People need both macros and micros in their diet, but what are they, and does tracking them help?
Macronutrients and micronutrients are types of nutrients in food. Some people call them “macros” and “micros,” respectively.
Nutrition professionals and government guidelines recommend that people include certain amounts of these nutrients in their diets.
This article looks at what they are, the differences between them, how much people need, and different diets that count them.
People need macronutrients in their diet in fairly large amounts. Macronutrients provide energy and help keep a person healthy. They are present in:
- carbohydrates, such as grains, bread, pasta, vegetables, and fruits
- protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, and dairy
- fats, such as oils, dairy, meat, fish, nuts, avocados, and olives
Micronutrients are necessary in smaller quantities for a variety of functions in the body. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals.
People usually measure macronutrients in grams (g) and micronutrients in either milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg).
People need different amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients in order to maintain optimum health.
The sections below will discuss the ideal amounts in more detail.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 recommend that adults get the following amounts of macronutrients from the diet:
- Carbohydrates: A person needs 130 g daily. Around 45–65% of their daily calorie intake should be from carbs.
- Protein: Daily, females need 46 g and males need 56 g. Around 10–30% of their daily calorie intake should be from protein.
- Fats: Around 20–35% of a person’s daily calorie intake should be from fats.
Although it is not strictly a macronutrient, fiber is also a vital component of a healthful diet. Government guidelines recommend between 22.4 g and 33.6 g daily, depending on age and sex.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 recommend that people get the following amounts of each vitamin in their diet per day:
|Vitamin A||900 mcg||700 mcg|
|Vitamin E||15 mg||15 mg|
|Vitamin D||600 international units (IU)||600 IU|
|Vitamin C||90 mg||75 mg|
|Thiamine||1.2 mg||1.1 mg|
|Riboflavin||1.3 mg||1.1 mg|
|Niacin||16 mg||14 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||1.3 mg||1.3 mg|
|Vitamin B-12||2.4 mcg||2.4 mcg|
|Choline||550 mg||425 mg|
|Vitamin K||120 mcg||90 mcg|
|Folate||400 mcg||400 mcg|
They also recommend the following amounts of minerals:
|Mineral|| Males |
| Females |
|Calcium||1,000 mg||1,000 mg|
|Iron||8 mg||18 mg|
|Magnesium||400–420 mg||310–320 mg|
|Phosphorous||700 mg||700 mg|
|Potassium||4,700 mg||4,700 mg|
|Sodium||2,300 mg||2,300 mg|
|Zinc||11 mg||8 mg|
|Copper||900 mcg||900 mcg|
|Manganese||2.3 mg||1.8 mg|
|Selenium||55 mcg||55 mcg|
Some diets focus on the amount of macronutrients a person consumes, rather than just the calories. Advocates of such diets claim that this is an effective way for people to lose weight, reduce fat, or gain muscle.
Some popular diets that use this method include:
Each diet has its own rules regarding the quantity or percentage of macronutrients a person should eat.
People do not usually track micronutrients in these diets, so they may wish to take note of which vitamins and minerals they need according to guidelines and make sure that they are including these.
The ketogenic, or keto, diet has gained popularity in recent years. However, there is no conclusive evidence regarding whether or not this diet is beneficial for the general population.
A 2018 review indicated that this diet can lower blood glucose, which may be helpful in diabetes and for overall health. However, it may also have negative implications for cardiovascular health.
People can track their macronutrient intake using fitness and diet apps. Some popular diets provide recipes so that a person can easily make meals that stick to the diet’s macronutrient ratios.
Scientists are continuously attempting to find out how macronutrients affect a person’s health and weight.
For example, the researchers behind the DIETFITS study randomly allocated adults to either a healthful low fat diet or a healthful low carb diet.
After a year, the scientists assessed how much weight the participants had lost. The average weight loss was 5.3 kilograms (kg) for the low fat diet and 6 kg for the low carb diet.
The researchers concluded that there was no significant difference between the two diets.
The POUNDS LOST study used a computerized tracking system to test the effectiveness of four macronutrient diets for weight loss. The study followed adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 39.9 for 2 years.
The results revealed that the macronutrient composition of the prescribed calorie controlled diets did not affect weight, waist circumference, or other health outcomes among the participants.
However, those who used the tracking system more lost almost twice as much weight than those who used it less during the first 8 months of the study.
People need both macronutrients and micronutrients in their diet to stay healthy. Adjusting the amounts or ratios of macros may help a person manage their weight or muscle tone.
However, metabolism, hormones, and environmental factors can also influence these things.
Everyone is different, and each person should do their own research or speak to a registered dietitian to find out the best approach for them.
It is also worth noting that experts have linked apps that track macronutrient and food intake with eating disorders. If a person suspects that they may have an eating disorder, they should speak to a doctor.