Macronutrients in Your Meal Plan

Macronutrients are the core essential nutrients that the human body uses in large quantities for daily function: carbohydrates, fat and protein. The body cannot produce these nutrients on it’s own and relies on food sources to obtain them. These nutrients provide the body with energy through calories, amongst various other health benefits. 

When it comes to meal planning, there are generalized daily recommended intake ranges for macros, however, a persons individual needs will vary based on their lifestyle. It’s good practice to keep these guidelines in mind in order to provide your body with the proper amounts of useable, stored and restorative energy (there’s no need to stress and break down every single ingredient to get an exact macro count), nor is it necessary to ensure an exact distribution of macronutrients everyday. There may be days you eat extra carbs and less protein and vice versa – and that’s okay! 

*The recommended distribution is ideal for the average active individual. Increased protein distribution would be suggested for athletes. 

Caloric Values of Macronutrients Explained

Each gram of a macronutrient contains calories:

  • Carbs: 4 kcal /g
  • Fat: 9 kcal /g
  • Protein: 4 kcal /g

When it comes to meal planning and counting macros, it’s important to know these values for 2 main reasons: 

1.  Knowing the caloric value of each macronutrient allows you to determine the % of your daily calories a food item meets in the form of macros. For example:

Of the total calories in 1 cup of lentils:

  • 160 kcals are from carbohydrates (40g x 4 kcal)
  • 7.2 kcals are from fat (0.8g x 9 kcal)
  • 72 kcals are from protein (18g x 4 kcal)

For a person with a daily caloric intake of 2,000 kcal, this would mean 1 cup of lentils provides:

  • 12.5% of daily kcal intake from carbs
  • <1% of daily kcal intake from fat
  • 4% of daily kcal intake from protein

2. Knowing the caloric values of macronutrients also help you determine how many grams of each macronutrient your body needs (you will need to know your appropriate daily caloric intake for this). For example:

For a daily caloric intake of 2,000 kcal:

Carbs = 4 kcal /g

65% = 1300 kcal

1300 kcal = 325g
(1300 kcal /4 kcal)

65% = 325g

Fat = 9 kcal /g

20% = 400 kcal

400 kcal = 44g
(400 kcal /9 kcal)

20% = 44g

Protein = 4 kcal /g

15% = 300 kcal

300 kcal = 75g
(300 kcal /4 kcal)

15% = 75g

Tips for Incorporating Macros Into Meal Planning Easily & Effectively

  • Start with the minimum daily requirements (in grams) of carbs (130g) and protein (46g women; 56g men) 
  • Determine the amount of macronutrients (in grams) your body needs (you will need to know your appropriate daily caloric intake for this) 
  • Aim to include fibre dense carbohydrates in your plan (atleast 25g /day for women; 38g /day for men) – see more below) 
  • Consider consuming carb dense foods earlier in the day (when active and needing energy and fuel to burn), and consuming fat dense foods later in the day (to best store energy and avoid feeling sluggish) 

The Macronutrients and What They're Good For


Your body's primary source for energy

Carbs are converted into useable energy. There are, however, 2 carbohydrate groups to be aware of:

  • Simple carbohydrates: Primarily sourced from sugars. These carbs convert into energy fast & are burned through fast
  • Complex carbohydrates: Primarily sourced from starch & fibre. These carbs convert into energy slower & are burned through slower. Fibre also promotes healthy digestion.

So which carbohydrate type is better for you? Complex carbs rightfully have a better reputation since the food sources they’re found in often provide additional vitamins and minerals, whereas simple carbs typically solely provide sugars (and too much sugar is unhealthy). The truth is, however, they both serve a purpose and both are important! Simple carbs are a great way to instantly fuel your body to get you going. Complex, on the other hand, are best for maintaining energy and feeling full.  The best approach is to mix complex and simple carbs into snacks & meals to gain the benefits of both. I also aim to consume carbs earlier in the day when my body  is burning energy and fuel (and looking for more!)

Simple Carbs

  • White, brown & raw sugars
  • Maple, corn & birch syrups
  • Honey

Complex Carbs

  • Fruits
  • Veggies
  • Grains (brown rice & pastas)
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes & lentils


25 g /day (women) - 38g /day (men)

Fibre is more or less a type of complex carb that the body cannot break down nor digest like the others. Unlike most other forms of carbohydrates that break down into sugars for your body to use as energy, fibre helps maintain healthy bowel function and movement.

Consuming enough fibre is always important, but you may find eating enough fibre helps alleviate bowel issues when exploring outdoors (many people find their bowel movements irregular due to the sudden changes in their diet, environment and routine on trips)

In addition to alleviating constipation, reducing bowel discomfort and risks of bowel diseases, fibre:

  • Helps you feel full, promoting healthy body weight
  • Reduces the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes

Fibre Food Source Examples

Seeds & Grains

  • Corn bran (11g per tbsp)
  • Chia Seeds (6g per tbsp)
  • Oat & Wheat bran (6g per tbsp)
  • Flaxseed (4g per tbsp)
  • Bulgur (6g per cup)
  • Brown pasta (6g per cup)
  • Barley (6g per cup)


  • Navy beans (19g per cup)
  • White beans (19g per cup)
  • Black turtle beans (17g per cup)
  • Kidney Beans (16g per cup)
  • Lentils (16g per cup)
  • Black beans (15g per cup)
  • Mung beans (15g per cup)


  • Elderberries (10g per cup)
  • Avocados (10g per fruit)
  • Acorn Squash (9g per cup)
  • Raspberries (8g per cup)
  • Blackberries (8g per cup)
  • Dried figs (8g per 1/2 cup)
  • Dried prunes (6g per 1/2 cup)
  • Pears (6g per fruit)


  • Green Peas (16g per cup)
  • Brussel Sprouts (6g per cup)
  • Broccoli (5g per cup)
  • Potato (4g per medium potato)
  • Cabbage (4g per cup)
  • Spinach (4g per cup)
  • Dandelion Root (3g per cup)
  • Asparagus (3g per cup)


Your body's tool for storing energy and transporting vitamins and minerals around the body

Fats tend to get a bad rap but are actually super important and vital for your body. Consuming healthy fats provide fuel for muscles, helps insulate the body and protects your organs. Fats are also needed to help transport and absorb vitamins and minerals around the body. There are also essential fatty acids that your body needs for several functions. 

From an energy standpoint, fat metabolizes slowly, meaning it isn’t overly effective for quick energy intake and outtake, but it does build energy reserves.


Saturated Fats

Saturated fats are primarily found in meats (such as beef, poultry, fish, pork) and animal based products (such as butter, cheese, lard & cream)

Some non-animal based saturated fats include:

  • Coconut & coconut oil 
  • Palm oil

These fats are often easy to identify because they typically solidify at room temperature.  

An important thing to note is that excess consumption of saturated fats does pose a risk of high cholesterol, heart disease and clogging arteries. That being said, the food they are found in are still important to eat as they provide high sources of protein and various other vitamins & minerals, such as B12. It is simply suggested to be mindful of intakes.


Unsaturated fats are primarily found in nut and vegetable based foods, oils & products such as:

  • Avocados & avocado oil
  • Olives & olive oil
  • Nuts, seeds & oils
  • Grapeseed oil 

These fats are typically liquid at room temperature and do not contribute to high levels of cholesterol and heart disease like saturated fats do. That being said, you still want to be mindful of how much fat you consume, especially monounsaturated (oils).

Trans Unsaturated Fatty Acids (aka Trans Fats)

These are the fats the rightfully deserve a bad rap and should be avoided.  They increase your levels of bad cholesterol, which can cause various heart diseases. Trans fats are primarily found in processed foods such as commercially baked and fried foods, shortening, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza & doughs, and non-dairy coffee creamer. 

Trans fats are used in making these foods since it provides food with texture and flavour, but is also cheap to produce, can be reused (such as in deep fryers) and has an extended shelf life. Although added artificial trans fats were to be banned in Canada as of 2020 (who knows where this stands), keep an eye out for trans fats in your foods. Some saturated fat sources naturally contain trace amounts of trans fats; ideally you want to keep your daily intake under 1% worth of your daily caloric intake (approx 2.2g per 2000kcal diet)

Essential Fatty Acids

The body needs certain fatty acids, such a Omega-3 and Omega-6 for functions such as muscle relaxation and contraction, blood lipid regulation, immunity response to injury and infection, as well as healthy growth and vision.  Your body cannot produce these essential fatty acids on it’s own, but can be easily added to your diet through various sources (you don’t need much!)


Women should aim for 1.1g /day; Men should aim for 1.6g /day

  • Chia Seeds (2.5g /tbsp)
  • Ground flaxseed (1.8g / tbsp)
  • Hemp Seeds (0.8g /tbsp)
  • Walnuts (2.5g /oz)
  • Salmon (1.8g /6 oz)
  • Lake trout (1.6g /6oz)


Women should aim for 12g /day; Men should aim for 17g /day

  • Walnuts (10.8g /oz)
  • Sunflower seeds (10.8g /oz)
  • Avocado (3.4g /fruit)
  • Hemp Seeds (3g /tbsp)
  • Almonds (3.5g /oz)
  • Eggs (1.8g /large egg)
  • Poultry (2g /6oz skinless; 3g /6oz with skin)
  • Peanut butter (2g /tbsp)
  • Safflower oil (1.8g /tbsp)
  • Avocado oil (1.8g /tbsp)


Your body's primary source for building & repairing muscles

Protein is responsible for:

  • Building & repairing muscles
  • Providing antibodies
  • Repairing injuries
  • Absorbing essential amino acids 
  • Helping circulate oxygen

Although there are general daily minimal intakes for protein, a more accurate intake suggestion is 0.8g per kg of body weight (for adults)

Food Source Examples

Meat Based

  • Chicken breast (31g /3.5 oz)
  • Turkey breast (28g /3.5 oz)
  • Lean beef (26g /3.5 oz)
  • Salmon (20g /3.5 oz)
  • Halibut (22g /3.5 oz)
  • Trout (20g /3.5 oz)
  • Eggs (6g /large egg)


  • Chickpeas (19g /cup)
  • Lentils (18g /cup)
  • Black beans (15g /cup)
  • Lima beans (15g /cup)
  • Tofu (8g /100g)
  • Green peas (9g /cup)
  • Cheddar Cheese (7g /1 oz slice)
Share this post:

Leave a comment or question:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Foodie Behind the Screen

Hi there! I'm Bri.
I create and share nutritious and flavourful recipes for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

Top Related Posts: