Beginner's Guide to Macronutrients

“Macronutrient” seems like one big, fancy word – but it’s actually a lot easier than it sounds. In fact, you most likely have already consumed it today. Keep reading for a guide to macronutrients.

The 3 main types of macronutrients (or “macros” as they are often referred to) are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats… but what are they? And why are each important?

To help breakdown why these nutrients play a vital role in our overall health, our very own Wellbeats instructor Dr. Kim joins us in our latest “Wellbeats Weekly” YouTube video series. In this video, Dr. Kim shares her insight and years of experience in the health and wellness industry to help articulate the basics and importance of macronutrients:

Written By: Dr. Kim Waters, Wellbeats Instructor

Hi, I’m Kim! I’m excited to share with you a beginner’s guide to macronutrients so you have a better understanding of how they fit into healthy eating.

There are 3 main categories of macronutrients that are essential for us to consume – carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  Let’s break these down so you understand why they are important and some healthy food examples of each.


Carbohydrates or “carbs” are often misunderstood and sometimes even get a bad rap when it comes to healthy eating, so it’s important to understand their role and which ones to choose and which ones to limit.

Think of carbs as fuel for your body – this is the primary source of energy for your brain, central nervous system, and muscles. They also spare protein so it can do its’ job. Kind of important, right?

There are 2 main types of carbohydrates – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down in the digestive system quickly to create a spike in blood sugar or glucose, the carbohydrate in our blood stream that our body uses for fuel. Some examples are fruits (which can be high in fiber) and dairy; along with unhealthy options like cookies and sweetened drinks. We want most of the carbohydrates we consume to be complex carbs. These take longer for the body to break down so our blood sugar (glucose) stays more stable – that leads to better energy and fewer cravings. They also tend to have higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Examples are whole grain pasta, rice, vegetables and beans. Overall, we should aim for carbohydrates to make up 45-65% of our total calories.


Protein provides the building blocks of our muscles and hormones and helps also build bone, repair tissues, and is a secondary source of energy if we don’t consume enough carbohydrates. Protein is also great to pair with carbohydrate to slow the digestion and therefore keep our blood sugar more stable.

Some examples of foods high in protein are meat sources like: chicken, tuna, pork, or non-meat sources like eggs, beans, and Greek yogurt.  We should aim for between 10-35% of daily calories from protein, depending on our individual activity and needs.


Fat is another often misunderstood macronutrient. Dietary fat provides many essential roles including: acting as an energy reserve source, protecting our organs, it is a great source of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) and helps transport them in the body, it helps regulate our hormones, and is great for our hair, nails and skin! It also helps us feel full and satisfied.

Great sources of healthy fats are avocados, nuts, and olive oil.  We want to have lower amounts of saturated fats found in butter, cheese, and meat, as these tend to raise our cholesterol levels. Aim for fat to comprise 20-35% of your total calories, depending on your needs.

There you have it – a beginner’s guide to macronutrients. Until next time, Wellbeats fans. Stay strong and eat well!

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