If there’s one thing to understand about a ketogenic diet, it’s MACROS.
Everyone is talking about macros, ratios, calories, points, and percentages.
While I generally don’t recommend focusing too much attention on counting or tracking macros or calories, I do think it’s good to have a general understanding of macronutrients.
WHAT ARE MACROS?
Macronutrients, or “macros,” are defined as:
Protein (P), Fat (F) and Carbohydrates (C).
These “macros” are what your body uses for fuel.
Every diet requires cutting down on one macronutrient, and increasing another to take its place. For example, traditional diets have restricted your fat intake.
The Keto Diet, on the other hand, restricts your carbohydrate intake. This restriction allows your body to purge the sugars, from carbs, and use the fat you are eating as fuel instead.
The key to the Keto Diet is to keeping your carbohydrate intake to 25-30 grams each day, and increasing your consumption of fats to keep you full.
This changes triggers your body to change the way it fuels you. The low-carb, high-fat keto diet will allow your body to enter a state of ketosis, in which your body burns fat as energy instead of glucose (from carbs).
With your carbohydrate intake being only about 5% of your total daily caloric intake, you will eat more healthy fats, and a moderate amount of protein to make up your daily caloric intake.
Your Daily Macros Will Look Like This:
FAT – This should be 80% of your daily caloric intake.
Healthy fats, like avocados, fatty fish, butter, and cheese are key!
PROTEIN- This should be 15% of your daily caloric intake.
CARBOHYDRATES – This should be a maximum of 5% of your daily caloric in- take.
Depending on your diet goals and your body, you can have as many as
50g of carbohydrates a day. Be sure to monitor your ketosis levels and
adjust accordingly. And be careful, it’s easy to overdo your carbs!
How To Calculate Your Macros
Though this step may seem a bit confusing, or overwhelming, calculating your macros is actually the easiest step on the Keto Diet. Let’s Break this down step by step:
1.) Google “Keto Macro Calculator.”
2.) Choose a calculator from your search.
3.) Follow the instructions and enter the required information.
4.) You may be asked for your body fat percentage, but if you don’t
know it, don’t worry! It’s easy to find visual guides to help you to
5.) Be honest about your activity level, current weight, and desired caloric deficit (the larger the deficit, the harder the transition— Start Small!).
6.) Note your daily Calorie Goals and Macros Goals.
7.) Follow these goals strictly.
Simple, easy, straightforward, right?
You may want to chose two calculators, just to ensure that you are getting the proper information. Each calculator will ask for similar information, and, if functioning properly, will give you similar results. Using more than one will ensure that you are getting accurate results.
Because you will be losing weight with the Keto Diet, you will want to recalculate monthly.
Set a day to do this. This will ensure that you are still eating the right amount of calories for your new weight. It will also allow you to adjust your caloric deficit as you see fit.
Start Small with your caloric deficit. As you transition into ketosis, you will want to allow yourself as much fat as is necessary to curb your cravings and keep you full. Trying to become fat-adapted, AND cutting a large amount of calories, is setting yourself up for failure. Once you are in ketosis, and have made it through your first month of the Keto Diet, feel free to increase your caloric deficit for the weightloss you desire!
Finally, after you have calculated your calories and macros, you will need
to keep track of those calories and macros. Download a calorie counting
app to achieve this. Be sure to enter Everything you eat, even if it seems
insignificant. Not only will this give you the full picture of your daily diet, but it will allow you to retrace your steps if you find yourself off-track or out of ketosis.
Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs
Net carbs, or sometimes called effective carbs, is the total carbohydrate content of food less the amount of fiber. Some recipes will list net, other will list total carbs. You will also run into research or goals listed as one or the other. A good rule of thumb to follow is:
20-30g of Net Carbs Or 30-50g Total Carbs
Using the nutritional information from this Avocado, let’s look at the difference of net vs total carbs.
If you have a goal of 20g carbs each day, an avocado, at first look, may seems like a bad idea!
You can see that of a medium avocado contains 4 carbs. On closer look, you can see that the avocado contains 3g fiber for every 4g of carbs. This means that the Net Carbs is 1g. With 20g of Net Carbs each day, this avocado is now the perfect treat!
Be sure to pay attention to net vs total carbs.
Also, be sure to pay attention to serving size when calculating this. As you can see, this information is for of a medium avocado. If you are eating a
full avocado, either multiply by three, or adjust the amount in your calorie counting app.
How Much Should I Cut Carbs?
It’s easy to fall into the mindset of eating less overall when you start your low-carb diet A common beginner’s mistake is to cut carbs, fat, AND protein significantly. Instead of helping you lose weight, this will actually hurt your body and deter your progress. If you deprive your body of the nutrients it needs, it will actually go into a starvation mode, and stop functioning properly.
Depriving your body of protein, will lead to muscle loss over time. You body will literally start eating away at its own muscle.
Even if you are feeling full, be sure to eat all of your daily calories. If need be, add fat bombs, mash up an avocado, or start putting butter in your morning coffee. Consuming all of your daily calories will actually help you lose more weight and feel much better in the long run.
Be sure to stock your place with plenty of fats for your first few weeks. When you feel the need to simply ignore your hunger, snack on these instead.
Eating all of your daily fat intake will help to curb cravings by keeping you full and satiated. Also, once you are in ketosis, your body will recieve all of its energy from the fat you eat. The more fat you eat, the
more energy you will have for the day!
Fat Is Your Best Friend
For most of us, we have been taught during our lives that we need to avoid fat. Foods like Butter, Lard, Oils, etc, are basically forbidden if we want to be healthy and in shape.
Since the Keto Diet throws all of this out the window, you may find yourself needing reminders that Fat is good.
This means healthy fats. You won’t be eating ice cream, chocolate bars, or potato chips. Your fat should come from healthy, unprocessed foods.
During the initial few weeks of your diet, don’t limit yourself on the amount of fat you can eat.
This amount will be different for each person.
It is important to allow yourself the freedom to eat all the fat you want, so that you can remain full and fight your carb cravings. Once you have become fat adapted, you can begin to monitor the fat you are eating.
Always eat your full amount of daily fat. Buttered coffee, fat bombs, and oils are great ways to add additional fat to your diet.
Protein And The Keto Diet
Since the Keto Diet is LCHF (low carb, high fat), it’s easy to forget about protein. Keeping your protein in the moderate amount is essential for your Keto Diet success.
If you eat too much protein, your body will convert excess protein to glucose. Since ketosis only happens when your body does not have glucose to use for energy, this simple mistake will stall your progress and throw you out of ketosis.
If you don’t consume enough protein, your muscles will literally start consuming themselves to make up for the deficit. Now, this only happens in very severe situations, and after a long period of protein starvation. However, it is still important to be aware!
Keep your protein at 15% of your daily intake. Plan your meals in advance, to make it easier to manage and meet these goals.
As you are getting used to your new way of eating, it’s helpful to know some of the common mis-steps of others before you. These are the top sources of “hidden carbs.” Though these carbs are hidden in plain sight, a lot of these foods are foods that you have been eating for so long that you barely think about them.
Be very careful when it comes to taking any over the counter medicines.
Something as common as Dayquil contains 10 grams of carbs for every
tablespoon! Check your labels carefully if you are using any over-the counter- medicines!
Low-fat foods are overly processed, and full carbohydrates. To replace
the fat, which is where the flavor is, manufacturers add extra sugar. This, of
course, leads to higher carb counts. Opt for full-fat versions of these foods instead.
Ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise may add flavor to a meal, but also adds extra carbs. A tbsp of ketchup contains 5 grams of carbs! Check your condiments, and be aware of recommended serving sizes before adding them to your meal.
Bananas are a great source of potassium, and are often seen as a healthy snack.
But a medium sized banana contains 25 grams of carbs — almost your full daily intake! Keep an eye on fruits in general, the high amount of natural sugar can easily lead to high carb content.
They may seem like a safe choice, but they certainly are not. A Clif Bar contains more than 50 grams of carbs! That’s more carbs than your daily intake. Even protein bars can contain half, or more, of your daily carbs.
While some nuts are healthy and great, certain nuts are extra high in
carbohydrates. NO matter what, you’ll have to eat nuts in moderation, but you’ll want to stay away from: cashews (8.4g/ ounce), pistachios (5.8g/ounce), peanuts (3.8g/ounce), and chestnuts (13.8g/
ounce) for their high carb content.
Milk and Milk Alternatives
You will probably being staying away from milk as part of your diet, but even milk substitutes can contain hidden carbs.
One cup of Almond Breeze almond milk contains 8 grams of carbs. A cup of whole milk contains 11 grams of carbs, and that goes up with the lower percentage milks.
Even some unsweetened milk alternatives contain carbs, so be sure to label check.
Splenda, molasses, honey, and many other sugar substitutes not only contain carbs, but cause insulin spikes. Be careful of “no carb” claims as they aren’t always true. Stick to Stevia, pure liquid sucralose, erythritol for the best substitutions.
Vitamins and Minerals
Many manufacturers add sugar or sugar substitutes to pills to make them go down easier. Check your labels and do your research to be sure that you aren’t consuming your daily carb intake before you even sit down for a meal!
Salad dressings can be packed with sugar for taste. They also can contain oils that have gone rancid. Consider replacing these sugary dressings with oils and vinegars with spices.
CAN I EAT IT?
One of the most common questions a Keto Diet beginner will ask is, “Can I eat….?” Though it may seem overwhelming to keep track of what you can and can’t eat, there is a very simple way to determine of you are able to eat something.
Let’s start with a single food. Recently, I was asked if Almonds were “allowed” on the Keto Diet. Here’s an easy way to determine if they are.
1. Ask yourself, “Is this a natural non-processed food?”
If yes, continue. If no, don’t eat it.
2. Do a google search of “Nutrition Information Almonds”
3. Using that nutritional information, determine the serving size, net carbs, fat, and protein. In this case:
One Serving= 1 Ounce
Net Carbs: 3g
4. Using the information determined in step two, ask yourself:
Will eating this allow me to stay within my daily allotted carbs?
If yes, proceed. If no, don’t eat it.
In this case, 1 ounce of almonds gives plenty of fat (14g) and not many carbs (3g). It also has a moderate amount of protein. Though these will need to be eaten in moderation, and I will most likely need to pre-measure serving size portions, I can add these to my list of foods to enjoy.
If you are going through this process with a recipe or multiple item food, go through the same process. In this case, you will need to consider all ingredients. When in doubt, don’t eat it. You have worked hard to get your body into ketosis, it’s not worth starting over from an oversite!
Now that you have calculated your macros, obtained a calorie tracking app, and can determine what foods to stay away from, and what food to eat, you are on your way to being a