Macros: How Can Macros Help You Reach Your Goals?

4 min read

The phrase macros is everywhere in the nutrition world, but what does it mean and how can you use them to help you hit your goals? We asked Heidi, one of our MuscleFood experts and registered Associate Nutritionist to help break it all down for us.

What are macros?

Macronutrients (macros) are nutrients that our bodies need in larger amounts for energy production and to function properly. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

The recommended ratios for the general population are to have 50% of total calories from carbohydrates, 15% from protein, and 35% from fats; although, you may want to adjust these ratios with specific fitness goals or medical conditions you may have.


Carbohydrates provide 4 kilocalories (kcal) per gram and are broken down to glucose when digested. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body and the brain, and a key fuel during exercise.

There are two main types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, such as table sugar and white bread are easier to digest and therefore release glucose more quickly, whereas complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrains and legumes take longer to digest and release glucose slowly, keeping your blood sugar steady.


Proteins provide 4 kcal per gram and are the key building blocks of the body. Protein is needed for the growth and repair of tissues, as well as for important chemical reactions in the body. P

roteins are made up of amino acids, which can be divided into two types: essential and non-essential. We need to get essential amino acids from our diet, as our bodies are unable to produce them. Some protein sources include all the essential amino acids, such as eggs, meat, quinoa, and soy, whereas other sources complete each other when eaten together, such as rice and peas.


Fats provide 9 kcal per gram and are necessary for many bodily processes and cell structure. They also help the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, and K, and provide us with essential fatty acids.

The two main types are: saturated and unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are considered the ‘bad type’ of fats, as having too much can increase your cholesterol levels, and thus increase your risk of heart disease. These come mainly from animal sources. Unsaturated fats are the ‘healthy type’ of fats, and include nuts, seeds, avocados, oily fish, olive oil, and rapeseed oil.

Adjusting macros for your goals

Depending on your fitness goals, you may want to adjust your macros accordingly.

Goal: to gain muscle

To gain more muscle, you may want to increase your lean protein intake to support muscle growth and repair.

Try having 40% from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat.

Go for complex carbohydrates including plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.

Goal: losing weight

For losing weight, you may want to make room for more protein by cutting your carbohydrates slightly, to ensure you maintain muscle mass whilst losing fat.

Try having 45% from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 25% from fat.

Go for complex carbohydrates including plenty of vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein.

Adjusting macros for medical conditions

Some medical conditions can benefit from adjusting macros, although more research is still needed to establish exact figures. Remember to always consult your GP or a dietitian, who can support and monitor your health during any dietary changes, but these are two common concerns.

Type 2 diabetes

In Type 2 Diabetes, the body produces insulin but is not responding to it as well as it should, leading to insulin resistance. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends the same amount of carbohydrates as for non-diabetics, although a recent study showed a higher rate of diabetes remission in participants on a low-carbohydrate diet after six months.

Having said that, the restrictive nature of this kind of diet led to the benefits diminishing at one year mark. The traditional Mediterranean type of diet is often recommended for Type 2 Diabetics, and this has roughly the same macronutrient ratios as the guidance for general population.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a condition affecting a woman’s hormone levels, with symptoms including irregular periods, weight gain, and excess body hair. Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant and may benefit from a Low Glycaemic Index Diet to manage weight and blood sugar. Some have found a small decrease in carbohydrate intake also beneficial.

Try having less than 40% from carbohydrates, approx. 20% from protein, and approx. 40% from fat.


There is no need to cut off any food groups to reach your fitness goals but tweaking your macronutrients can support you along the way.