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These Are Your Macros...and These Are Your Macros on Keto

Adjusting your diet based on macronutrient intake has some benefits as well as pitfalls. For some people, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Tracking macros forces people to be more cognizant of what they eat as opposed to how much. It also encourages a nutritional energy balance which supports better brain function, enhances athletic performance, and can even help reset your metabolism. Lots of people follow the ketogenic approach to calculating their macros based on that last reason alone. Now let's talk about why so many people do this, and what benefits it has in store for you.

The Keto Philosophy on Macronutrients

The Standard American Diet promotes a high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat macronutrient split. A diet like atkins or paleo or the carnivore diet promotes high protein, moderate fat, low carb. The ketogenic diet, however, is the lone wolf who emphasizes high fat, moderate protein, and (also) low carb. And the ketogenic diet approaches these macronutrients the way it does for some very specific reasons.

Keto Macros

Keto and Fat

Obviously, keto puts the biggest emphasis on getting the majority of your calories from fat. The most highly recommended healthy fats come from olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. For those who aren't following a vegan or a vegetarian diet, keto also permits fattier cuts of meat from grass-fed and free ranged livestock as well as their animal products.

But why fat, instead of protein like those other diets? Because of one very important little thing: ketones. Whether you consume a ketogenic diet (or trying to lose weight with fasting), the majority of the calories you consume will come from ketone bodies. Certain tissues in the body, including your heart and your brain, run better on ketones than they do on carbs. As a matter of fact, the ketogenic diet was not invented for weight loss purposes. It's actually been around for over a century and is most commonly prescribed to people with epilepsy. For reasons scientists are still struggling to understand, a strict ketogenic diet helps reduce seizure frequency and gives patients a much higher quality of life.

Keto and Protein

Protein is important for muscle maintenance, bodybuilding, general health, and keeping your skin looking youthful. But getting too much of it is problematic on a ketogenic diet. The entire point of eating keto is to force your body into ketosis. But if you eat too much protein, your body will transform that protein into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis. When this happens, you're basically undoing the neurological and metabolic health benefits which keto provides. So it's very important to keep a close eye on your protein intake so that you don't knock yourself out of ketosis.

Keto and Carbohydrates

No, carbohydrates are not the devil; well, not most of them, anyway. Most ketogenic diets recommend staying below 40 grams of carbs per day. Some people follow this very strictly and include fiber as a part of that total. Others do not. It really all depends on how your body reacts to the food you eat. Some people can get into ketosis and do just fine eating a ton of high-fiber carbs as long as they stay under the net 40g carbs/day limit. Others cannot achieve ketosis without making sure their total carb count is under 40 grams per day. If you decide to eat keto for weight loss, listen to your body and make sure you do what's right for you when it comes to net vs. Total carbs. It's not the same for everyone.

How to Determine Your Macros on Keto

As we hinted at above, calculating your macros will vary based on whether or not you are following a strict or a modified ketogenic diet. Following a strict ketogenic diet is only necessary for treating medical conditions like epilepsy. You can get plenty of weight loss and metabolic benefits from a modified ketogenic diet.

A modified ketogenic diet allows you to eat more carbs as long as they are high in fiber and come from whole foods. But at the end of the day, after you subtract the fiber you eat from all of the other sugars and starches you eat, you'll need to make sure that 10% or fewer of your daily calories come from carbs. Otherwise you will knock yourself out of ketosis. Without ketosis, you won't get any weight loss or metabolic benefits from the diet! That's why it's important to adjust your carbohydrate and your protein intake so that you stay in ketosis.

Keeping that in mind, here's a starting point for most people who are new to tracking macros on keto. There are plenty of different calculators online, but if you want to be a control freak and calculate your own by hand, follow these steps:

  1. First figure out the number of calories you need to eat per day to either lose weight or maintain your current weight
  2. Next, multiply that number by the percentage of each macro you are trying to consume
  3. Finally, divide that number by the amount of calories per gram of each macro
  4. Now that you have all of the relevant numbers, you can start planning delicious, keto friendly meals!

Let's do an example based on the steps above for a 30 year old, 150 pound woman who wants to lose at least 20 lbs and does light cardio 3 times a week. Here's how she would calculate her macros on keto:

  • Based on the Harris Benedict equation (which is the most popular way to calculate your daily caloric needs), she can lose a pound of weight per week if she eats 1,470 calories each day and maintains her current exercise routine
  • Based on a 75%/15%/10% fat/protein/carbohydrate ratio, which is highly recommended from modified ketogenic diet, she would need to consume:
    • 1,470 x .75 = 1,103 calories of fat/day
    • 1,470 x .15 = 221 calories of protein/day
    • 1,470 x .10 = 145 calories of net carbs/day (total carbs - fiber)
  • Also, based on the fact that we know each gram of fat is 9 calories while each gram of carbohydrate and protein is 3 calories, she would need to consume:
    • 1,103 / 9 = 123 g of fat/day
    • 221 / 3 = 74 g protein/day
    • 145 / 3 = 48 g of net carbs per day (total carbs - fiber)

Of course, if all of that math above sounds way too complicated, there are easy ways around it. You can use a fitness and calorie tracker like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer to figure out what your macro needs are. Both give you the option to specify a keto-friendly macronutrient profile. You can also supplement with exoticness ketones like Ultimate BHB Keto. It's pure ketones, so you're not dealing with any extra junk or harsh stimulants. And it helps encourage your body to stay in ketosis longer and get deeper into ketosis by feeding your body extra ketones for fuel. It'll turn your body into a fat-burning machine in no time!

Keep in mind that your numbers may differ. The most important variables are your daily caloric needs, your specific weight loss goals, and whether or not you want to follow a strict or modified ketogenic diet. Good luck, and enjoy counting your macros!

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