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What are (essential) Macronutrients?

Macronutrients (short: macros) are defined in nutritional science as essential nutrients that are used by the body to generate energy.


Together with micronutrients, they are the basic building blocks of human nutrition. Macronutrients include:

While literature agrees on these three above, there are three other nutrients that are sometimes listed as macronutrients as well:

  • alcohol (29 kJ / 7 kcal / 1 g)

  • fibers (average 8 kJ / 2 kcal / 1 g)

  • water (0 kJ / 0 kcal / 1 g)

While alcohol provides a large amount of energy despite its harmful effects (hence the famous beer belly), unlike the other macronutrients, water does not provide energy.


Macronutrients form the foundation of all metabolic processes in the human body.


Carbohydrates differ from proteins and fats in that they are considered non-essential. Not essential means that the body can produce carbohydrates itself (the process is called gluconeogenesis), which is not possible with fats and proteins. Alternatively, he can also fall back on the so-called ketones or ketone bodies, a breakdown product of fat metabolism. ​


This happens, for example, with a ketogenic diet (also known as a low-carb diet) but also in the case of type 1 diabetes if there is not enough insulin.

The optimal amount of energy intake and distribution of macronutrients depends on various factors such as age, gender, activity level (PAL value), living conditions (e.g. pregnancy) and deseases (e.g. diabetes).

In case the whole topic is too complex or time-consuming for you, the mealy app offers an easy way to perfectly adapt and organize your meal plan to individual needs and preferences with just a few clicks.

Sources & Further Reading

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