Disclaimer: As with any big change in lifestyle or diet you should always consult your doctor for whether these changes are appropriate for you and to monitor you throughout the change. The following information is not medical advice and only my experiences with the ketogenic lifestyle.
* This post contains information about a product I have been financially compensated for. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience and I am a long time user of the app. See my full disclosure here.
Once you feel comfortable keeping your carbs low enough to get into ketosis, you’ll probably want to optimize your fat burning. The way to do that is to calculate your macros. You can start out doing this on day 1. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But for many people, they find doing so confusing, intimidating, and incredibly overwhelming and tend to put off trying all together. If that’s you, then start out with just keeping your carbs below 20g net carbs per day and come back to this page once you’ve got the hang of that. If you’re ready to take yourself to the levels of optimal ketosis, then read on!
What are macros
The term macros is short for macronutrients. They are the types of food that fuel your body. When speaking in terms of keto macros, the most important are: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. In order to optimize your ketosis, you’ll need to balance the amounts of these nutrients.
Carbohydrates are made up of sugars and starches in the foods you eat and are the only macro that is NOT essential for you to live in higher quantities. There is no such thing as an essential carb.
If you are tracking net carbs (which is what I personally prefer and would recommend), you want to keep your net carb consumption at approximately 20g net carbs per day. As a reminder:
net carbs = total carbs – fiber – sugar alcohols
You’re probably wondering why we subtract fiber to get net carbs. The reason we are able to do this is because although fiber is considered a carb, it is not digested by the body and therefore has no impact on your blood sugar. However, it’s already included in the total carbs on most nutritional labels. So, when you’re looking at a label take the total carbs and subtract the fiber to get net carbs. This will also allow you to eat a greater variety of foods such as the vegetables and fruits I spoke about in my earlier post many of which are a great source of vital nutrients.
You can also subtract sugar alcohols as they are also not metabolized by the body and therefore have no effect on blood sugar. They are usually listed on the label as sugar alcohols but sometimes listed by their technical name. I’ll be addressing them more in depth in my later post about sweeteners, but as a general rule try to stay mostly away from sugar alcohols.
If you are tracking total carbs instead of net carbs, the general guideline is to keep your total carbohydrate consumption at approximately 50g total carbs per day.
Protein is considered the building block of the human body. At a minimum, you must eat enough protein to preserve your current lean muscle mass and even more if you want to gain muscle mass. If you don’t eat enough protein, you will lose muscle mass and that is not what you want to happen!
Fat is essential to the human body. There actually is such a thing as essential fats! Fat is needed for growth, development, brain function, absorbing certain vitamins, etc. It has gotten a bad rap in the past so try to forget all the awful things you’ve been told about it and embrace it for all the benefits it has. Aside from being essential to your body, it’s also incredibly satisfying and helps to make you feel full longer, acting as an appetite suppressant. Not to mention it tastes delicious so you want to add it to the food you eat.
Limit • Goal • Lever
The most perfect way I have heard to help illustrate how to think of your macros is from Ketogains, which can be found here, and is as follows:
- Think of carbs as a limit. You do not want to go over your carbs. Your carb macro is a hard limit. Once you reach your carbs for the day, STOP having more.
- Think of protein as a goal. You want to have at least that much protein. You can go over your protein, just make sure to get at least that much. Getting enough protein is your main macro goal.
- Think of fat as a lever. Increase and decrease your fat to manipulate your weight loss. If you’re trying to lose weight, keep your fat high enough to satisfy you but don’t eat it just because you can. If you’re hungry, then absolutely eat a healthy fat. But if you’re not hungry, you do not have to meet your fat macros. If you’re goal is to lose fat, your fat will be lower so that you body burns body fat for its fuel instead of dietary fat. If you’re in maintenance mode or doing keto for health benefits other than weight loss, your fat will be higher.
Low carb, moderate protein, high fat
Previously I said keto was low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. So what exactly does that mean? That means that your daily caloric intake should be comprised of approximately:
5% of your calories from carbs
25% of your calories from protein
70% of your calories from fat
So what are MY macros?
These numbers will be different for everyone based on your current weight, height, body fat, lean body mass, activity level, etc. There is a way to calculate it, but I personally find it very confusing so I use one of the many macro calculators you can find on the internet. The two I have personally used and have had success with are:
Keto Diet Tracker app which not only calculates your macros but also tracks them. It can be found on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and I’ll be talking more about this app next time in my post about tracking your macros.
There are a ton of them out there and I’ve included the links to several more below. They will probably all give you slightly different results. Play around with them and figure out which works best for you.
One thing to remember is that since your macros are based on your current statistics, as you lose weight, you’ll want to recalculate them periodically. I usually do this once a month just to make sure I’m where I need to be. If you’re ready for that, check out my next post about tracking your macros.