How Do You Calculate Keto Macros?
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I cannot even begin to tell you guys the amount of times I've heard this question asked or the amount of times I wished I'd written a post on it because it's something that I think confuses a lot of people and prevents them from starting a ketogenic diet.
In reality, macros really aren't THAT complicated and once you get the hang of counting them, you'll wonder why you ever found it difficult in the first place!
The hardest part is figuring them out initially and understanding the general concept.
There's a lot of information out there and I think it can be really overwhelming so today I wanted to lay it all out for you guys as simply as I possibly could. This includes a video format because I KNOW some of you hate reading my longer posts, haha.
So feel free to watch the video first if you are a visual/auditory learner and then come back here after to solidify the concepts.
You could also skip the reading entirely and instead look into a Custom Keto Diet Assessment where they pretty much do all the work for you and even design a meal plan based on your feedback! But I still hIghly recommend reading this post first because there's a lot fo valuable information!
With that said..let's get started.
What Are Macros?
First off, we need to know what “macros” even are.
Macros is short for “Macronutrients”. Macronutrients are those nutrients that our body needs in large quantities to produce energy.
The macronutrients come in 3 main categories:
(Technically alcohol is a macronutrient as well but not in quite the same sense so we'll leave that one out today).
Each macronutrient contains calories, calories are what give our body energy.
“A Calorie is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.”
What's actually important to remember is this:
Every gram of protein contains 4 calories.
Every gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories
Every gram of fat contains 9 calories.
This is important for later when we calculate what percentage of our calories should come from each, proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
Now before we go calculating our macros, we need to know how many calories we will be consuming each day.
How Many Calories Do I Need On A Keto Diet To Lose Weight?
You figure out the answer to this question with an equation OR you can make it really easy on yourself and use the calculator located here: TDEE Calculator
This is a TDEE calculator, also known as a “Total Daily Energy Expenditure Calculator”. It tells use roughly how many calories our body burns in a day carrying out it's regular activities as well as any physical activity that we do ourselves.
When you input your information and it gives you a result, it will look something like this:
I've circled the Basal Metabolic Rate in this photo, this is basically the lowest number of calories per day that your body needs to carry out necessary processes with you literally doing no activity at all.
Each level up from there, an activity factor is added based on how active you are. (This means you need more calories!)
I've found this calculator to be quite accurate and because it provides calorie amounts for each activity level. If you think maybe you estimated your activity too high or too low you can always take the average of the two calorie numbers above and below your result.
For example, for me, I said my activity level is “Moderate Exercise” because I workout ~4-5 times a week but I also sit at a laptop most of the day and it gave my this result of 1962 calories.
But if the calories seemed too low or too high to me, I could always take the average of the current activity level's calories + the other two closest levels (as I've outlined in the photo) to get a new, maybe more accurate caloric intake.
But for me, I think I estimated my activity level pretty well at 1962 calories per day.
So Now We Have Our Maintenance Calorie Intake, But How Do We Now LOSE Weight Instead?
To do so, we'd need to eat LESS than our maintenance calories each day. So instead of eating 1962 calories per day I could eat 250-500 calories LESS to begin losing weight.
How do I come up with the 250-500 calorie numbers?
This is because if you eat 500 calories LESS than your maintenance calories each day, you will LOSE roughly 1lb per week. This is because 1lb of fat contains 3500 calories.
3500 divided by 7 days a week = 500 calories (obviously our bodies will fluctuate so this will never be a perfect equation but it's the best one we have!)
Same goes for 250 calories, if you want to lose half a pound per week (which, I recommend, it's very sustainable!) you would eat 250 calories LESS each day.
We also call this a “calorie deficit” meaning we are in a deficit of 250-500 calories.
And of course, these are just base numbers, you can always play around with your deficit. Some people lose weight just eating 100 calories less per day or 200 less per day.
The main thing to remember is START SMALL AND WORK YOUR WAY UP with your deficit.
We always want to lose weight on the MOST calories possible for our body. This makes it the easiest for us to maintain. Also, immediately going to a large deficit like 600 calories can actually hurt us in the long run because…
- We'll find the diet hard to stick to and be hungry all the time.
- We'll end up causing our metabolism to decrease to match this new intake, so when we return to our “normal” eating we'll actually gain weight more rapidly AND easily and not be able to lose the weight again as easily as before.
This is HUGE to remember. So many people end up yo-yoing or trying to lose weight fast and this is always the result.
Choose a calorie deficit that YOU KNOW YOU CAN STICK TO and that isn't too drastic. As I said before, you can always increase the calorie deficit as the weeks progress. After 3-4 weeks of no progress, you could drop your calories by an extra 100 to continue losing weight. This is actually what high quality coaches do for people prepping for bodybuilding shows or even just the average person looking to lose some weight.
It helps them lose weight on the HIGHEST calories possible to maintain their metabolism and level of adherence.
Alright, so we know now how to create a deficit. Still with me here? Because now we're going to learn how to calculate our macros for this new calorie number we've decided on for weight loss.
So from the example above we saw my maintenance calories are 1,962 per day.
This means I need to eat roughly 1462 calories-1712 calories per day to lose weight.
1462 calories is our 500 calorie deficit
1712 is a little less intense and is a 250 calorie deficit.
I'm going to choose somewhere in the middle and eat 1600 calories per day to lose just over 1/2 a pound per week as I've found this to work well for me in the past.
“Alright, great. I'm eating 1600 calories per day….but how do I find out my keto macros?”
How Do I Calculate My Keto Macros?
For these calculations, we are going to reference what we learned before about fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Every gram of protein contains 4 calories.
Every gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories
Every gram of fat contains 9 calories.
Now we need to put it to good use!
A ketogenic diet's ratios are usually: 75% fats, 20% proteins and 5% carbohydrates
These ratios are necessary for your body to able to reach a state of ketosis where you begin to run on fat as fuel rather than carbohydrates.
With these ratios we can calculate how much fat, protein and carbohydrates should be coming from our 1600 calories per day that we decided on above.
We are basically just calculating our percentages. Let's start with fats.
How To Calculate How Much Fat You Should Have On A Ketogenic Diet?
We need 75% of our calories to come from fat on a ketogenic diet. To figure out what 75% of 1600 calories is, we do simple math and multiply:
0.75 x 1600 calories= 1200 calories.
This means 1200 calories is how many calories should be coming from fat on our diet.
Now that we have the calories, we can also figure out what this is in GRAMS OF FAT using what we learned before.
Remember, fat has 9 calories per gram.
So to calculate how many grams are in 1200 calories, we simply divide:
1200 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = ~133g of fat
Great! So I personally need to eat 133g of fat on my ketogenic diet each day to lose weight. Let's look at protein next.
How To Calculate How Much Protein You Should Have On A Ketogenic Diet?
We need 20% of our calories to come from protein on a ketogenic diet. To figure out what 20% of 1600 calories is, we do simple math again and multiply:
0.20 x 1600 calories= 320 calories.
This means 320 calories is how many calories should be coming from protein on our diet.
Now that we have the calories, we can also figure out what this is in GRAMS OF PROTEIN using what we learned before.
Remember, protein has 4 calories per gram.
So to calculate how many grams are in 320 calories, we simply divide:
320 calories / 4 calories per gram of protein = 80g of protein
Cool, so I personally need to eat 80g of protein on my ketogenic diet each day to lose weight. Lastly, let's look at carbohydrates.
How To Calculate How Many Carbohydrates You Should Have On A Ketogenic Diet?
5% of our calories should be coming form carbohydrates.
If we multiply 0.05 x 1600 calories we get 80 calories.
80 calories / 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate = 20g of carbohydrates per day
As you can see, carbohydrates CAN be calculated using a similar equation to the one above as, like protein, it also has 4 calories per gram. And the 20g of carbohydrates we calculated is actually a perfect amount for a ketogenic diet.
BUT this equation does not work for everyone.
This is because some people may have a caloric intake that's lower or higher than the average. This could skew the calculation causing their net carbs to be much higher than 20g per day or much lower than 20g per day.
Take a person that eats 3500 calories per day to maintain their weight. They decided to lose weight on 3000 calories per day.
If we calculate the carbohydrate percentage by multiplying:
0.05 x 3000 calories per day we get 150 calories coming from carbohydrates.
150 calories/ 4g per carbohydrate = ~38g of carbs per day.
38g of carbohydrates is still technically considered OK for a ketogenic diet (anything under 50g of NET carbs per day CAN produce ketosis) BUT this may be too high for this individual as they may be insulin sensitive. It also is quite high if you are just starting a ketogenic diet and it will likely take this person longer to reach ketosis eating a higher amount of carbohydrates.
SO where I'm going with all this.. is when calculating for carbohydrates, it's better to forget trying to figure out the percentage of your calories and instead choose a carbohydrate goal in grams.
A solid number to aim for is 20g of carbohydrates per day. Especially when you are just starting out.
You can always increase this number a little over time or based on how active you are but for the most part 20g of NET carbs per day is a ketogenic diet average and you'll see the best results when sticking to this number.
So Long Story Short, Here Is My Macronutrient Breakdown That We Calculated:
- 133g of fat
- 80g of protein
- 20g of carbohydrates
- 1600 calories per day
These are my weight loss calories and macros that I would follow to lose weight! You can follow this same process for calculating your own macros.
How To Calculate NET Carbohydrates
One last thing I do want to point out is the 20g of carbohydrates.
On keto we calculate NET carbs.
This simply means Total Carbohydrates – Fiber and/or Sugar Alcohols = NET Carbs
We do this because fiber and sugar alcohols don't have the same effect on our insulin levels as traditional carbohydrates so there's no need to be as strict with tracking them.
You can see the video above for examples of how to calculate NET carbs!
But basically it just means looking at a package where it says “carbohydrates” writing down that number, then finding where the package says “fiber” as well as “sugar alcohols” (if it has any) and subtracting those numbers from the first number.
So if a sugar free candy that has 10g of carbohydrates, 4g of fibre and 3g of sugar alcohols, our calculation would look like this:
10g of total carbohydrates – 4g of fibre – 3g of sugar alcohols = 3g of NET carbs
Now we know if we ate that candy, we have 17g of remaining NET carbohydrates for the day because if our goal is 20g of NET carbs and we subtract 3g of NET carbs we get 17g of NET carbs.
Still A Bit Confused?
If you find all this information a bit overwhelming, I'll link a macronutrient calculator at the bottom of this post (just know it's not 100% accurate all of the time so take it with a grain of salt). You can also watch the explainer video above.
Lastly, if you want even more support and custom keto macros calculated for you, The Custom Keto Diet Plan App will give you a free assessment along with a 7 day free trial of their program for I believe 1$. This includes:
- An eight-week meal plan created based on the expertise of certified nutritionists, personal trainers, and chefs.
- Meals that have calorie and macronutrient content tailored to your specific situation and goals.
- A nutrition plan with food variety to ensure you will get a wide range of nutrients and boost the likelihood of sticking to your diet.
- Meals that are based on personal food preferences to make your diet enjoyable and help you stay on track with your plan.
- Detailed recipes with step-by-step instructions to make meal preparation super simple (no prior cooking experience needed).
- A downloadable shopping list each week that details every needed ingredient you will need in the upcoming seven days.
- Options on how you can customize every meal even more to suit your taste buds.
- We’ll show your what to eat every day to reach your goals in the fastest and most enjoyable way.
Anyways, I hope you guys found this post helpful! I really wanted to make this as simple as I could. Let me know in the comments if you have any more questions regarding calculating ketogenic macros!
Useful Tracking Apps: