Understanding the Keto diet means mastering your macros. Macronutrients, or macros, are the fat, protein and carbs that make up your diet. But how are macros calculated and how many of each macro do you need in order to stay in ketosis? Read on for the answers to all of your questions surrounding macronutrients and the role they play in your Keto diet.
The reason that macros are so important on the Keto diet is due to a metabolic state known as ketosis. During ketosis, your body creates a fuel resource known as ketones through your stored fat cells. This burns away your stored fat and allows your body to access the energy you need whenever you need it.
In order to achieve ketosis you have to alter the way your body looks for energy. Your body’s preferred energy source is glucose because it’s fast. Glucose comes from the sugar that’s in the carbohydrates that you eat. The more carbs you eat, the more glucose is available and your body stores any excess glucose as fat for a later date. The problem is, that day never comes because in our modern society the majority of people eat a higher carb diet and they never run out of food. This means that your body keeps burning through the glucose, you keep restore the glucose through carbs and you never reduce your carb intake enough to begin ketosis.
This is where the Keto diet comes in. Keto tricks your body into thinking that there’s an energy shortage and it switches to its backup energy source, ketones that are produced from your stored fat cells.
You now know that on the Keto diet you don’t want to eat a lot of carbohydrates because you want to put your body in ketosis so it begins burning fat for fuel. But how much fat and protein are you supposed to eat? How many carbs are you allowed? The following in-depth look at macronutrients will help you figure out the right balance of macros for your Keto diet.
Protein is required in order to build and maintain muscle. If you’re looking to lose weight on the Keto diet and you exercise a fair bit you’re going to want to consume a larger amount of protein. The amount of protein you need to eat depends on your goals (lose weight, build muscle etc), your current weight and your activity level.
On a typical Keto diet protein should make up about 20% of the calories you eat. However, this can range a fair bit from 15% to 30%. The more stationary you are and the lower your starting weight, the less protein you need to eat. The more you weigh and the higher your activity level, the more you’ll need to include protein into your diet. Good sources of protein on the Keto diet include meat, dairy, nuts and seeds.
Fat makes up the majority of your diet on Keto. This makes sense as your body is burning fat for fuel so you need to replenish this fat through your diet. This is great news for bacon lovers! Meat, full-fat dairy and nuts all have large amounts of keto-friendly fats. Avocados, butter and oils are also great sources of fat.
While on Keto 60-70% of your diet should come from fat. As a general rule, for every gram of fat you consume you’re going to be eating 9 calories. This means that you don’t have to eat as much fat in order to reach your calorie goal. Fat foods are known as calorie-dense foods.
Although the Keto diet is fat-friendly, you should pay attention to what type of fat you’re eating as not all fats are created equal. Avoid trans fats at all costs. These types of fats are found in processed foods and fast foods. Trans fats clog up your arteries, damage your heart and they have no nutritional benefit for your body.
Instead of trans fats, you should focus on polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and saturated fats. These fats are healthy and provide your body with health benefits. They’re the source of Omega 3’s, fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides that your body needs to function properly. Unlike trans fats, these healthy fats actually protect your heart against disease and keep your arteries clear.
Carbohydrates are the big one when it comes to a Keto diet. The more carbs you eat, the less likely you’ll be able to keep your body in ketosis. The suggested starting place for your carbs is 20g of net carbs daily for men and 25g of net carbs daily for women. However, this amount can range from 20g all the way up to 50g depending on your body’s tolerance to carbohydrates. Some people are more sensitive to others and their bodies revert back to burning glucose if they go over 20g of carbs while other people can stay in ketosis while consuming more carbs.
Low carb foods that are good additions on the Keto diet include leafy green vegetables, avocado, broccoli, nuts, meat, fats, seeds and butter. A lot of fruits have carb counts that make them difficult to include in the Keto diet. The general rule of thumb is the sweeter the fruit the more carbs are found in it. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes are also no go’s on Keto. You should also avoid any grains (including quinoa), rice, bread, cereal and pasta.
Keto Test Strips
A new addition to your Keto toolbox is a Keto test strip. Keto test strips measure the level of ketones in your blood. The higher the level of ketones present, the more firmly you’re in ketosis. There are blood tests and urine tests but the urine tests are quick, easy and inexpensive. The blood tests appear to be more reliable but you can achieve good results with the urine strips.
All you have to do is pee on the strip for a moment and compare the color that appears on the strip to the color chart that came with your test kit. This should only take seconds and you’ll have a fairly accurate idea as to whether you are still in ketosis or not. Although there’s a range of colors and levels on the test strips, if you’re looking to see whether or not you’re still in ketosis all you need to see is that there are tiny levels of ketones present.
Because different people can tolerate different levels of carbs without kicking your body out of ketosis these little strips can help you figure out exactly what your level is. When you’re beginning your Keto diet start at 20g of net carbs a day and slowly increase, testing every day. Some people can only eat 20g of net carbs before their body gets thrown out of ketosis while others can have 30, 40 or 50g of net carbs a day. These strips can help you figure out the exact number of carbs that your body will allow.
How do you calculate the macronutrients in food?
The most important macronutrient that you need to know how to calculate on the Keto diet is the number of carbohydrates that you’re consuming. The Keto diet doesn’t count the amount of fibre a food has or the number of alcohol sugars because these are not absorbed by the body and turned into glucose so they can’t affect your level of ketosis.
The way you figure out your net carbs for a particular food is by taking the total number of carbs listed and subtracting the grams of fibre and sugar alcohols from this total number. For example, if you were looking at a food with 10g of total carbs but there were 2 grams of fibre listed you would subtract the 2 grams of fibre from the 10g total and you’d be left with 8g of net carbs in your food.
You should also know how to locate the protein and fat content of your food. These are pretty easy to calculate. The one thing to watch is the serving size. If a food item has a serving size set to 50g but it’s a 100g package be sure to multiply the fat, protein and net carbs by 2 if you eat the whole package.
Although fat and protein aren’t as important as carbs to figure out on the keto diet they can mean the difference between you losing weight or gaining weight. In fact, if you’ve focused on carbs up until this point and you’re struggling to lose weight you might want to take a look at your protein levels and see if they’re too high for the amount of exercise you get.
If you’re having trouble reading nutrition labels or you’re having a hard time figuring out the macro content of your food because it’s a whole food that doesn’t come with a nutrition label then there are plenty of programs online or apps that you can download that allow you to input the food you’re eating to calculate the macro content.
Knowing your macronutrient levels while on the Keto diet can make the difference between failure and success. The main macro you need to focus on is carbohydrates; however, playing around with the number of fats and protein that your body consumes can help you to lose weight, gain muscle and get the most out of your Keto meal plan.