Macros & Micros: What's the Difference?

11/16/2021 | 10 min. read

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Healthy Directions Staff Editor

Evaluating and potentially changing up the diet is one of the essential components of focusing on better health. As the saying goes, you can’t out-exercise an unhealthy diet.

What you choose to put in your body becomes who you are on a biological level. While many factors go into a healthy diet, understanding macros vs. micros and how they can impact your overall health and wellness is a great place to start.

If you are ready to make a change, Healthy Directions is here for you with all of the clinically backed information that you need to better your health and wellness. We’ll help you evaluate your diet so that you can make the necessary adjustments to get you where you want to be.

What Are Macros?

Macros, short for macronutrients, are the big categories you are likely already familiar with — carbohydrates, proteins (amino acids), and fats (lipids). In fact, the name macro comes from a Greek word that means large.

When we talk about macros, we talk about them in grams (g) — specifically, focusing on the conversion between grams and calories. For instance, carbs (pasta, bread, and fruit) and protein (eggs, fish, and tofu) generally provide four calories per gram. Fats (oils, nuts) are higher, at nine calories per gram.

Macronutrients are responsible for providing your body with the energy it needs to function. Remember, functioning is more than just allowing the body to walk around. It is also the ability to power the internal body structures and processes necessary for everything we do (conscious and unconscious).

Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source, but it can pivot to fats or proteins when carbs aren’t available. Learning how to use that to your advantage can help you change and sculpt your body the way you want it.

What Are Micros?

Micros, or micronutrients, are better known as vitamins and minerals. While they are called micro, their importance is far from small. You’ll often see micros referred to in terms of milligrams (mg) or micrograms (mcg).

There are far more micros than there are macros (34 of them, in fact). Here are just a few examples of the more common micros:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B (B-6, B-9, B-12)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc

Micronutrients are just as essential to the human diet but in more subtle ways. A deficiency in any of the vitamins or minerals in this category can lead to significant health issues, especially if they persist long-term.

For instance, iron deficiency (also known as anemia) can lead to fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

Vitamin D is also linked to fatigue and bone health, and magnesium deficiency can increase your risk of developing migraine headaches. Even though the amount you need of each of these micronutrients is negligible, the impact of not getting enough of them is immense.

Macros vs. Micros in a Diet Plan

When you look at macros vs. micros in terms of your diet plan, you’ll focus on macros. That’s not to say micros aren’t important, but it would be nearly impossible to build a diet plan around micronutrients as they are very small and difficult to track.

There are a few different ways that you can focus on macros in your diet. If you are new to tracking macros, start with this overall recommendation from the USDA:

  • 45 - 65% of daily calories should come from carbohydrates
  • 20 - 35% of daily calories should come from fat
  • 10 - 35% of daily calories should come from protein

Remember that everyone has different caloric needs, known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Before you calculate how many calories you need from each macro category, you first need to figure out your BMR.

However, macro diets are also frequently called flexible diets because they do not make you count every calorie you ingest. This flexibility gives a lot of people a sense of freedom that other diets don’t provide.

Examples of Macro Diets

While that may seem like a different way of tracking calories than you’re used to, a few of the more popular diets employ a macro-based approach.

  • The Keto Diet - The keto, or ketogenic, diet is low-carb and high-fat. The goal of a keto diet is to put your body into ketosis, a metabolic state where it burns fat instead of carbs.
  • The Paleo Diet - The paleo diet focuses on foods that would have been available for our ancestors in the Paleolithic period. It involves eating fish, fruits, lean meats, vegetables, and nuts.
  • Weight Watchers - The popular weight watchers diet is also a form of a macro-based diet. While you don’t specifically focus on calorie count (the program does that for you), their calculations are based on the ratio between calories and macros.

Don’t Ignore Micros

Even though you’ll focus on macros, don’t ignore your micros. While they may not help you lose weight, they are critical to your health and well-being.

A healthy diet can often encompass the vast majority of the micronutrients that you need to keep your body healthy, but not always.

To ensure that you are giving your body what it requires to function at its best, you may want to include a multivitamin or other supportive supplement, especially if you are over the age of 65.

Another good way to help increase the likelihood of getting all of the micros you need is to eat the rainbow. This means that you should eat various colorful fruits and vegetables and steer away from beige, processed foods.

In Summary

When revamping your diet, you should always look at macros, micros, and what you can do to help your diet work for you.

Focusing on your calorie count and where those calories come from can help verify that your body is getting what it needs. After all, there is a significant difference between skinny and healthy.

With the help of the expert advice of Healthy Directions, you can reveal your best health and well-being yet.

Sources:

Macronutrients | Food and Nutrition Information Center | NAL | USDA

Micronutrient Facts | Nutrition | CDC

2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans | Health.gov

Healthy Directions Staff Editor