A lot is written about macronutrients on this blog. This is not without reason: they form the basis of your diet and have quite an impact on the functioning of your body. Yet it may well be that you slowly lose your way when it comes to macronutrients. What exactly are they, and what do they do?
And most importantly, what role should they play in your diet? Today we put all that information in a conveniently arranged place. So after reading this blog post, you’ll know exactly what macronutrients are good for you, and how much you want to consume!
What are macronutrients?
Macronutrients, in short, are the foods or nutrients that provide energy to the body. So your body needs them for practically everything you do, whether that’s active exercise, or just regulating your metabolism. In general, we distinguish three main macros: proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Alcohol is still sometimes mentioned as the fourth macronutrient, because it does indeed provide calories to your body. However, alcohol does not have a necessary role and therefore it is not an ‘obligatory’ part of your diet. We will leave the fourth macro out of consideration in the rest of this post. Below we give you a brief overview of the three important macronutrients.
Proteins, simply put, are the building blocks of your body. They consist of amino acids, which can be used to create muscle tissue and other types of tissue. Since your body is constantly being renewed, of course, you need a constant supply of proteins! Proteins contain 4 calories per gram.
You find them first of all in animal products: meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs. In addition, there are also vegetable proteins: legumes, grains, nuts and soy, for example. The disadvantage of vegetable proteins is that they do not contain all amino acids. However, by combining with different types, you still get everything you need.
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary energy suppliers. They are therefore more efficient than fats, for example, which are more difficult to convert. Just like proteins, they provide 4 calories per gram. There are many products rich in carbohydrates, but it is best to choose slow carbohydrates. This is because the glucose is absorbed more slowly.
Slow carbs are less likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar! Good carbohydrates include whole grain cereals, oatmeal and semi-grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. Vegetables and certainly fruits are also good sources of carbohydrates.
Fats are often seen as ‘superfluous’, but they are absolutely not! You need fats to build up your cells. Fat is also essential for the absorption of many nutrients, such as the fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. Fat is more energy-dense than the other two macronutrients, with 9 calories per gram.
Again, it is important to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fats. Processed trans fats are best avoided. Healthy options include fatty fish, nuts, avocado, olives and olive oil. Animal fats are also fine to a limited extent.
Because all macros have different functions, it matters in what proportion you eat them. There is no one perfect rule of thumb. The amount of macronutrients you need depends mainly on the physical goals you set for yourself. Do you mainly want to lose weight, or are you trying to build muscle?
In the first case you need less carbohydrates, because first of all you want to get enough fats and proteins. Only then do you fill up the rest with carbohydrates. If you want to build muscle, you will eat proportionally more carbohydrates. You have to eat more, so after the proteins and fats there is more room for calories from carbohydrates.
Macronutrients by body type
To make things more complicated, your body type also determines your tolerance to carbohydrates. Based on your body type, you can determine the ratio of your macros.
You may also need to further adjust your consumption over the course of your diet. For example, you will start consuming fewer calories as you lose weight. On the other hand, your body may need more and more energy to build new muscle tissue.
Finally, of course, all of this is still a rule of thumb that you can use to set up a first feeding schedule, not a sacred law. Every body works differently. So you will have to experience for yourself what works. Here is some general advice. Do not pin yourself too much on it, but use it as a guideline.
Body Type and Macronutrients – The 3 Body Types:
- Ectomorph Body Type
- Mesomorph Body Type
- Endomorph Body Type
Almost no one is 100% or, often you are a combination of ‘Ectomorph-Mesomorph’ or ‘Mesomorph-Endomorph’. You probably have a good sense of which category you fall into yourself.
- Long and thin
- Fast metabolism
- Low fat percentage
Ectomorphs have a fast metabolism so they need to eat a lot to gain muscle mass. Although building muscle mass is difficult, ectomorphs have the advantage of having a naturally low fat percentage.
To build muscle mass, ectomorphs need to eat a relatively high amount of carbohydrates. Depending on your goal, about 40-60% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
If you are more focused on building muscle mass you can go a little higher in your carbs. If you are more focused on lowering your fat percentage, it is wise to eat a little less carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates: 40-60%
- Proteins: 25-35%
- Fats: 15-25%
Macronutrients Mesomorphic Body Type
- Little excess fat
- Average metabolism
The body type is the most suitable body for fitness. The mesomorphic body type is naturally athletic and can build muscle mass or lose fat relatively easily.
Mesomorphs have an average tolerance for carbohydrates. About 30-50% of total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Again, this is true: more carbs for muscle mass, less carbs for fat loss.
- Carbohydrates: 30-50%
- Proteins: 25-35%
- Fats: 25-35%
Macronutrients Endomorphic Body Types
- Arrives quickly
- High fat percentage
- Slow metabolism
Endomorfs can build muscle mass relatively quickly, but because of their slow metabolism have a lot of trouble lowering their fat percentage.
Endomorfs are very sensitive to carbohydrates. Depending on your goal, your daily calories from carbs should be somewhere between 10-40%. For building muscle mass you can go high (40%), for lowering your fat percentage you can go a little lower (10-20%).
- Carbohydrates: 20-40%
- Proteins: 30-40%
- Fats: 30-40%
Calculate calories based on body weight
You can also calculate your macros by assuming your body weight. To see how much protein, carbohydrates and fats you need, you’ll first need to calculate your calorie needs! In this blog article, we’ll conveniently explain how to do that. For the rest of our explanation, we’ll work with an example case, to keep it clear.
So we introduce you to John Doe, who weighs 80 pounds and wants to build muscle mass. John Doe therefore plans to eat 3000 calories daily. Replace those figures with your own to calculate your ratio of macronutrients.
Calculating your macronutrients is done in three steps:
- How much protein do you need? For strength athletes, that’s about 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, so John Doe eats 144 grams of protein per day. Those who exercise less actively can also go for 1 to 1.5 grams.
- How much fat do you need? The rule of thumb here is about 1 gram per kilogram of body weight. So John Doe eats about 80 grams of fats per day.
- How many carbohydrates can you eat then? John Doe eats 144 x 4 = 576 calories of protein, and 80 x 9 = 720 calories of fat. Since he wants to eat a total of 3000 calories, he has 1704 calories left for carbohydrates. So that’s 1704 / 4 = 426 grams of carbohydrates per day.
When you eat fewer calories in total, you will also have fewer carbohydrates ‘left over’. A diet that helps you lose weight is therefore often comparatively lower in carbohydrates!
Crucial to the ratio of macronutrients is the total number of calories you eat. Even the perfect ratio of nutrients is ineffective if you are structurally over or under consuming calories. Based on your goals, try to create a surplus or deficit somewhere between 300-500 calories using the above ratios as guidelines.
Whether you want to start counting calories constantly is entirely up to you. If you don’t feel like keeping track of what you eat all the time, it is at least wise to do it for a few weeks. This will give you a good insight into your diet and how much you actually eat.