Nutrition 101: Macronutrients explained for the Average Joe

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What are macronutrients? How do they play a role in helping you achieve your physique goals? What type of macronutrient ratios do you need for weight loss or muscle gain? Keep reading to find out!

Make sure to check out my article on calories if you haven’t already so that we are both on the same page.

What are Macronutrients?

When you hear the term macronutrients it is referring to protein, carbohydrates and fats. In relation to calories, macronutrients contain calories. 

To be more specific:

  • 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories
  • 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories

The total calories of a specific food item is calculated by multiplying the grams of each macronutrient by its associated calorie amount per gram and then summed all together.

Lets take a look at a nutrition label and I’ll show you the calculation. 

DoubleStuf OREO’s were my go to treat as a kid and funny enough I was double stuffed as well! You are what you eat, am I right? Ok not funny, whatever, enough about me.

As you can see below, I only left the information we needed visible and blocked out the rest so that you won’t get overwhelmed with all the info. 

Calories from Protein: 1g * 4 = 4 calories

Calories from Carbohydrates: 21g * 4 = 84 calories

Calories from Fats: 7g * 9 = 63 calories

Total Calories: 4 + 84 + 63 = 151 calories

As you can see from my calculation above, the nutrition label caloric total does not exactly match my calculation. The reason for this is beyond the scope of this post. I just want to help you understand how the total calories are calculated for different food items. 

How do macronutrients play a role in achieving your physique goals?

Your bodies energy levels, feeling of fullness and ability to function properly will be greatly impacted by the percentage of your daily calories that come from the different macronutrients. 

Protein mainly help’s build and retain muscle mass (oversimplifying here but you get the point). Therefor it’s necessary to consume a certain amount to maximize those benefits (more on the exact number later).

Another benefit of consuming protein is that it makes you feel more satiated (full). This comes into play when you are trying to lose weight and want to avoid hunger. 

Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy and help with brain function (again, oversimplifying). You want to increase the amount of calories you consume from carbohydrates when trying to put on muscle mass. This will ensure you have plenty of energy to fuel your workouts. 

Lastly, fats help with hormone control and lots of other process’s in the body. While fat is higher in calories per gram than the other macronutrients, it’s not the enemy. The key is to make sure you are getting it from the right source (more on this in a later article). 

Recommended macronutrient ranges for weight loss or muscle gain

Before I begin with the different macronutrient ranges let me be clear about what I mean by this. I’m going to use the DoubleStuf OREO’s from above. 

Below is an image that shows you ratio the ratio of the total calories that come from each macronutrient. All I’m doing is scaling this out to take into account all the calories you consume in a day when I talk about macronutrient percentages. 

Oreo Macronutrient Percentages


I like to start with making sure I have my calories from protein taken care of first when constructing my diet. 

Anywhere from 0.8 – 1.2 grams per pound of lean muscle mass is enough for muscle growth and maintenance. This comes out to be anywhere from about 20-30% of your total daily calories coming from protein. 


Fats should account for anywhere between 20-35% of your total calories. I prefer to keep my fat percentage on the lower side of that range when trying to lose weight.


After I have figured out my fat and protein goals, I use the rest of my daily calories for carbohydrates.

A good range to think about for carbohydrates is anywhere from 45-65%. The lower percentage is good for weight loss and the higher end is best for muscle growth. 

If you want to get a more specific macronutrient percentage recommendation based on your goals, check out this calorie and macronutrient calculator I created. 

I hope you learned something new about macronutrients! If you have any questions leave a comment or shoot me an email at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!

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