Ketosis is achieved through reducing carbohydrates for long enough to deplete the body’s glycogen stores, and eating plenty of quality high-fat foods.
Since the ketogenic diet focuses on macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats), you need to know how to calculate your keto macros to understand what your body needs to reach ketosis.
In this article, you’ll learn:
What Are Macronutrients?Macros, or macronutrients, are the three building blocks that all human food is made out of.
The three macronutrients are protein, carbs, and fat. Each macronutrient serves a specific purpose for your body and comes with different benefits.
ProteinProtein breaks down into amino acids, which the body uses to build muscle, hair, fingernails, and more. Protein also plays a role in the production of enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals.
Keto-approved protein sources are things like animal products like beef, eggs and fish, and dairy products.
CarbohydratesPeople think of energy when they think of carbs. This is because carbs break down into glucose, which the body uses to fuel itself—unless you’re in ketosis, of course.
Carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, starches, grains, and many processed foods.
FatFat is important for keeping brain and nervous system healthy. Fat makes up a large percentage of the ketogenic diet—about 70 percent.
The idea is eating liberal amounts of quality fat and limiting carbs gets your body into a state of ketosis, where you burn fat as your primary fuel source.
What Is A Macro Split?A macro split is how you’ll divide up the three macronutrients—protein, carbs, and fat—to meet your caloric needs.
Popular diets like keto outline your ideal macro split (more on this soon) so you can plug your numbers right in.
A generic example of a macro split is 35% protein, 35% carbs, and 30% fats. In this case, you’d eat 35 percent of your daily calories in protein and carbs, and 30 percent in fat.
In a 2000 calorie diet, that’d be 700 calories in protein and carbs, or 175 grams each, and 600 calories in fat, or about 66 grams.
How Do I Calculate My Macros for Keto?There are a ton of macro calculators available online. Good macro calculators take into account your body weight, age, gender, activity level, and body-fat percentage.
Or, you can figure out your macros without a calculator by following these steps.
- Find your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories is the number of calories your body burns in a day without doing anything. Even when you sleep, your body roughly 50 to 70 calories per hour depending on your size, age, and body composition.
- Estimate (or calculate) how many calories you burn each day exercising. If you work out for 45 to 60 minutes, you’ll want to add at least 500 extra calories, unless your goal on keto is weight loss.
- Pick your ideal macro split. Depending on your goals or the nutritional approach you’re following, you’ll need to know which percentage of macronutrients you’ll be eating each day.
- Understand the caloric differences of macronutrients. Just a reminder that protein and carbs have 4 calories per gram, while fat has 9 calories per gram. This matters for calculating your totals.
- Now, make all the numbers fit. There, you have your macros!
- Download and track your macros in an app. MyMacros+ is a low-cost option that works on iOs and Android.
Calculating Macros ExampleIf your BMR is 2100, and you’re burning 500 extra calories per day exercising, you need 2,600 to break even. This is your TDEE or total daily energy expenditure.
If your goal is to lose weight, you’ll eat slightly less (200 to 300 calories) per day. So, roughly 2,300 calories per day. There’s your target calorie count.
Great! Now plug in your macro split. We’ll use the 35/35/30 split again as an example.
* 35 percent of 2300 is 805 calories, meaning roughly 201 grams of protein and carbs per day. 30 percent of 2300 is 690, meaning roughly 76 grams of fat per day.
There’s your macro split: 201p, 201c, 76f—a total of 2,292 calories.
If you intend to follow a low carb diet like keto, this macro split obviously isn’t going to work. Here’s how to tweak things if you’re going low carb.
Macros and The Ketogenic DietYou’ll eat very few carbs on the ketogenic diet to induce ketosis. Here are some low carb specifics to take into account.
The Ideal Macronutrient Allocation on KetoThe ketogenic diet advises you to follow a macro split of 25 percent protein, 5 percent carbs, and 70 percent fat.
On a 2,000 calorie diet, this breaks down to:
- 125 grams of protein
- 25 grams of carbs
- 155 grams of fat.
Carbs Matter For KetosisTracking carbs matters more on the ketogenic diet because you are trying to get into a state of ketosis.
Unlike some diets where going over one macro can be offset by simply eating less of another, eating too many carbs can knock you right out of ketosis, making it harder to lose weight.
If you’ve never done keto or eaten low carb before, you can probably get away with upping your carbs to 40 to 50 grams per day at the start. This can help offset symptoms of the keto flu and make it easier for your body to adjust.
One workaround for eating too many carbs is to take exogenous ketones. After a cheat meal or if you’re trying to get into ketosis faster, exogenous ketones help you keep burning fat instead of glucose. Exercise also helps.
The Source of Carbohydrates Also MatterIt might be tempting to eat all your carbs in one go for the day, but doing so might make it harder for you to get into fat-burning mode.
To keep yourself feeling full and ensure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals, make vegetables and quality-fat nuts the brunt of your carbohydrate intake.
Once you’re a keto diet veteran, you’ll understand how your body functions with specific amounts of carbs. Perhaps then you can play with adding low-carb fruits into your diet while staying in ketosis.
Macros Carry OverOne common misconception about counting macros is that foods like meat don’t count for multiple macronutrients. Because we think of steak or chicken as a protein and coconut oil as a fat, we might not realize they also contain the other two macronutrients, albeit in smaller amounts.
This might help you wrap your head around eating 150 grams of fat in one day.
Quality protein sources like eggs, beef, and fish have liberal amounts of protein and fat. Both count towards your daily macros.
Counting Macros for Keto: 3 Additional Keys For SuccessFinally, keep these 3 things in mind about tracking macros as you strive to reach your goals.
1. Results Take TimeThere are 3,500 calories in a pound of body-fat, meaning that at a 200 to 300 calorie per-day deficit, it could take ten or more days to lose a pound.
Don’t panic—it’s better to start slow and reduce calories gradually than to start at a huge deficit.Depleting your body of calories and carbs on the ketogenic diet will only heighten the symptoms of the keto flu, and might make the whole thing so tough you want to quit.
There are a lot of factors that come into play with weight loss. There’s a good chance if you’re eating the right number of calories, staying in ketosis, and exercising you’ll lose weight much faster than that.
2. Don’t Tinker With Calories Every DayYou might be tempted to change your daily caloric goals if you don’t see the scale number moving. You can do this, but avoid doing it more than once every 1 to 2 weeks.
It’s better to give your body time to adjust than to constantly be changing your macros. Consistency is the key to results.
3. Above All, Trust In KetosisIf you’re new to low carb diets, trust the process with ketosis. It might be hard at first, but the benefits of the diet far outweigh the initial adjustments.
Counting macros is a great way to organize and track how you’re following the diet. If you want to get results faster or see exactly how many calories or grams of one macronutrient you need to perform or lose weight, counting macros might be a great tool for you.