Micros and macros – what’s the difference, and what exactly ARE they? Are some calories more ‘valuable’ than others? I’ve done a lot of digging on the subject and have put all the info together to ensure your food gives you the energy you need!

It’s hard to miss the current protein hype. Every second product in the supermarket reads ‘added protein’, and the quark shelf will soon take over the entire dairy section. There’s protein bread, protein porridge and – hold on to your hats – protein ice cream and protein sweets (!). We stuff ourselves with protein left and right, often forgetting that protein is just ONE of our three main sources of energy.

Carbohydrates and fats have also had their heyday – especially in the context of LCHF diets – which stands for low-carb, high-fat. But there have also been periods when it was all about ‘low-fat products’, and fat was something to be avoided. And I’m sure everyone remembers the old advice of ‘6-8 slices of bread a day’, right? There was certainly no carb phobia then …

Often, one energy source is singled out as better than the others. ‘More protein’ – but how much more? And does fat make you fat? Or was it carbs we were supposed to avoid? There’s so much confusion! So let’s tackle our ‘Macros’ – carbohydrates, protein and fat.

The word macros is a shortening for macronutrients, which consist of our three primary sources of energy: carbohydrates, fat and protein. As you know, food is our body’s fuel and all the food we eat gives our body energy in the form of calories. The amount of calories in every food is determined entirely by the amount of carbohydrates, fat and protein it contains.

This is how many calories each macro provides:

  • 1 g fat = 9 calories
  • 1 g protein = 4 calories
  • 1 g carbohydrates = 4 calories

100 g of salmon contains 12 g fat, 18 g protein and 0 g carbohydrates. By using these figures, we can easily calculate how many calories are in the salmon.

12 g fat x 9 kcal = 108 kcal
18 g protein x 4 kcal = 72 kcal
0 g carbohydrates x 4 kcal = 0 kcal

Total: 180 calories per 100 g salmon.

Fat, protein and carbohydrates all have vital functions in our bodies. I’ll say it again: VITAL – that means of course that it’s important to ensure you get enough of each one. The amount of each energy source you need to eat varies a little from person to person, but a good starting point is to distribute the energy sources evenly and eat about the same amount of each. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you may need more carbohydrates.

You’re probably thinking ‘That’s easy! I’ll just split my plate into three and put an equal amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat in each section!’ I agree that it sounds like it makes sense – but don’t forget that fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates do. This means that if you’re aiming to have an equal percentage of each source, the fat on your plate needs to be about half as much as the protein and carbohydrate sources to work.

We often read ‘Eat more protein’, ‘Eat less carbohydrates’, ‘Cut down on fat’ … and although this advice is a bit too drastic, it is based on the fact that we generally eat a bit too much fat and carbohydrates, and protein falls by the wayside. You know what I’m talking about, a creamy carbonara = a typical example of a bad ratio. Loads of carbs, a lot of fat from the cheese, cream and bacon, and although these foods also contain protein, there’s not much of it to speak of as a whole. But the above advice doesn’t mean that carbohydrates are forbidden, that all fat is bad or the more protein the better. Everything has its limits, and we need all three sources, but too much or too little of any one thing results in either too much energy or too little nutrition.

A typical meal with the correct energy distribution
✅ 150 g chicken
 55 g wholegrain rice (uncooked weight)
 100 g stir-fried vegetables
 50 ml sauce made with cooking cream/coconut milk

So, doesn’t it matter WHICH foods we eat, as long as we have an even distribution of carbohydrates, protein and fat?

YES, IT DOES! This is where things can go wrong. We now agree that our macros are important and that we need all three of them to feel good, get good results from exercising and stay healthy in the long run. That means it’s time to start talking about MICROS – micronutrients, which are more commonly known as vitamins and minerals.

In addition to fat, carbohydrates and protein, the food we eat contains other nutrients that are also vital for us. The nutritional value can differ greatly between one carbohydrate source and another. Check this out:

  • 100 g of wheat flour provides 70 g of carbohydrates and about 350 kcal.
  • 100 g of rye flour provides 60 g of carbohydrates and about 350 kcal.

If you pause here, you’re probably thinking: OK, so one contains a few less carbs, but they have the same amount of calories – so there’s not much difference!

BUT if you take a look at the micronutrients you will see that there is, for example, THREE times as much iron and FIVE times as much magnesium in the rye flour as there is in wheat flour. So choosing wholegrains over the refined white sources makes a huge difference to our nutritional intake, as does choosing good sources of protein and carbohydrates.


 Lean pork and beef
 Game meat
 Chicken and turkey
 Cottage cheese
 Fish and shellfish
 Low-fat cheese (12%)




 Wheat berries
 Brown rice
 Wholegrain bread
 Potatoes and sweet potatoes
 Root vegetables (parsnips, carrots, beetroot, swede)


 Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring)
 Seeds (chia seeds, linseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
 Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)
 Nut butters (unsweetened) 
 Oils (rapeseed oil, olive oil)

What to think about:

The first priority is always to meet your energy needs with good food choices and nutritious foods. If you choose from the above foods, you get a lot of food for your calories while meeting your nutritional needs in the best way possible.

Next, make sure you have an even distribution of the different sources of energy – include foods from all these categories, preferably in each and every meal.