Counting calories and figuring out your macros can be tedious, so we want to make it as simple as possible for you on your keto journey.
The classic ketogenic diet is made up of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrate. Getting more personal with the percentages is a great way to optimize your keto benefits. Essentially the ranges are:
- 5-10% CARBS
- 15-25% PROTEIN
- 65-75% FAT
We recommend using one of the many handy online calculators to determine your exact keto percentages and macro grams. Choose an online keto calculator that accounts for your age, gender, weight, BMI, and activity level, and sets your daily calorie intake for you.
Let’s take the macronutrients one by one, starting with protein so we can understand the breakdown of each.
Protein: To enter nutritional ketosis, you want to eat the minimum protein necessary to preserve (or build if that’s your goal) lean muscle mass and support the healthy functioning of your organs. Proper protein intake is determined by your lean mass (your total weight minus your body weight) and your activity level. Your protein percentage is extremely important, as too little will have a negative impact on your lean muscle mass and too much will end up converting to glycogen and block ketosis.
The general expert consensus is that you need 0.5 grams per pound of lean muscle mass MINIMUM. If you are active, you need 0.7 grams per pound of lean mass. If you are doing heavy athletic training, are a growing teen of normal weight, an active senior, or pregnant or lactating mother, then up to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass is recommended.
Let’s try an example. You’re 170 pounds with 30% body fat.
- Find 30% of your total weight: 170 x .30 = 51 pounds
- Subtract your body fat from your total weight: 170 – 51 = 119 pounds
Let’s figure out the minimum and maximum grams of daily protein.
- Minimum: If you live a sedentary life with not much activity: 119 x 0.5 = 59.5 grams of protein
- Moderate: If you are active: 119 x 0.7 = 83.3 grams of protein
- Maximum: If you live an extremely active life (high performance athletes): 119 x 1.0 = 119 grams of protein
Carbs: It all comes down to low carbs on the keto diet. According to keto scientists, carbs have a pretty firm maximum at 50 grams a day in order to trigger ketosis. However, if you are lighter in activity levels, then it’s probably wise to whittle your carbs down to 20 grams a day in order to be able to whittle down your waist. High-performance athletes with uber-high activity levels can eat substantially more carbohydrates in a day—around 200 grams and still be within ketosis.
To help keep your carb intake low, it’s best not to binge on carbs at any one meal. Spread it out over the day.
Some keto books and keto-dedicated websites go into detail about gross carbs vs. net carbs. What that means is that 50 gross grams of carbs from a soda is going to throw your keto efforts way off base far more so than 50 grams of gross carbs from a fibrous food, such as a bowl of fruit that only has 30 grams of net carbs. So, essentially, it’s pretty safe to set your carb intake at 50 gross grams (which is 25-30 net grams of carbs).
The whole gross vs. net carb count can get unnecessarily complicated when it comes to tracking your carbohydrate grams. Just count gross carbs and make it simple for yourself. That’s how most of the online calculators do it.
Fat: It’s become a detestable word, and exactly what you’re trying to get rid of on your body. But let’s embrace a new relationship to fat and fully accept this FACT: Eating fat will NOT make you fat.
Fat helps curb your appetite and control your hunger hormones (and hunger is the sneakiest of saboteurs for weight loss!).
Fat helps you burn stored body fat because it won’t activate insulin production.
Fat gives you energy, so you can go longer, harder.
Get the picture? Fat is your friend…your best friend on the keto diet.
How many grams of fat you eat is determined by how many grams of protein and carbs you’ve allotted on your keto diet plan. The fat will make up the remaining calories and should fall within the 65-75% range. To determine fat grams, you must determine your minimum calorie intake for fat loss. Use an online calculator for this.
Let’s see how this works using our example.
Protein—We figured out that if we are 170 pounds with 30% body fat and are moderately active (as we hope you are!) then we need to eat approximately 83 grams of protein. There are 4 calories in every gram of protein, so multiply 83 x 4 and we get 332 protein calories.
Carbs—We are eating 50 grams of carbs, and there are 4 calories per gram of carbs, so 4 x 50 = 200 carb calories.
Protein and carbs account for 532 of our daily calories. The rest is fat. So, subtract 532 from your daily allotted calories and you have your daily fat calories. Divide that number by 9 (because there are 9 calories in every gram of fat) and you have your daily fat grams.
Here’s some food for thought:
Ø We need fat on our frame. Essential fat mass has to remain between 8% and 12% for women and 3% and 5% for men.
Ø You must consume at least 30 grams of fat per day to prevent the formation of gallstones according to authors Phinney and Volek in The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living (a low-carb bible!)
Let an App Track Your Macros!
You’ve got way better things to do with your time than obsess over macros and calories. So, let an app do the heavy lifting for you. Here are three of our favorites:
My Fitness Pal: This handy app allows you to set your macro goals and has a large database of food items and brands so you don’t have to spend a lot of time inputting your meals for the day. You can set up your macro percentages by going to Home -> Goals -> Change Goals, and in the free version you can change them by increments of 5%.
Carb Manager: This is an app designed specifically for low-carb and keto dieters. We love this one because you can use the convenient barcode scanning feature or input your meals with text, voice, or camera. The free version is pretty limited though, so you have to be willing to pay the premium fee.
The KetoDiet App: Another app specifically for keto dieters, the KetoDiet App is great for tracking macros, like net carbs. You can use their built-in calculator or set your own macros. You also get to log in weight and measurements so you can track your progress. Perfect for those who like to see results!
When to Eat
Now that you know what to eat and in what percentages/grams, let’s talk about when to eat.
We’ve all grown up with the saying: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
On the keto diet, it isn’t. Nutritional ketosis comes with different rules for fat adaptation, one of which is that skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can optimize your fat-burning efforts and get you keto-adapted quicker.
That doesn’t mean we want you to starve yourself (NO!) or intentionally skip meals. It just means, listen to your body and your hunger and satiety signals. Don’t just eat because it’s lunch time. Eat when your body sends the signal, and stop when your body says, “satisfied!”