Macros, short for macronutrients, are the nutrients that give the body energy. Macronutrients are composed of 3 types: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The 3 macronutrients help us compose our calories for the day. Each macronutrient has it’s own calorie value; fats are 9 calories per gram with carbohydrates and proteins being 4 calories per gram consumed. This means that with a calorie count of 1500, a person could create their own macronutrient breakdown whichever way they wish. For our purposes though, we are trying to break our macros down to a specific split; 20-30 grams of carbohydrates maximum and then finding the perfect mix of proteins and fats to cover satiety and keep us in ketosis.For the purposes of our breakdown, please calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) using the revised Harris Benedict equation or an online calculator prior to proceeding.
Macronutrient Breakdowns: Carbohydrates
For those new to keto, you will consume anywhere from 20-30 grams of carbohydrates maximum to ensure that the body enters ketosis. Now not all carbohydrates are alike on this diet; in fact, fiber is your friend. Fiber does not count towards our total net carb amount that will be set up from our macronutrients. Fiber is not part of our “net carb” count due to it’s properties – fiber does not get processed by the body like other carbohydrates and it does not effect blood glucose levels. This being the case, calculating our carbohydrates for the day would look like this:
Total Carbohydrates Consumed (grams) – Fiber Consumed (grams) = Net Carbs
To use a label example, let us take a look at this pasta sauce label:
Total Carbohydrates Consumed (5) – Fiber Consumed (2) = Net Carbs (3)
My net carbs for using 1 serving of 125ml is 3 by subtracting my fiber in the sauce from the total carbohydrates listed.
By knowing our totals for carb counts, we can ensure our body will stay in ketosis by consistently using our small carbohydrate stores as quickly as possible.
Protein is just as important as fats in this diet. To preserve muscle mass that your body already has, you need to consume sufficient protein. If you are planning on building more mass, your protein amounts should be higher than the average.
For calculating protein macros, we are doing the following:
Calculating the amount of lean body mass
Using lean body mass to calculate grams of protein necessary to preserve or build muscle
Let’s say that the average keto eater were a 30 year old, 180lbs male at 6ft, of which 25% of his body mass is body fat (you can use calipers or visual descriptors to find what your body fat percentage is at home). Knowing this information, we can find out how much lean body mass the person has using the following equation:
180lbs (body weight) X 0.25 (body fat percentage) = 45lbs (body fat)
180lbs(body weight) – 45 (body fat) = 135lbs of lean body mass
Having calculated your lean body mass, use this information to find how many grams of protein your body should consume if you are choosing to preserve or build muscle.
If preserving muscle, your protein amount should be 0.6-0.8 per pound of lean body mass. For our example, our protein goal would be:
135lbs (lean body mass) X 0.6/0.8 (grams of protein) = 81g at 0.6g of protein up to 108g at 0.8g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
To gain muscle mass, your grams of protein for each pound of lean body mass would increase from 0.8-1.0g per pound of lean body mass.
As per our example above:
135lbs (lean body mass) X 0.8/1.0 (grams of protein) = 108 to 135 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.
Using our carbohydrate and protein macros, we can finally calculate our fat macros.
To calculate our fats, we will be using all our calculations above to create our perfect keto balance.
Using our gentleman example from above, we will keep to 25 grams of carbs and preserve muscle using 81g of protein. Based on his BMR calculation, our gentleman has a basal metabolic rate of 1898. Using this, we can calculate his caloric needs based on the level of activity in his lifestyle. Since he has a sedentary lifestyle, we will multiply his BMR by 1.2 to account for this (all values for level of activity can be found online).
1898 (BMR value) X 1.2 (activity value) = 2278 (rounded up) total calories
Now that we know our calorie values for the day, we can calculate our fat macros using what we know. Remember the values of calories per gram of fat, carbohydrates and protein from above? That will be needed for this step below.
Using 25 grams of carbohydrates as our base, we can calculate how many calories from carbohydrates we are eating.
25g of carbohydrates X 4 calories per g = 100 calories from carbohydrates
Using our protein value above, we can do the same with proteins to figure out how many calories from protein we are eating.
81g of protein X 4 calories per g = 324 calories from protein
Now that we have the calorie values from proteins and carbohydrates, we can calculate our fat calories using the information provided.
Total daily calories – protein calories – carbohydrate calories = fat calories
2278 – 324 – 100 = 1854
1854 calories are left for our fat calories. Remember how 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories? Well you do now! Use this value to calculate your grams of fat allowance.
1854 calories from fat / 9 calories per gram = 206 g of fat.
Our total macros for our example would be as follows: 25g of carbohydrates, 81g of protein and 206g of fat.
Macro Conclusion: How to Use Them
Once you calculate your macros, there are ways to use them to your advantage if you are working on weight loss or overall health. If you are looking for fat loss, view your carbohydrates as a limit, your proteins as a goal and your fats as a lever. What does this mean? Well, you don’t have to consume all of your fat grams. In fact, so long as you hit 50g of fat daily, you do not need to consume more unless you are hungry. The reason why many keto folk do not consume all their fat macros is because they are not in maintenance yet and they wish to use both the fats they are consuming and their body fat as fuel. If you run through the fat grams you have eaten as fuel, where else would your body get fats to use as energy? Your body fat! Until your body is in maintenance mode, do not aim to consume your fat macros entirely but ensure you hit your protein goal, minimum fat consumption of 50g and keep your carbs to a minimum to keep yourself in ketosis. Keep calm and keto on!