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Properly Fueling Your Workouts Part II: MacroNutrients

Properly Fueling Your Workouts: Part Two - Macronutrient Goals

By: Samantha McCarthy MS, RD/LDN

Macros...itís a new and trending word in the health world. Macronutrients have long been an important part of any athleteís training routine, but they are now becoming more popular with the everyday gym-goer. Macronutrients are the 3 main nutrients that provide our bodies with calories (AKA: energy); protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Each nutrient has many important and different functions in our bodies that help keep us alive and support our workouts. But, they are not equal. We need more of some nutrients than the other, especially if we are active.

Carbohydrates are the first macronutrient we will discuss. Carbs are the preferred fuel source for our exercising bodies. They provide 4 calories per gram, so if a food has 10 grams of carbohydrates, it provides 40 calories. As with all of our macronutrients, there are good and bad sources of carbs. Take a look at the table at the end for examples. For the active individual who works out 3-6 times per week for about an hour at moderate intensity, aim to get 40% of total calories from carbs. If you consume a 2000 calorie diet (refer to last weekís tip to calculate your calorie needs), then 800 calories should come from carbs, or about 200 grams.

Protein is the next nutrient and it is a bit more unique. Unlike fat and carbs, protein is not loved for its energy content. It is actually very inefficient for our bodies to use protein as energy, but donít assume you donít need it. Proteins have many, many essential functions in the body. For the active individual, the most important functions of protein are to build and contract muscles and transport nutrients. Without adequate protein, our bodies would feel weak and lacking in energy to perform exercise. Protein provides 4 calories per gram, like carbs. The goal is to get at least 30% of total calories from protein. Example: if you consume a 2000-calorie meal plan, 600 calories should come protein or about 150 grams.

Last is fat. Fat is another excellent source of fuel for our bodies. It provides the most fuel out of all the macronutrients: 9 calories per gram. If you do the math, you can guess that our goal is to consume about 30% of total calories from fat. For a 2000-calorie meal plan, about 600 calories should be from fat or about 67 grams.

Follow the chart below to help you choose the healthiest protein, fat, and carbohydrate source:




  • Whole Grains: oatmeal, brown rice, farro, freekeh, quinoa, barley, etc.

  • Breads: 100% whole grain

  • Whole Grain Crackers

  • Fruits

  • Dairy Products: lactose

  • Beans and legumes

  • Whole Grain Cereals

  • Sugar and sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, brown sugar, etc.

  • Juice, Soda, and other sweetened beverage

  • White breads, pastas, rice

  • Crackers and cereal made with white/processed flour

  • Desserts, candy, sweets


  • Beans and legumes

  • Nuts, seeds, and their butters

  • Lean meat: chicken, turkey, pork loin

  • Soy products: tofu, soymilk, edamame

  • Reduced-fat dairy

  • Eggs

  • Seafood

  • Burgers

  • Sausage

  • Bacon

  • Hot dogs

  • Salami

  • Most deli meats

  • High fat red meats


Unsaturated Fats:

  • Nuts

  • Nut Butters

  • Vegetable Oils

  • Avocado

  • Olives

  • Flaxseed, Chia Seeds, and other seeds

  • Fatty fish like salmon

Saturated and Trans Fats:

  • Fried Foods

  • Butter

  • Full Fat dairy: cream, whole milk, cheese, etc.

  • Mayonnaise

  • Processed Meats: bacon, sausage, hot dogs, burgers, etc.

  • Fatty Red Meats: prime rib

  • Creamy and/or cheese sauces


The next two weeks will discuss pre-and post workout nutrition along with proper hydration!

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