Understanding Macros & Micros: Introduction to Nutrition

Manduu For Life Session #2:


This is the first installation of our 3-part series on a wildly popular nutrition topic – Understanding Macros & Micros: Introduction to Nutrition!  

I bet you’ve all heard the term “macros” – and I would bet that you don’t know much about them, which is totally ok! Most people don’t know much because there is a general lack of knowledge surrounding all things nutrition, but have no fear – I’m going to fill you in.   

Macros, most simply defined, are the nutrients that we eat the most of. They make up most of our diet and provide us with the most energy  -PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATES, FATS 

“So, what you’re saying is that a macronutrient is kind of just another word for food?” Yup, basically. Breaking it down further, macros are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. However, it is not a “health” or “fitness” or “diet” – a specific word, and that’s how things can start getting messy. That means, grilled chicken and tofu are protein – but a McDonald’s burger patty and a NY strip can be considered protein sources as well. Potatoes and rice and bananas are carbohydrates – french fries and a bun for that McD’s burger are also seen as carbs. Avocado and raw nuts are fat, as are mayonnaise and milkshakes. See? Because there is no differentiation regarding nutrition when talking macros, it’s easy to think that you’re eating “right” when you’re getting protein, carbs, and fats in.  

Now let’s talk PROTEIN.  

Protein is a complex structure required for the full function of the body. They are made of amino acids (to quote our high school science teachers, “Amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of protein”!) and these amino acids are responsible for protein structure and make up hormones, enzymes, and blood cells. It would make sense then, that protein is imperative to building muscle as well as every other tissue – bone, organs, hair, skin, and nails. It would also make sense that… you need to consume a decent amount of it. There are many sources that support both sides of the “American Protein Consumption Debate” (my own term, thanks 😉) – but it seems like it would be safe to say that there’s an even mix of individuals who don’t get enough protein, and those who get too much.  

Common manifestations of LOW protein: increased hunger (often protein, sugar cravings), slowed metabolism, swelling/edema, muscle/joint pain, hair loss/thinning, brittle/thin/breaking nails, poor sleep, inability to maintain muscle mass, getting sick often, slower healing of injuries 

Common manifestations of TOO MUCH protein: dehydration, weight gain, constipation, bad breath, increased urination, fatigue, brain fog, and irritability. 


Ok, but how much do I need?  

More recently, daily protein recommendations have increased to a range of 1.1gm to 2.0 gm of PROTEIN per kg of body weight per day which converts to 0.5gm to 1gm of PROTEIN per POUND of body weight per day. That would mean that someone who is 180lbs and barely got movement in during their day would consume anywhere from 90gm to 180gm of protein a day. Note the huge range – this is why daily intakes are so case-sensitive! (*1 Lb = 2.2kg)
-A better way to look at this might be to break down your total calorie intake into percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
      - 30% protein, 40-45% carbohydrates, 25-30% fat is a great place to start

A good place to start is to plan your diet so that 20% – 35% of your calorie intake comes from protein. As you can see, this is quite the range and therefore needs to be modified according to age and activity level. The recommendation has always been 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The older you are, past the age of 40 or 45, sarcopenia (muscle loss) becomes a concern, and the recommendation jumps to approximately 1.2 gm/kg BW/day. Individuals who complete easy to moderate exercise regularly should try to have 1.2 to 1.4 gm/kg BW/day and the needs of individuals who exercise intensely (heavy lifting 5-6 days, marathon training) range from 1.4 – 2.2 gm/kg BW/day. Make sure that you are honest with yourself, and that you place yourself in the correct category when figuring out how much protein you should consume daily. If you do Manduu 2x/week and cardio 2x/week and are at least 50 years old, 1.4 gm/kg BW/day would be a good amount to strive for. Again, be real! If your cardio is one, slow 10-15 minute walk with the dog on the days you don’t do Manduu, 1.4 gm would probably suffice. If on the days you don’t do Manduu you’re on hour-long hikes, 30-minute fast-paced walks or you’re doing Pilates, aim for anywhere between 1.4 and 2.0 gm. 

Watch out for too much fat!

Recall earlier when we touched on the lack of differentiation between protein sources. Eating the recommended amount can become problematic when you don’t choose the right kind. There is a ton of fat in a burger and in many cuts of steak but also a significant amount of protein. By no means am I saying that you should steer clear of those foods, but I BEG YOU to be cognizant of how often you choose it as your protein 😊 Besides other health issues, it’s easy to rack up the fat as you’re trying to keep your protein up, and if you’re thinking that that sounds counterintuitive, you’re right. In the case of any protein, make sure you’re aware of portion size and how you’re preparing it.  


For Reference: 

-(the size of) 1 serving of lean protein (~20-30gm) is the equivalent of the size of your OPEN palm
-a good spot to aim for is 4 servings a day
Here are some examples of what 20-30gm protein can look like:
5 eggs (~6gm fat per egg)
4 oz. 95%/5% lean ground beef
5 oz. grilled chicken
4 oz. lean ground turkey
1 can tuna
6 oz. tempeh
1 c. cottage cheese
2 cups beef or chicken bone broth
1-2 scoops whey protein powder (note product label)
1-2 scoops collagen powder (note product labels)


Protein shakes & bars are super convenient and can be very helpful in reaching daily protein goals. That said, they should be used to SUPPLEMENT rather than serve as an entire food group. It is suggested that you consume no more than about 50gm of protein from supplements. If you go overboard, you run the risk of missing out on other important nutrients that we get from whole foods. When choosing a protein powder (if you need something other than Manduu’s quality products, of course!) look for short ingredient lists, a minimum 20g of protein per serving, and the smallest difference between the volume of protein and total volume of serving (for example, if the number at the top of the nutrition label is 32g (serving size), and the amount of protein is 25g, you’re in good shape. If the total serving size volume is 47g and the amount of protein is 25g, you probably want to look at other options). Find a protein powder that contains 200 calories or less, less than 5g sugar, 1-3gm fat. Similar rules apply for protein bars – some can taste like candy thanks to all the garbage they’re made with. Watch the ingredients, and the sugar, fat, and calorie content. To give you an example of the hidden dangers of (some) protein bars, I’ll throw myself under the bus. Before I knew much about nutrition, I had a favorite protein bar that contained 20gm proteins. It also contained 290 calories, 10g fat, 6g sat fat, 29g carb, 18g sugar (17 of which were added), and 2 whole grams of fiber. YIKES. That’s a Cliff Builder Bar, for those of you who want to STAY FAR AWAY. There are SO many better-for-you options, so make sure to check out the labels!  

Types of Proteins:

Examples of lean proteins: 

-white meat chicken 

-lean beef 




-lean pork 

-cod, shrimp, prawns, canned tuna 


-low fat greek yogurt 


-low fat cottage cheese 



Examples of NUTRITIOUS Protein options:

-white meat chicken

-lean beef




-lean pork

-cod, shrimp, prawns, canned tuna


-low fat greek yogurt


-low fat cottage cheese


-raw nuts


Examples of LOW to NON-NUTRITIOUS Protein options: 

-fatty red meat 

-processed meat: hot dogs, sausage, bacon

-fast food) burgers

-fried chicken, fish

-farmed fish 

-high sugar yogurts

-peanut butter 

-most protein bars, many pre-made protein shakes

-protein snacks – chips, ice creams

-candied nuts

-ramen noodles, white macaroni, most (commercial) wheat bread 

-most (commercial) cheeses



-brussels sprout



-yellow corn 

-green peas 

















Protein powder and protein bars are SUPPLEMENTS, and should be utilized as such! Aim to get the majority of your macros and micros from whole food. 

-Look for (per serving): 

*15g-25g protein

*200 calories

*less than 5gm sugar

*1-3gm fat (powder); under 10g fat (bar… this seems higher, but if it is made from natural ingredients, you’re likely looking at nutrient-dense sources of fat)


Micros(micronutrients): maintains the body’s structure and function (digestion, hormones, brain)

Multivitamins are OK, but might not even be necessary if you’re eating a well-balanced, mostly unprocessed diet (80/20 = 80% real, whole food and 20% processed); get COLOR! variety of fruits & veggies (FROZEN is OK! Fruits & veggies are usually frozen at the peak of ripeness, preserving their nutrients!) 
-Recommended to get labs before taking additional supplements (this is more of a “saving money” thing than a health/safety thing)
-B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7 play a role in converting nutrients to energy, fat & fatty acid metabolism – so consider this if your energy and workout performance is low
-EAT WHOLE over BLENDING, BLENDING over JUICING! the mechanism of chewing and the beginning stages of digestion provides satiety and maintains all nutrients; blending maintains fiber and additional nutrients in the skin of fruits & veggies, fiber slows digestion and provides satiety;  juicing removes fiber and satiety components, basically just administers a whole bunch of sugar at once
-Green (juice) powders are usually a scam! be wary of ingredients, added sugar/artificial sweeteners & other chemicals

That’s all for now! See you in a few weeks on Tuesday 4/18 @ 1pm(cst) to dicuss our FOCUS Programs!


Nicole Astone, M.S. EXNS


Check out our blog on The Importance of Carbohydrates HERE!

Watch all past Manduu For Life Sessions HERE!