One thing which many people find a little confusing once they start following the ketogenic diet is the macros. This is the percentages and ratios of one vitamin or minerals versus another, or one food group versus another. By ensuring you get this ratio right, you’re giving yourself optimum health and wellbeing results.
The Keto Diet is a lifestyle change, i.e. something you are supposed to follow for the rest of your life. This means that you need to ensure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, in order for your body to function the way it should.
3 Key Macro’s
The keto macros consist of three key nutrients:
- Fat (70%)
- Proteins (20-25%)
- Carbohydrates (5%)
Your body needs all of these in order to function correctly, however on the ketogenic diet you are reducing your carb intake, in order to keep the fat burning switch on. This doesn’t mean you should cut out carbs completely. Rather you should aim to get around 5% of your daily calories from carbohydrates.
Following the ratios and getting the right amount of macronutrients for the stage of the diet you’re in, will ensure your health and safety.
Why should I bother?
Why is it so important in this diet in particular? Because the diet hinges so carefully on ketosis.
If you don’t follow the ratio, you’re not going to achieve this metabolic state, and therefore the diet won’t work as effectively as it should.
For now, it’s worth mentioning that you should invest or find a quality keto calculator.
This is the single easiest way to calculate your macros, and will ensure that you don’t go wrong at any point in your calculations.
Keto Macros – What Are They?
‘Macros’ mean macronutrients, and as we mentioned before, these are the nutrients your body needs to work effectively.
We mentioned the key three required for the keto diet, but for general health and wellbeing you should add fiber and water to that list too.
Getting this macro balance correct is important. The most problematic of all the macros however is carbohydrates.
The keto diet limits carbohydrates, in order to force the body into ketosis. As a result your body switches to burning fat instead of glucose for energy.
This eventually leads to weight loss and increased energy levels among other benefits. However this only works if you get your macronutrient ratios right.
It should be noted that your body also needs something called micronutrients, which are small vitamins and minerals which are contained in many different foods.
By planning out your meals and balancing everything carefully, you will get the correct amount of macro and micronutrients.
On the ketogenic diet, your ratio of macros should be:
- 60-70% of your calories coming from fats
- 15-30% of your calories coming from proteins
- 5-10% of your calories coming from carbohydrates (5% from Vegetables)
As you can see, you are reducing your carbs, but you are increasing your fats to compensate.
If you compare this ratio to the standard ratio recommended for the Standard American Diet, you’ll notice major differences. Again, this is down to the change in the way your body burns fuel for energy.
Check out this video for a visual explanation of how macro’s work by Dr Berg.
Good Fats And Bad Fats
We should mention that there are two main types of fats – the good ones and the bad ones.
- Trans fats are the bad fats, and are found in fried foods and processed meals
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated are the good fats, which are found in oils derived from plants
Cut down drastically on the bad fats in your diet and stick with the good options instead. Of course, your diet should contain a large proportion of these, in order to keep your body in ketosis and give it the fuel it needs to work properly.
Fats also have fatty acids within them, which are either essential or non-essential. The essential ones, e.g. omega 3 fatty acids and omega 5 fatty acids you need in your diet. The can be found in fish, nuts, plant oils, seeds, and seafood options.
How to Work Out Your Macros
Now you know what macros are and why you need them, you need to know how to calculate them for your Keto diet endeavours. A specific Keto calculator will personalise your calculations according to your weight, height, and your goals, so it’s always a good idea to invest if you can. If not however, keeping a track on your macros can still be done.
- Work With Net Carbs – Net carbs need to be calculated, and this is the total amount of carbs, with the fiber amount subtracted. You can find the net carbs on food labels and if not, download an app, such as My Fitness Pal, which often has the net carbs already worked out for most major food types. You should not go over 30g of net carbs per day. If you do, you’re not in ketosis anymore. For most however, 20g is enough.
- Work Out Your Proteins – This differs depending on your goals and your current weight. Generally, you need between 0.6-0.8g of protein per pound of your lean body mass.
- Work Out Your Fats – Work out your fats last, as this will be easier once you’ve figured out how many carbs and proteins you should consume per day. The amount of fat you eat depends on whether you are losing weight or maintaining it, e.g which stage of the diet you are on. If you want to maintain your current weight, you need to eat more fat than if you were in the active weight loss phase. A Keto calculator is by far the easiest way to work out fat, as it can become quite complicated. Generally speaking, women need around 2000 calories per day and men need around 2500 per day. Fat contains around 9 calories per gram, and proteins and carbs contain around 4 calories per gram. This should help you work out how much fat you need to consume per day.
Working out your macros can be difficult without the help of a calculator, and this is why opting for this route is always a better choice. Again, My Fitness Pal will help you work everything out on the Keto side, as many macros are already worked out and you can log your food diary throughout the day, with a graph or chart showing you what you will have eaten. This will help you stay on top of your macros.
Macro Help and Tricks
Don’t worry if this all sounds complicated at this stage. It’s perfectly normal to be a little overwhelmed with numbers and food groups when you first star to read into the Keto Diet, but once you start, you’ll find it starts to come as second nature.
It’s really about getting the balance right, and over the first couple of weeks, you’ll start to understand better what your body need. As you move into the maintenance phase, after the bulk of your weight has been lost, you’ll also know what your body needs in order to lose weight, and what it needs in order to maintain. You will quickly come to know your own body’s requirements!
The following hints and tips will help you when it comes to meeting your macro requirements for the day, and keeping track of everything.
Download My Fitness Pal, or Use a Keto Calculator
We’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s a great go-to. Both will help you work out your macros much more easily, and will also help you track what you are eating, so you don’t go over or under.
A Keto calculator is a very personalised choice, and will tailor your macros to your body type, weight, height, and aims. If you’re serious about your new Keto lifestyle (and you should be), then a Keto calculator is an investment you should think about.
Eat Clean Foods, Without Added Extras
The Keto Diet doesn’t just teach us to reduce our carbs and increase our fat, it also teaches us about the importance of eating clean, whole foods. If you can go organic, even better.
Processed foods have hidden extras which are not only extremely unhealthy in many cases, but they can also have hidden ingredients which can be higher in carbs than you realise. This can kick you out of ketosis without knowing about it, and you’ll may be gaining weight or plateauing, rather than losing it.
It’s also good idea to avoid any foods which are labelled as ‘low carb’. This doesn’t mean they are, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they are low enough for your dietary stage. Stick to making your own meals and you’ll have a much more nutritious and delicious choice.
Also exercise caution when eating fruits on keto as there are a number of fruits with hidden carbs and sugar content.
Meal Planning is Key
There are many benefits to planning out your meals. Firstly, you save time every day, because you’re not thinking about what to eat for dinner. It also saves you the hassle of having to work something out when you get home from a long day in the office. You also save cash, because planning out means you can buy only what you need, and you’re not going to be panic buying in the supermarket, or shopping when you’re hungry. This is a huge no no on any diet, not just the Keto.
Planning also helps you stay in control of your macros, which is important at the start especially. The more in control you can be, the better.
Power in Numbers
Join a community of Keto followers and find support and advice from those in the same dietary boat as you. It can be confusing and even lonely at first when you start a new dietary lifestyle, but by taking to experience Keto followers you’ll be encouraged to continue and you also have a go-to source for any questions you need answering. You’ll find countless online communities on social media, so search around and find a group which suits you.
Utilise Online Meal Plans
At first, it might be a good idea to use a meal plan you find online, which is proven to be Keto-friendly. This helps you get into the feel of how your macros should be, and also helps you find delicious recipes without having to think too much. There are countless available, with easy ones, moderate, to seriously culinary options! Search around and find a plan which fits with your needs and use it as a base on which to learn.
Meal plans can also help you try foods which you might never have tried before. For instance, if you’ve never used avocados in cooking in the past, many Keto recipes will teach you how delicious and nutritious they can be.
Give It Time: Macros Aren’t Confusing After a While
Don’t worry about getting your macros 100% correct at the start. This is a little trial and error in many ways, but provided you do not exceed the 30g of net carbs, you’re probably still going to lose weight. Dedicating time getting your macros right will give you a greater health and wellbeing future, and ensure you get the right vitamin and mineral balance for your particular needs.
Remember, the Keto Diet is a lifestyle change. It is something you’re supposed to take up and run with for the rest of your days, giving you an environment in which to become a healthier person overall. You will achieve your weight goals and benefit from the health plus points that come with the Keto Diet, as well as having the overall sense of knowing you’re giving your body what is needs to function correctly.
Whilst macros might sound confusing when you first begin, they will become easier over time, and as you move through the stages, you won’t even think about it, it will simply be something you do naturally.
Last Updated on