Food & Nutrition

Keto Macros: A Guide to Understanding Nutrient Ratios

Keto Macros: A Guide to Understanding Nutrient Ratios

Keto macros are the most important part of a ketogenic diet.  They include a breakdown of the three nutrients that your body needs in large amounts– fat, protein, and carbs.  Get them wrong and your chances of reaching ketosis are close to zero!
 
In this guide, we explain what macros are and how you can calculate your own keto macros. We also offer practical bits of advice that can help meeting your keto macros easier.
 

Calculating Keto Macros

 
The easiest way to calculate your keto macros is with the help of a keto calculator.  We've developed a precise keto calculator based on a standard ketogenic diet, will give you your macros in less than a minute. However, if you'd like to learn more about keto macros and different ways to meet them, then keep reading.
 
What Are Macros?
Macros (short for “macronutrients”) are nutrients that your body needs in large quantities for a wide range of metabolic processes and tissue-building. Medical and nutritional experts cite the following five nutrients as macros [1]:
 
  • Carbohydrates
  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Fiber
  • Water
 
However, what most people are referring to when talking about macros are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These macros  are most important on a ketogenic diet as they give your body energy which is calculated in calories.
 
A balance in macros is essential to staying healthy. Studies show that eating too much of the wrong macros leads to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes [2]. The worst offender of the three is carbs.  But the one carrying the most unfair stigma is fat...we'll get more into that later.
 
Besides macronutrients, your body also needs micronutrients. Micronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in smaller amounts, including vitamins and minerals.  It's easy to get adequate amounts of both micro and macronutrients from a well-planned ketogenic diet.
 

What Are Keto Macros?

Keto macros is a term that refers to the macronutrient balance of a ketogenic diet. This balance looks something like this:
 
  • 60-75% of calories from fat
  • 15-30% of calories from protein
  • 5-10% of calories from carbs
 
This macronutrient balance is different from what your doctor would recommend and from what most people are used to. In fact, The Institute of Medicine recommends that active people get 45-65% of their energy from carbs, 10-35% from protein, and 20-35% from fat [3].
 
So, what's the deal here? Well, the goal of a keto diet is different from the that of a standard diet. On a keto diet, your goal is to radically change the way your body uses nutrients for energy production, by inducing an altered metabolic state known as ketosis. The standard diet, on the other hand, is supposed to optimize the way your body already makes and uses energy.  
 
There are many reasons why you’d want to induce ketosis, but the most common one is to force your body to burn fat instead of glucose for fuel. When your body does this, you lose excess body fat, become energized, and gain better mental clarity.
 
Dr. Russell M. Wilder at the Mayo Clinic originally developed the standard keto macros ratio as a treatment for childhood epilepsy [4]. Decades later, this ratio is now to achieve a variety of objectives, from weight loss and boosting energy to treating diabetes and neurological diseases. 
Below is a breakdown of each macro, so you can understand its function on the keto diet:
 
Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are your body's preferred fuel source. The reason for this is that they are easy to break down and turn into energy. However,  unlike proteins and fat, carbs are not an essential nutrient. Your body can survive without them, and you'll witness this for yourself when you go keto.
 
In other words, carbs are cheap and convenient sources of energy. In the absence of carbs, your body is perfectly adapted to surviving on protein and fats. Not only that, but your body may just benefit from occasional carb restriction.
 
The biggest problem with carbs is that they're easy to overconsume. The typical Western diet is laden with all of the wrong carbs, and this is showing through the rise of metabolic diseases and obesity.
 
Another problem with carbs is that many cause low-grade inflammation [5] which is linked to dangerous conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease. The keto diet minimizes carb intake, not only for reaching ketosis but also for better overall health.
 
Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient that your body needs to build and repair tissue. Proteins are large molecules consisting of amino acids. There are around 20 amino acids in nature, 9 of which are essential for human health. You can get these from both plant and animal foods.
 
On a keto diet, you need to adjust your protein intake depending on your activity levels. The more active you are, the more protein you'll need. However, going overboard on protein can- and will- kick you out of ketosis because your body is able to turn a portion of protein into glucose.
 
A great thing about protein is that it keeps you feeling full for a long time because it takes longer to digest. Protein also boosts weight loss because your body actually burns calories to digest it.  Finally, protein builds muscle tissue which further increases your energy expenditure.
 
Fats
Fat is the central keto macro, and the cause of much controversy surrounding it. Medical experts have warnedthe public about the dangers of high-fat diets for decades. The fact of the matter is that fat is an essential nutrient that your body can't do without. Eliminating it from your diet does more harm than good, and researchers have backed this for at least two decades [6]. 
 
You don't often hear that fat:
  • Provides energy
  • Helps your body use fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) available
  • Maintains body temperature
  • Maintains healthy skin and hair
  • Promotes cell health
  • Accumulates toxins so internal organs stay unharmed
  • Produce important hormones
Fat is central to the ketogenic diet because your body uses it to make ketones to fuel your body and brain by replacing glucose for energy production. If you lower your calorie intake, your body will also use stored fat for energy.
 

Types of Fat

There are many different types of fat, some good and some bad.
 
Bad fats are trans fats found in excess in highly processed and fried food. Some margarines are also high in trans fats. The good fats are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated kind found in plant oils. Saturated fats are also good, but it depends on who you ask. Keto experts vouch for it as do some researchers [7].
 
Fats also contain essential and non-essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acids) and linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acids). Your body can make other fatty acids from these two; However, it can't make the two on its own, so they must be obtained through diet.
 
You can get essential fatty acids from a wide range of foods. The best sources by far are fish, other seafood, nuts, plant oils, and seeds. Eating a variety of these foods is a foolproof way to meet your daily needs for omega fatty acids.

How to Calculate Keto Macros

Keto macros are roughly the same for your most people. However, for maximum efficiency you want keto macros to match your physique, needs, and goals. The easiest way to do that is by using a keto calculator.  
However, there are other ways to calculate and keep track of your keto macros:
 
1. Start with net carbs
Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. Calculating them is important on a keto diet because your body makes glucose only from net carbs. Fiber has no effect on your blood glucose levels whatsoever, so feel free to load up on it.
 
Take a look at nutrition labels on food packaging or online for fresh produce. MyFitnessPall and SELFNutritionData have great nutrition databases for you to use. When you find the total carbs subtract the fiber and what you get is net carbs.
 
Your daily intake of net carbs should not exceed 30 grams. This is the upper limit you can reach before being kicked out of ketosis. However, eating around 20 grams a day is optimal for most people. Athletes may need to eat more to have enough energy during workouts.
 
2. Move on to proteins
Your protein allowance on a keto diet will depend on your muscle mass and body fat percentage*. As a rule of thumb, you need around 1.5 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of muscle mass to maintain or gain muscle. That's 1-1.2 grams per pound of muscle mass.
 
a) To calculate your body fat, use the following formula (the example provides is of someone weighing 160 pounds with a 20 % body fat percentage):
 
160 pounds x 0.20 (20 %) = 32 pounds of body fat
 
b) Subtract your body fat from total weight and you get your muscle mass.
 
160 pounds - 32 pounds (of body fat) = 128 pounds of muscle mass
 
c) To calculate your daily protein allowance, simply multiply your muscle mass by gram of protein. The formula goes like this:
 
32 pounds (of muscle mass) x 1.2 grams (protein per pound of muscle mass) = 38.4 grams of protein
 
Note:
*To determine your body fat percentage, you can use the visual representation provided in our keto calculator. Other options include a body fat scale or a skinfold caliper.
 
3. Finish with fats
After you've determined your daily carb and protein allowance, you'll have to calculate how much fat you should eat. This will depend on whether you want to lose or maintain weight. To maintain weight, you need to eat more fat than to lose weight.
 
The easiest way to calculate your daily fat allowance is, of course, using our keto calculator. The calculator will provide you with your daily allowance of fat in grams. If you want to know how many calories you are taking in, consider the following facts:
 
  • Protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram
  • Fat contains 9 calories per gram.
 
This means that if, say, our calculator shows you need to eat 200 grams of fat, that means that 1,800 of your daily calories should come from fat:
 
200 grams (of fat) x 9 calories (per gram) = 1,800 calories from fat
 
On average, women need to eat around 2,000 and men around 2,500 calories per day. But these numbers vary greatly depending on your age, weight, and physical activity levels along with your goals (if you're trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass).
 
A surplus of 500 calories will either help you maintain muscle mass or weight, while a deficiency will help you lose body fat. However, we need to mention that many keto experts doubt the necessity of counting calories on a keto diet. The reason being that fat is highly satiating, so going overboard is difficult. Another reason is that the ketogenic diet in itself suppresses appetite [8].
 
 
How to Calculate Food Macros
You know that some foods are high in fat and low in carbs while others are the exact opposite (think avocado vs white rice). But that doesn't really help you on a practical level. You want to know how many keto macros you're taking in with your meals.
 
Calculating keto macros in food items as well as whole meals is pretty easy. However, we need to warn you that it can be time-consuming when you first start doing this. Nevertheless, calculating macros is an important step in getting your keto macros just right. You can do this by using nutrition facts from reputable websites.
 
Take for example Myfitnesspal.com. The website offers nutrition facts for a wide range of food items. Simply enter a food item in the search bar and the website will give you precise nutrition facts per serving, including total fat, total carbs, dietary fiber, protein, and calories.
Besides Myfitnesspal.com, you can use our food list of keto-approved foods and visit our Foods & Nutrition Blogs to learn more about keto foods. Once you have a list of keto foods ready, use nutrition facts websites to calculate your keto macros.
 
Example:
 
1 medium avocado (250 calories)
  • Fat: 23 grams
  • Net carbs: 5 grams (15 grams total carbs - 10 grams fiber),
  • Protein: 0 grams
Served with one poached egg (74 calories)
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Net carbs: 0 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
Topped with a teaspoon of olive oil (40 calories)
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Net carbs: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0 grams
 
From this 364-calorie meal, you get a total of 33 grams of fat, 5 grams of net carbs, and 6 grams of protein. Make similar lists for all your meals and keep them close when you plan your meals.
 
Tips & Tricks for Meeting Macros
 
Stick to whole foods
Highly processed foods contain hidden ingredients that can sabotage your efforts. In other words, you never know what you are taking in when munching on packaged foods labeled "low-carb" or "keto". The keto diet is all about clean eating as this supports good health, and most importantly – helps you stay within your keto macros.
 
Plan your meals
Planning meals is non-negotiable on a keto diet. You simply can't make food choices on spur of the moment because then you won't be able to track your keto macros. Planning meals is time-consuming at first. But once you have your list ready, most of your planning is already done.
 
Join a keto community
The keto diet can be confusing for newcomers. To make the transition easier, consider joining online keto communities to learn about other's experiences. Facebook and Reddit have great keto communities where dieters also discuss how they meet their keto macros – give it a try.
 
Find a ready-made meal plan
An even easier way to meet your keto macros is to use existing meal plans. Many keto websites offer weekly, monthly, and even half-year meal plans. This takes away much of the hassle that you initial go through when trying to plan meals and meet keto macros. Make sure you only use meal plans from reputable sources with good ratings.
 
 
Take-Home Message
Keto macros are the essence of a ketogenic diet. You want to balance them out perfectly to reach your goals and feel good along the way. This can be a bit tricky as it involves plenty of planning and mathematics.
 
But once you have your macros set and your meal plan in place, keto dieting will become your second nature. Use our keto calculator, read our informative blog posts, and consider our guidance and tips given here when trying to meet your macros.
 
And also, don't worry if you don't get your keto macros perfect the first time. As long as you are eating less than 30 grams of carbs per day and lots of fat, chances are your diet will work like a charm.
 
After all, the keto diet is a lifestyle you're supposed to enjoy. Make meeting your macros an exciting challenge and your keto meals as delicious and decadent as they should be.
 
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