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What are Macros: Your Personalized Plate to Metabolic Health

what are macros

Understanding Your Macros for Weight Loss

What is the key to long-term weight loss? It is maintaining a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you take in) in a sustainable way that leads to improvements in health and well-being.

This means mainly losing fat mass without losing much muscle mass. It also means preserving your resting metabolic rate, improving your metabolic health, and eating in a way you enjoy and can sustain long-term.

Diets, in general, are forged around the idea that you are doing something wrong with your food choices and intake and try to correct it. While not all diets are bad, they focus on weight, not necessarily health.

Scientific research has transformed our understanding of weight management, shedding light on the profound role of macronutrients, also referred to as 'macros', in the journey of weight loss.

Comprehending the impact of macros on our body can empower us to manage our weight more effectively. To gain insight into your metabolic health, take our quiz.

calculating macroscalculating macros

After assessing your metabolism, you’ll have a better idea of the personalized macro ratio you require, and when you should eat them, so you can reach metabolic flexibility. 

Let's explore the connection between macros and metabolism and look at effective tips and strategies to optimize your weight loss journey.

Understanding Metabolism

Delving deeper into the world of macros, one can appreciate the intimate connection between macronutrients and our metabolism.

Metabolism converts food sources into energy that is responsible for various bodily functions, including digestion. 

Each macronutrient we consume interacts differently with our metabolic processes, influencing how our body uses energy, builds and repairs tissues, and performs numerous other vital functions.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss but now that you understand the function your metabolism plays, let’s look at how it functions in conjunction, and discuss how you can reach a balanced diet of them.

What are Macronutrients 

Macronutrients, which include proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, are nutrients our body requires in substantial quantities for optimal functioning. Each of these macronutrients plays a crucial role in various bodily functions, impacting our metabolic health and overall wellbeing.

When it comes to weight loss, the intake of these macros can significantly affect our body composition and metabolic responses. Prolonged and unsuitable intake of macros can disrupt our metabolic balance, potentially leading to weight gain and increased risk of metabolic disorders. 

A research study by Sacks et al. (3) concluded that successful weight loss diets included a variety of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and were also found to be beneficial in limiting cardiovascular disease and diabetes, ultimately promoting long-term health

Connecting the dots between macros and metabolism

Each macronutrient we consume interacts differently with our metabolic processes, influencing how our body uses energy, builds and repairs tissues, and performs numerous other vital functions.

Research has increasingly emphasized the importance of not only the quantity but also the quality of the macros consumed. Each macronutrient plays a unique role in our body.

Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats each go through unique metabolic pathways, resulting in varied energy outputs. This concept is represented by the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the energy required to digest, absorb, and process nutrients.

By fine-tuning our diet to suit our macro needs, we can enhance the interactions between our dietary intake and metabolism, paving the way for more effective weight management.

So, what can scientific research teach us about macros, which foods fall into which macro, and their role in metabolic health and weight loss? Let's delve deeper.

what are macros in food


Protei​​ns are the building blocks of your body, crucial for muscle growth and repair, enzyme and hormone production, and various other bodily functions. They are made up of smaller units called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, nine of which are considered 'essential' because they can't be produced by the body and must be obtained from the diet.

macro diet

Proteins have the highest TEF, with approximately 20-30% of the energy derived from protein being used in its own digestion and processing. In other words, your body burns a significant portion of the calories obtained from protein just to metabolize it. This is one of the reasons why high-protein diets are often recommended for weight loss; they increase satiety and total energy expenditure.

A research study conducted by Stepaniak et al. (4) found that "dietary protein intake stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which leads to improved muscle mass, strength, and function over time."

Proteins come in two types: plant-based and animal-based. 

Foods high in protein include: 

  • Meat: chicken, beef, pork, lamb
  • Fish: salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines
  • Eggs: particularly the whites, which are almost pure protein
  • Dairy: milk, cheese, yogurt
  • Plant-based: lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds

Carbohydrates (carbs) 

Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. They're broken down into glucose, which can be used immediately for energy or stored in the muscles and liver for later use. There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars (simple carbohydrates), starches, and fiber.

Be mindful of your carb intake and the quality of the carbs you eat. Each type has its own physiological effect on your body. 

Complex carbs, found in foods like vegetables, beans or whole grains, are better for someone trying to lose weight as they are composed of longer, more complex sugar molecules, meaning your body takes a longer time to break them down. This leaves you feeling fuller for longer

tracking macros

Simple carbs, found in fruits, sugars, and syrups, on the other hand, are broken down quickly by the body for immediate use. That quick breakdown of the simple carbohydrates explains why when we consume a candy bar, we sometimes get a “sugar rush.”

Foods high in carbohydrates include:

  • Grains: rice, wheat, oats, barley, quinoa
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, oranges, pears
  • Vegetables: potatoes, corn, peas
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas, beans
  • Dairy: milk, yogurt
  • Sugary foods: cakes, cookies, candies, soft drinks (these are high in simple sugars and should be limited for a balanced diet)


Fats are the most energy-dense macronutrient, providing 9 calories per gram (compared to 4 calories per gram from proteins and carbs). They play a key role in hormone production, nutrient absorption, and maintaining cell membrane integrity. Fats also help your body store vitamins and take part in building hormones such as cholesterol, testosterone, and estrogen. 

When you consume high-quality fats, such as those found in nuts, avocados, olives, and fish, your body is better able to store the nutrients you consume from your other macros. Just like there are different types of carbs, there are also different types of fats.

macronutrients examples

Foods high in healthy fats include:

  • Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, canola oil, avocado oil
  • Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds
  • Avocados
  • Cheese

The four major types are saturated fat, trans fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. The healthiest types of fats are monounsaturated (like in avocados) and polyunsaturated (like in fish). Saturated fats, mostly found in animal products, can be unhealthy for the heart if over-consumed.

The least healthy, trans fats, often exist as chemically-altered vegetable oils, known as partially hydrogenated oils. Snack and fast foods are typically rich in these harmful trans fats.

A balanced diet of macros should space out the carbs, proteins, and fats throughout the day. Similarly, proper timing of carb intake can make a huge difference in your health transformation.

Counting Your Macros

Tracking and calculating your macros is important for your metabolic health. Counting or calculating your macros is not as difficult as it sounds because with the help of easy food loggers, you can easily track the grams suited for your body. 

Although there are many ways to calculate your macros, using a personalized nutritional app, like Lumen, is easy and convenient. Using an app that does all the heavy lifting for you will help eliminate unnecessary guesswork and confusion based on your unique metabolic breath measurements. 

Self-validation and tracking your progress are the building blocks in your path to weight loss. Remember to track your progress and make adjustments based on your health conditions and dietary preferences. 

Tips for Optimizing Your Metabolism

We’ve discussed the importance of macros and metabolic health in regard to weight loss. But let’s look at ways we can work on improving your metabolism. Our Lumen experts have compiled a list of effective tips and strategies to help you optimize your metabolism for weight loss: 

  • Get your body moving: workout and incorporate strength training exercises like weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, or resistance band workouts into your routine to help boost your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so building lean muscle mass through strength training can help increase your metabolism.

  • Bottoms up with water: Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important for your health, specifically for your metabolism. It can help boost your metabolism and flush out toxins. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, or more if you're exercising or are in a hot climate.

  • Pile on the protein: Eating enough protein can help you maintain or increase your lean muscle mass, which in turn can help boost your metabolism. Consider incorporating protein-rich snacks like nuts, seeds, or Greek yogurt.

  • Avoid Skipping Meals: Skipping meals can trigger hunger cues and lead to an increased macro intake, resulting in weight gain. Try to eat 3-4 meals per day, and consider adding healthy snacks if you're feeling hungry between meals.

  • Sleep your way to health: Sleep plays a crucial role in your metabolism and overall health. Lack of sleep can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can make it harder to lose weight. Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. 

You will begin to see results when you begin incorporating small changes in your lifestyle. Boosting your metabolism does not have to be challenging or stressful; it’s simply adopting healthier daily habits.


Understanding the connection between macros and metabolism is crucial for weight loss. We have discussed how to get started by assessing your metabolic flexibility and incorporating more macros into your diet.

Remember that everyone's metabolism is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Using a personalized diet and plan that fits your specific dietary needs and health goals.

Also, don't underestimate the importance of exercise in conjunction with consuming macros for optimal results.

By following these effective strategies, you will begin to achieve your weight loss goals in a sustainable way.

Finally, track your progress, make adjustments as necessary, and don't get discouraged. You're on a journey toward long-term health.


Fogelholm M, Anderssen S, Gunnarsdottir I, Lahti-Koski M. Dietary macronutrients and food consumption as determinants of long-term weight change in adult populations: a systematic literature review. Food Nutr Res. 2012;56. doi: 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.19103. Epub 2012 Aug 13. PMID: 22893781; PMCID: PMC3418611.

Kelly OJ, Gilman JC, Ilich JZ. Utilizing Dietary Nutrient Ratios in Nutritional Research: Expanding the Concept of Nutrient Ratios to Macronutrients. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 28;11(2):282. doi: 10.3390/nu11020282. PMID: 30696021; PMCID: PMC6413020.

Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Smith SR, Ryan DH, Anton SD, McManus K, Champagne CM, Bishop LM, Laranjo N, Leboff MS, Rood JC, de Jonge L, Greenway FL, Loria CM, Obarzanek E, Williamson DA. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 26;360(9):859-73. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0804748. PMID: 19246357; PMCID: PMC2763382.

Stepaniak U, Polak M, Stefler D, Kozela M, Bobak M, Sanchez-Niubo A, Ayuso-Mateos JL, Haro JM, Pająk A. Relationship between Dietary Macronutrients Intake and the ATHLOS Healthy Ageing Scale: Results from the Polish Arm of the HAPIEE Study. Nutrients. 2022 Jun 14;14(12):2454. doi: 10.3390/nu14122454. PMID: 35745184; PMCID: PMC9229969.

Lumen Editorial Desk & Reviewed by: Marine Melamed, R.D. Nutrition at Lumen

Marine is a registered dietitian with a passion for well-being, health and metabolism. She started her career as a clinical dietitian, opened her private practice to accompany patients from various backgrounds in their health journey, and is now providing nutrition support for Lumen’s customers.