What are Macros and How Do I Find Mine?

Macros is short for Macronutrients, which is the basic breakdown of the food we eat.

A Ketogenic Lifestyle focusses on modifying the body’s fuel system from burning carbs as its primary fuel source to burning fat as fuel and allowing the body to utilize its most effective fueling mechanism and maintain a state of nutritional ketosis.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are made up of sugar, starches, and fiber and are really the only non-essential macronutrient.  To reach a state of nutritional ketosis you need to limit your carbohydrate intake to between 20 – 50g a day of net carbohydrates.

Net carbohydrates are the sugars and starches left over once all the fiber has been subtracted from a foods total carbohydrate count.  While fiber is considered a carbohydrate, it does not count towards your daily carbohydrate number as our bodies do not really digest it, and has a very minimal impact on blood sugar.

Net Carbs = Total Carbs – Fiber

Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram.

Protein

Protein is very important for growth, tissue repair, immune function, generating essential hormones and enzymes, and preserving lean muscle mass in the absence of carbohydrates and is considered the “building blocks” of your body.

Protein breaks down into amino acids, a lot of which can not be produced by your body, so they must come from the foods you eat.  A protein deficiency, or a deficiency of any essential amino acids can result in malnutrition and a number of other health conditions.

While eating a keto diet you will need to consume enough protein to preserve your lean body mass.  How much is needed will depend on your current lean body mass, but as a general rule you need:

0.6 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass to preserve muscle.
0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass to build muscle.

Protein provides 4 calories per gram.

Fat

We require sufficient amounts of fat in our diet for energy, growth and the absorption of certain fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K, and also for maintaining cell membranes.  They also help keep us feeling full, while adding flavor to our foods.

If you are keeping your carbs to a minimum and eating the right amount of protein to preserve muscle, the rest of your daily caloric intake will come from fats.

If you want to maintain your current weight, you will need to eat enough calories from fat to meet your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), which is your RBE (Resting Basal Metabolic Rate, or the energy your body burns daily if you were to do absolutely nothing) plus any energy used during your daily activities.

If you are looking to lose some body fat, then you’ll need to eat just enough calories from fat to put your self in a caloric deficit (normally 500 – 1000 calories below your TDEE).

Fat provides 9 calories per gram.

How Do You Calculate Your Macro Requirements?
While you can manually calculate your macro requirements by using TDEE calculators online and the information above, there are many keto specific macro calculators available online that will do all the hard work for you.  Many of them use slightly different formulas to provide you with the numbers you need, but they will all come out with roughly the same information.

The one I personally use is available at https://ketogains.com/ketogains-calculator/ and provides options for quite a bit of customization and does focus on providing macros that will ensure you at least maintain lean body mass.

What Does This All Mean

If anyone ever asks if you are tracking your macros, or tells you that you should be tracking your macros what they are actually saying is you need to:

  1. Identify your goals.  Are you looking to lose fat?  Build muscle?   Or are you doing keto specifically for its health benefits?
  2. Calculate the macros you need to achieve those goals either manually, or using a keto macro calculator.
  3. Look at the macros of the foods you want to eat.  Check food labels or look up nutritional information of what you’re eating online and make sure it fits into the macros that you’ve calculated.
  4. Create meal plans based around the foods you want to eat that will help you stick with it, or if you’re not the type to plan ahead (which is totally me!), track everything you’re eating throughout the day using a tracking app, a food journal or spreadsheet.  This will help you keep an eye on your intake and make sure you’re not going over your macros.