I am confused about macro nutrients.  Can you clarify what this means and how I can use this to help lean out? Please help me understand what macro nutrients are and how it can help me lean down.

– Marlyn L.


Macronutrients are simply the classes of nutrients needed in large amounts, which includes carbohydrate, fat and protein. These provide energy in the form of calories (carb and protein 4 cals/gm, fat 9 cals/gm). Alcohol – not a nutrient – is the other food molecule that has calories (7 cals/gm). While the remaining 3 essential nutrients – water, vitamins and minerals – have zero calories.

Your current diet includes all 3 macronutrients. To say “use macronutrients” to help you lean out, seems to imply a structured ratio of the three. I will speak to this below, but first let me say that the overwhelming body of evidence regarding weight loss diets show that it’s a moderate restriction of calories, regardless of method, that achieves long-term weight loss.

What should your MACRONUTRIENTS intake be?

Each person’s effective macronutrient distribution for leaning out may be different. Are the changes required to meet a desired ratio sustainable for your lifestyle? How different is the proportion of macronutrients from what you’re currently eating? The US Dietary Guidelines recommend 10-30% calories from protein, 25-35% calories from fat and 45-65% calories from carbohydrate for healthy adults. You could reach your goals with 10% protein, 35% fat and 55% carbohydrate as easily as you might with 30% protein, 25% fat and 45% carbohydrate, assuming your activity level and energy intake are appropriate.

If you do decide to adhere to set percentages from each macronutrient, the act of tracking and analyzing your intake to determine your balance may be a major promotor of dietary change, thus caloric intake and weight loss. See our previous article: Keep a Food Diary, Log or Journal and Lose Weight Faster.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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