What Are Macros?

What Are Macros?

What are macros? Macros are short for macronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These are three nutrients your body needs to produce, and store, energy to survive, function… and exercise! Each one has a different role in our bodies.

But, with all the conflicting information on what you should and shouldn’t be eating, it can be difficult to navigate.

We’ve dished up an overview of macros and why you need to find a balance.

A Quick Overview of Macronutrients aka Macros

There are three essential macronutrients every human needs: carbohydrates, protein and fat.

Each macronutrient contains energy, measured in calories:

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

Over the years, they’ve all fallen victim to fad diets. Fat, in particular, was shunned for many years. And now, it seems carb has become the new four-letter word. But, they are all critical components for exercise, recovery and to function in everyday life.

Macro: Carbohydrate

Carbs tend to cause a lot of controversy, confusing a lot of people. They just don’t know why they need them or the best places to find them.

Carbohydrates fuel the body. Our brain, muscles and body’s cells all need carbs to function. Carbohydrates are broken down into sugar (glucose) in our body which is either used for immediate energy or stored for later use.

Research has shown that high-fat, very low-carb diets can elevate levels of cortisol which in turn can increase catabolism and harm protein synthesis…in other words, you’re kind of eating away at your muscles and not making more (which is obv. bad for performance).

Carbs can be simple or complex.

Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are broken down (digested) quickly by the body and typically spike (and then dump) blood sugar levels. This would be what you might refer to as the notorious sugar high children experience after eating candy.

Examples found naturally in foods include:

  • fruit
  • honey
  • milk
  • white rice

Simple carbs are commonly found in processed foods such as:

  • table sugar & candy
  • sauces & dressings
  • pasta
  • bread & baked goods
  • cereal & crackers
  • juice & soda

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs are slower to digest (helping us control blood sugar and provide a sustainable source of energy), higher in fiber (helping us maintain a healthy GI tract and control appetite), and have vitamins and minerals (making them a nutrient dense choice).

Some nutrient-dense choices of complex carbs include:

  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • brown & wild rice
  • ancient grains
  • quinoa
  • oats

What About Fruit?

Keep in mind that simple carbs (in their natural state) aren’t always the bad guy. Fresh fruit, such as watermelon and berries, are considered simple carbs. The optimal time to enjoy these foods is pre-, intra- and post workout.

Macro: Protein

Protein seems to take the stage as the dietary superstar. If you are active, want to maintain muscle and lean up, protein is a must. Why? Protein is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for must stuff in our body. It is involved in repair and rebuilding of tissues, hormones and our immune system.

It’s so important to include in your diet that if we don’t get enough protein, our body will start to take it from our muscles. We need protein to survive and thrive.

You can get protein from sources such as:

  • eggs
  • chicken
  • turkey
  • fish
  • beef
  • dairy
  • protein powder- Whey, pea, hemp, etc. (useful for those who want fast-digesting proteins or need a quick replenishment)
  • Casein protein powder (useful for those who want a slower-digesting protein, particularly at night)

How Much Protein Do You Need?

For sedentary adults who are otherwise healthy, 0.8g of protein per kg of body mass is generally enough to cover basic daily requirements.

Protein needs increase if:

  • You are training frequently or have a physically demanding job
  • You are injured, sick or recovering from surgery
  • You are losing protein for any other reason (poor digestion, stress)
  • You are trying to lose weight and in a negative energy balance

Generally, most individuals do not need more than 2.2g of protein per kg of body mass per day.

Macro: Healthy Fat

Repeat after me: Fat from food does not equal body fat.

That horrible fat restriction provided only to be a disaster. So many products that ditched the fat, only replaced it with sugar and starch (hello nasty low-fat Snackwell cookies). All those “fat-free” salad dressing, baked good and margarine ironically didn’t get us any healthier. Or fitter. It only made things worse.

Fat is an essential macronutrient that protects our organs and allows hormones to function properly. It also helps to preserve our bones and aid in immune and nerve cell function. Because fat takes a long time to break down and transport, it enters the blood several hours after we’ve eaten it.

A little fat makes everything better: flavor, nutritional value, satiety.

Health fats include:

  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • avocado and avocado oil
  • nuts & seeds
  • fish (like salmon)

Fat to Stay Away From

Trans fat, often disguised as partially hydrogenated oils, comes from industrial fat processing to give the product a longer shelf life. Good for commercialized food production. Bad for our bodies.

Finding Balance with Your Macros

It is important to include each macronutrient in your daily diet. Finding the exact balance can be tricky – everybody has unique needs. But a good rule of thumb is to use your hand as your guide.

Here’s how:

  • Portion out a serving of protein equivalent to your palm (men use two palms).
  • Portion out a serving of carbs about the size of your cupped hand (men, use two hands).
  • Portion out a serving of fat the size of your thumb (men use two thumbs).
  • Portion out a serving of vegetables equivalent to your fist (men, use two fists). Dark leafy greens…go nuts!

Read More: Do I Need to Count Macros?

Read More: Macronutrients for Energy Balance

Want More?

Contact Coach Angela or Coach Camilla at info@salusnj.com to find out more about macronutrients and finding the right balance for you.

A few of our favorites:

How Much Should I Eat? Portions Explained


How Much Should I Eat? Portions Explained

Not sure how much to eat? Portions can be tricky. The best place to start is by using your hand.

Fit in a good balance of protein, veggies, smart carbs, healthy fats by using your hand(s) as your guide to build your plate for each meal.

Use Your Hand As a Guide


Females: 1 palm (~ 20-30g of protein)
Males: 2 palms (~ 40-60g of protein)


Females: 1 cupped hand (~ 20-30g of carbs)
Males: 2 cupped hands (~ 40-60g of carbs)


Females: 1 thumb (~ 7-12g of fats)
Males: 2 thumbs ( ~ 15-25g of fat)


Females: 1 fist
Males: 2 fists


Eating like this for 3-4 meals a day put you around 1,200-1,500 calories each day.
Active women do best with 4-6 servings of each food group per day (~1,500-2,100 kcal).


Eating like this for 3-4 meals a day would get you around 2,300-3,000 calories every day.
Active men respond best with 6-8 servings of each food group per day (~2,300-3,000 kcal).

⚙️ From there, customize by adjusting the number of portions to meet your unique needs and goals.

For example, you may need MORE food because you…

• Are larger in stature
• Are feeling light headed during your workouts
• Eat less frequently throughout the day
• Are very active
• Are trying to gain muscle
• Aren’t getting muscle-gain results

If that’s the case, add the following:
Men: 1 cupped handful of carbs and/or 1 thumb of fat to a few meals every day.
Women: 1/2 cupped handful of carbs and/or 1/2 thumb of fat to a few meals each day.

You may need need LESS food because you…

• Are smaller in stature
• Feel full after meals
• Eat more frequently throughout the day
• Are not very active
• Are trying to lose weight
• Aren’t getting weight-loss results

If that’s the case, remove the following:
Men: 1 cupped handful of carbs and/or 1 thumb of fat from a few meals each day.
Women: 1/2 cupped handful of carbs and/or 1/2 thumb of fat from a few meals each day.

As always, pay attention to hunger cues, emotions that drive decisions, hormones and stress. Then adjust as needed.

For Kids/Teens

One easy way to size up portions is to use your hand as a guide. Kids have smaller hands than adults, so it serves as a reminder that kids should eat smaller portions, but note: athletes may need more than the average child. The purpose is to teach a point of reference for kids. Think of it as a visual learning tool. Without it, they may not have an understanding of portion sizes and end up under or over eating.

As always, pay attention to hunger cues, energy, activity levels and stress. It’s normal for children to have appetites that vary when they’re growing. Adjust as needed. The point of this challenge it to help kids find a good balance of protein, veggies, smart carbs and healthy fats for optimal energy and to prevent deficiencies.