A simple balanced meal might look like salmon, rice, and broccoli that’s been roasted with a splash of olive oil.

Health Bite: Macronutrients 101
Rachel Eslick

For AgNet West’s Health Bite, I’m Rachel Eslick. I can help you reach your health and fitness goals with 1:1 and group training. Visit