The keto diet is based on eating good fats, drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake, and moderately limiting protein intake so that your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. But along with eating more fat and less protein and carbs, it’s also about consuming the right amounts of each based on your goal to lose, maintain, or gain weight or use the diet for therapeutic treatment of medical conditions. That’s where “macros” (short for macronutrients) come in.
What Are Macros?
Macros are your daily caloric intake for the keto diet, broken into categories of optimal fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. They are also your literal map for keto success.
How to Calculate Macros
The optimal amount of macros is different for each person, based on age, height, weight, activity level, body fat percentages (this is different than BMI), and weight goals. How do you know what your optimal macros should be? The easiest way to determine the correct amounts is to use a macro calculator, (Keto-Mojo will be launching a free macro calculator soon!). Just input the requested information and it will calculate the breakdown of calories, protein, carbs, and fat needed for you to lose, gain, or maintain your weight, depending on the goals you set.
Regardless, the general consensus within the keto community is that you want to keep your net carbs to 20 or less grams per day to lose weight (unless you’re an active athlete, in which case you can up your net carbs a bit).
Note: Factors such as age, gender, family, and personal medical history, and genetics influence how your body responds to specific macronutrients and whether or not they help keep your body in ketosis. For this reason, we recommend you discuss your intended diet with a medical provider who knows your health history, has an understanding of the ketogenic diet, and can help you make choices that are best for you.
How to Track Your Macros
Once you know your macros, you should count (track) them to give yourself the best chance to get and keep your body in a ketogenic state.
Calculating your macros means knowing the total amount of calories, fat, protein, and “net carbs” (described below) for everything you eat and drink and keeping track of them each day to ensure you don’t surpass your daily goals. Yes, it’s a bit of work, and yes, everyone gets off track now and then. But don’t be discouraged. It’s all part of the journey and after a while, it really does become second nature. We know from experience that it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating within your macros when you’re actually exceeding them. We also know that once you start keeping track and eating to your macros, you’ll find you’re less and less hungry over time and have far better overall success. Plus, it’s kind of fun, and definitely empowering, to see cool charts and graphs of your daily food intake.
You can manually track your daily macros intake or calculate your totals using an app, such as Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, or Carb Manager (see our review on keto apps here) or an online recipe analyzer like the one at Happy Forks.
What Are Net Carbs?
Plainly put, “net carbs” are the total grams of carbohydrates in any given food minus its grams of sugar alcohols and fiber. Here’s the basic formula:
Net carbohydrates = total carbohydrates – fiber – sugar alcohols (if applicable).
Now perhaps you’re wondering, what are sugar alcohols? We’ll get to that in a second. But first, here’s an example of the net carb calculation, using a medium avocado, which, incidentally, never contains sugar alcohols:
A medium avocado contains 17.1 grams of total carbs and 13.5 grams of fiber. So, to get its net carbs, you subtract the fiber (13.5 grams) from the total carbs (17.1 grams), which leaves you with 3.6 grams of net carbs (i.e., 17.1 grams carbs – 13.5 grams fiber = 3.6 grams net carbs for 1 medium avocado). Talk about reason to enjoy guacamole!