Macros refer to proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Counting macros can help someone make sure they are eating the right ratio of nutrients and maintain a moderate weight.

Macronutrients, or “macros,” are proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. They are essential nutrients that provide energy and help keep people healthy.

This article will discuss what macros are, how to count them, the benefits and potential risks of counting macros, and what healthy foods people can eat to meet their macronutrient goals.

a person uses an app on their phone to help them with counting macros as they sit down to eatShare on Pinterest
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The three types of macros are fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

It is necessary to combine these nutrients in a diet to maintain a person’s health and normal bodily function.

However, health experts disagree on what percentage of fat, protein, and carbohydrates people should consume.

For example, in a 2020 study, a high carb diet comprising 50% carbs was associated with an exceptionally low rate of death from diabetes. People have also used these diets to help treat diabetes and vascular disorders.

The same study also linked low fat diets, such as those where 7–15% of the diet is fat, with weight loss for those with obesity or overweight, as well as an improvement in metabolic risk factors.

Counting macros can appear overwhelming or complicated. However, there are several steps that people can follow to start counting the macros they need.

1. Calculate your caloric needs

Each person’s daily calorie needs depends on several factors, including:

  • the age of the individual
  • the weight of the individual
  • a person’s sex assigned at birth
  • how active an individual is

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases have a free-to-use body weight planner that automatically calculates the number of calories a person needs.

2. Decide on macronutrient percentages

After determining how many calories they require per day, people may wish to tailor their diets to include the correct amount of macronutrients.

A 2020 study suggests that typical macronutrient percentages are as follows:

  • 10–30% as protein
  • 25–35% as fat
  • 45–65% as carbohydrates

This means that if a person requires 2,000 calories per day, their diet should include:

  • 200–600 calories from protein
  • 500–700 calories from fat
  • 900–1,300 calories from carbohydrates

A person may find that certain ratios of macronutrients are more beneficial than others, depending on their caloric needs, body composition goals, and any health conditions they may have.

For example, someone eating to build muscle mass will want to ensure they achieve a calorie surplus, with a significant percentage of calories from protein and carbohydrates.

In contrast, an individual following the keto diet and aiming to lose weight will want to achieve a different macronutrient ratio, getting most of their calories from fat and very few from carbohydrates, while creating a calorie deficit.

3. Track macronutrients

People may find that tracking the number of macronutrients in their diet is helpful.

There are several ways to track these values. Some people may prefer to use a food diary, where they note which foods they consume and their macronutrient values.

Other people may find prefer to use apps that automatically track these values.

Learn about the best apps to track your calorie intake and macros here.

There are several benefits of counting macronutrients.

Preventing health conditions

Some studies state that tracking macronutrients may help prevent certain conditions.

For example, there is some evidence that middle-aged adults consuming 6% of their daily calories as protein, and increasing this amount to 17% as they grow older, may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, high carb diets may help treat and protect against diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

People may also wish to consult with a healthcare provider for dietary guidance if they have diabetes or vascular or cardiovascular conditions.

Maintaining a moderate weight and reaching fitness goals

Counting macronutrients may help people maintain a moderate weight.

There is evidence that following a starch-based carbohydrate diet of 7–15% fat can reduce body fat percentage and reduce the likelihood of health complications from obesity in the short term.

A 2017 study notes that people may be more likely to maintain a moderate weight if they track the amount of food and nutrients they consume over a longer period.

Additionally, counting macronutrients may help people reach their fitness goals.

Another 2017 review suggests that diets high in protein, such as those that involve consuming 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, help maintain muscle mass during resistance training.

There are several foods that are healthy sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.


Sources of high-quality protein include:

  • fish, such as tuna and salmon
  • poultry, such as turkey and chicken breast
  • dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • beans and legumes
  • nuts and seeds
  • tofu and soy products

Healthy fats

Sources of healthy fats include:

  • olive or avocado oil
  • avocados
  • olives
  • nuts, such as walnuts, macadamias, and brazil nuts
  • peanut butter
  • seeds, such as sunflower, sesame, chia, flax, and pumpkin


Healthy sources of carbohydrates include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • whole grains, such as brown rice
  • quinoa
  • whole grain bread
  • whole wheat pasta
  • potatoes

While some people may benefit from macro counting, including those who wish to maintain a moderate body weight, others may not find it suitable.

Counting macronutrients and calories may not be suitable for those who have a history of disordered eating.

A 2017 study found that young adults with a history of disordered eating and use of calorie and nutrient trackers are more likely to experience further disordered eating.

There is also evidence that young adults who do not have a history of disordered eating may be more likely to begin disordered eating patterns when they count calories and nutrients.

It is important to maintain healthy eating habits while tracking calories and nutrients.

If a person believes they may be experiencing disordered eating patterns, they can seek support from a healthcare professional.

Macronutrients are essential nutrients, which provide energy to the body and help keep people healthy.

A person can start counting macronutrients by researching their calorie needs and including percentages of their calories as protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Diets that follow specific macronutrient percentages may help with:

  • preventing or treating certain conditions
  • achieving and maintaining a moderate body weight
  • hitting fitness goals

However, counting macros may not be beneficial for people who have a history of disordered eating. Counting calories and nutrients may lead these people to overcontrol their food intake in a way that affects their ability to spend time with friends and family.