What are macros and why are people tracking them?


What are macros and why are people tracking them? 

You may have heard people talking about their ‘macros’ when referring to food. And, they might have said something about the percentage of carbs, protein or fats they had in the day. Put simply, ‘macro’ is short for macronutrients. Macronutrients are one of the two major components that make up all food. 

Macronutrients (macro meaning BIG) are needed in substantial (or BIG) amounts by the body. There are three macronutrients in our foods:  

  • Carbohydrates (contains 4 calories per gram)
  • Fat (contains 9 calories per gram)
  • Protein (contains 4 calories per gram)
  • Alcohol is a macronutrient too (contains 7 calories per gram)

Macronutrients provide us with energy, or calories. We need to consume a healthy balance of carbs, fats and proteins to power our bodies to live, think, grow and move. Although people don’t tend to talk about alcohol when referring to their daily food intake, alcohol also delivers calories (and not just from any sugar it contains, but the pure alcohol itself). Unlike carbs, fats and proteins, alcohol is not an essential macronutrient for our bodies.

Micronutrients are the second of the two components that make up food.  Micronutrients (micro meaning small) are only needed by the body in very small amounts. 

These are:

  •  Vitamins (like vitamin A, folate, vitamin C)
  • Minerals (like calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium)

Foods can contain either a single, but more commonly several different macro- and micro-nutrients. Therefore, it is important to ensure you are eating a varied, balanced diet day to day, so you can satisfy your macro and micronutrient requirements.

 But are you still confused about this macronutrient percentage thing?

Well, it comes down to the balance of fats, carbs and proteins we have in our diet day to day. We do this without even thinking about it, for example when we have eggs on toast with a little avocado. We’ve just balanced a meal with carbs, protein and healthy fats (not to mention a heap of vitamins & minerals too!). So, over a day, a typical range of macronutrients consumed could look like 50-55% carbohydrates, 20-35% fat and 15-25% protein (Eating and Activity Guidelines for Healthy Adults, MoH NZ). We tend to have a lesser percentage of fats as they provide us with more calories when compared to protein and carbohydrates (based on the calories per gram).

This plate model is another good example of how we tend to achieve the ratios of macronutrients as noted

Meet the Expert

Kate ‘Peach’

Kate is one of our Fresh Start Experts, who grew up in sunny Tauranga; home to the infamous Mount Maunganui and great surf. She has a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Auckland, so she’s more than qualified to be dishing out tips and tricks for health. Kate’s favourite food is avocados (especially when combined with peanut butter and hot sauce) as well as big golden peaches grown on her granny’s tree (hence her foodie name!). Kate loves working at My Food Bag surrounded by others who are just as excited about all things food as she is!

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