In this article I am going to do my best to explain what Macros are and how to track them on a Keto diet.
The ketogenic diet is essentially a very low carb, moderate protein, and high fat diet that allows the body to fuel itself without the use of glucose or high levels of carbohydrates. When the body is in short supply of glucose (which come from our carbohydrates), ketones are made in the liver from the breakdown of fats through a process called ketosis. Hence the name, the ketogenic diet. You can learn more about the Keto diet through this article here.
But… the keto diet can also be tricky to follow and that’s where knowing about keto and macros can help.
So what are Macros?
Macros, or macronutrients, are the energy-supplying nutrients — fat, protein and carbohydrates — that the body needs in large quantities. Fat, protein and carbs are the three main components of a keto diet, in that order.
Fat is the most energy-dense nutrient, supplying nine calories per gram. Protein and carbohydrate each supply four calories per gram.
Carbs – Don’t go above your allotted daily net carbs. Just don’t do it. I’m a supporter of tracking macros, but if you don’t want to go all in, most resources will say if you stay under 20 net carbs each day, you’ll be in ketosis.
[Net Carbs – Most people following Keto tend to track net carbs instead of total carbs. Net carbs are total carbs minus dietary fiber minus (some) sugar alcohols.
Net is generally allowed because of how your body reacts to the fiber and the sugar alcohols. On Nutrition Labels, the grams of dietary fiber and sugar alcohols are already included in the total carb count. But because fiber and (some) sugar alcohols are carbs that your body can’t digest, they have virtually no affect on your blood sugar levels and can be subtracted in most cases.
If your food item has 10 grams of carbs for one serving, 6 grams of fiber, and 2 grams of erythritol (my favorite natural sweetener), your food item has 2 NET carbs per serving.]
Protein – This is the most important macro to hit. Protein is the key componant for your muscles so if you’re losing weight, you want to make sure you’re eating enough protein so you’re not also losing muscle.
Fat – Whilst on your keto diet, fat is designed to keep you full. If you’re hungry, then go ahead and eat that healthy fat to keep you going, but note that if you’re not hungry, it is not essential for you to hit your fat macros.
You need to track your Macros
Tracking your macros can help you maintain ketosis and helps assure you’ll be following a high fat, moderate protein, very low carb plan. This is important because precise intakes of macros lead to better results, including weight loss and body composition changes. So here is what you will need to know about tracking macros, and how you can make the most out of your keto plan.
Most weight loss plans work by cutting calories. The ketogenic diet works differently, in that it changes the way your body uses energy. Normally, your body burns glycogen for fuel, most of which comes from carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet encourages your body to use byproducts of fat metabolism, known as ketones, for fuel instead. This causes your body to enter a fat-burning state called ketosis, which suppresses your appetite and may make it easier for you to eat less.
The trick to achieving ketosis is significantly increasing the percentage of fat in your diet, whilst cutting out most carbs. On a typical keto plan, you’ll get your calories from roughly 70% fat, 20% protein and 10% carbohydrates.
Reaching ketosis can be a challenge, even for the most dedicated dieter. After years of relying on carbohydrates for energy, it takes a couple of weeks to fully adapt to this new way of eating.
Enter Macro tracking
Tracking these nutrients to make sure you’re eating them in the right ratio helps ensure you’re getting the best results from your keto plan. The two most popular ways to track macros are through either a food journal or a macros tracker app.
Food journaling is just as good and effective a means to track macros (although for me a little taxing on the brain lol). Once you determine the macronutrients found in your food, simply follow these formulas when journaling:
There’s a simple equation to help you figure out how many grams of carbs you should be eating on, say, a 1,600-calorie-a-day keto diet, but first you need to remember what I mentioned earlier, that:
- Carbs have 4 calories per gram.
- Fat has 9 calories per gram
- Protein has 4 calories per gram.
So, let’s also say you’re aiming for a standard keto diet of 10 percent carbs—which is low enough for most people to get into nutritional ketosis, 20 percent protein, and 70 percent fat.
Just use these simple equations to figure out how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat you should be aiming for:
Carbs: Calories per day (1,600) x percentage of calories from carbs (.10) / Number of calories per gram in carbohydrates (4) = 40 grams of carbs per day
Protein: Calories per day (1,600) x percentage of calories from protein (.20) / Number of calories per gram in protein (4) = 80 grams of protein per day
Fat: Calories per day (1,600) x percentage of calories from fat (.70) / Number of calories per gram in fat (9) = 125 grams of fat per day
Tracking your carbs is likely the most important part of the keto diet—but you can have a little more flexibility when it comes to your protein and fat macros.
The Macro tracker Apps
There are a lot of different macros tracker apps to choose from these days. All of them serve the same primary function — to show you the percentage of calories you’ve consumed from each macronutrient based on the food you’ve tracked that day. Some go a step further, allowing you to track your weight over time, plan healthy meals, compete in wellness challenges with friends and even scan barcodes of food packaging for easier tracking.
I currently use an app called the Keto Diet App. I find this one so helpful, it has recipes, grocery lists and of course your daily tracker so that you can watch when you are reaching your total macros. There is a fab library of info on there, with helpful tips, supplements, dining out tips, working out, and so the list goes on. You do have to pay for the optimal option but I think its only about £23 per year.
You can also try apps like Cron-o-meter, Carb Manager, and I think the most popular way to track your macros is the MyFitnessPal app. You can download them to your phone so that you have it to hand.
So with careful tracking, creative meals, and self control, this diet can lead to weight loss, lower blood sugar, regulated insulin levels and less hunger and controlled cravings for sugars and carbs. Once you have gotten to grips with your macros, it really isn’t as difficult as it seems.
To start off with you could always get a custom made keto diet set out for you, as shown below. There are loads of examples on the internet too if you look. Having a plan set up for you, is a great way to get you started and to get used to the new way of eating.
You may want to check out my post on 3 Benefits of the Keto Diet
Wishing you all the luck with your new found journey
All the best