What are Macros?

PLN explains what macros are, why they are important, and how to enter them in My Fitness Pal

Published January 18, 2023

4 minute read

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The three categories of nutrients—carbohydrates, fat, and protein—that make up the majority of what we eat collectively are referred to as macronutrients. Each is essential for our bodies to function properly. Alcohol, on the other hand, contains calories (7 calories per gram), but it is not considered a macronutrient because, unlike fat, carbs, and protein, we do not require alcohol to survive. To meet all of our nutritional needs, macronutrients are supplemented by micronutrients, also known as vitamins and minerals.


It's useful to know which foods contain more of which macronutrients, whether you're using macronutrients to guide your food choices or simply trying to eat a balanced diet.

  • Fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates and low in protein.
  • Pasta, rice, cereal, bread, legumes, fruits, and vegetables are high in carbohydrates and low in fat.
  • High-fat, low-carb foods include nuts, seeds, olive oil, and cheese.
  • Avocado, olive oil, and coconut milk are high in fat and low in protein.
  • Eggs, meat, and fish are high in protein and low in carbohydrates.
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt, cottage or cream cheese, turkey or chicken breast, lean ground beef, and whey protein powder are all high-protein, low-fat options.


Focusing on macronutrients rather than calories is one way to eat healthier and/or lose weight. This eating style, also known as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), is becoming increasingly popular among MyFitnessPal users who appreciate the combination of accountability and flexibility. The main idea behind the IIFYM diet is that you can eat whatever you want and still lose or gain weight as long as you stay within your "allowed" amount of macronutrients.

You are given a gram allowance for fat, protein, and carbohydrates, but how you spend that allowance is entirely up to you. It's your choice whether to spend your carb allowance on jelly beans or oatmeal (though you'll miss out on fiber). You are also free to substitute pepperoni pizza for the salmon and brown rice. Anything goes, as long as it fits your macros.


Yet, while 100 grams of salmon and 100 grams of hot wings may have the same macronutrient profile (both are about 60% protein and 40% fat), they are hardly nutritional equivalents. Jelly beans and sweet potatoes are both about 100% carbohydrates, but, again, there’s no comparison when it comes to nutritional value. Could you lose weight eating nothing but hot wings and jelly beans — as long as they fit your macros? Probably. But most people doing IIFYM quickly discover they feel much better when they spend most of their macros on fruits, vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, legumes, whole grains, lean protein, and other wholesome foods, which tend to be more filling as well as more nutritious.

While we know a calorie isn’t just a calorie and your food quality matters, IIFYM may help those who feel jaded by choosing “healthy” food all the time. After all, nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. If you’re a healthy individual, it’s helpful to explore different options and find one that works for you — bonus points for making it a sustainable habit.


If you're new to macro tracking, MFP makes it simple by breaking it down into four simple steps:


The first step is to calculate your target calorie intake based on your current weight, age, height, gender, level of activity, and goals. To view or update your diet profile, click on “Settings” and choose “Update Diet/Fitness Profile.”


Then, decide how you're going to distribute those calories among the three macronutrients. By clicking on "Goals," where you'll see your "Daily Nutrition Goals," you can view or edit your macro distribution in your MyFitnessPal app.

MyFitnessPal automatically calculates your macronutrients to be 50% carbs, 20% protein, and 30% fat. You can modify this distribution as you see fit; the app converts percentages into grams for each macronutrient. 


MyFitnessPal will calculate how many grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein you've consumed as you enter meals and snacks into your food diary. It is critical to plan your meals for the day, or you may find yourself at dinnertime with 5 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of fat, and 60 grams of protein remaining, a combination that can result in some unusual meals!


The planning and execution of macronutrient eating become easier with time. Based on your results, you can fine-tune the exact percentages and find meals that work for you.


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