Keto Diet Macros: How to Calculate Yours

The keto diet (ketogenic diet) has been around for quite some time, but recently there has been a surge in popularity for this ultra low carb eating regime.

Firstly I want to emphasize that long-term, flexible dieting (eating normal levels of macros) is just as good at helping your reach your weight loss and fitness goals as a keto diet.

It could be argued that flexible dieting is better as it is less restrictive and therefore more sustainable.

But, a keto diet may be appropriate for someone looking for faster initial results¹.

  • Those training for fitness competitions.
  • Those trying to lose weight for an event but have a shorter time window.
  • Those who have tried flexible dieting but because of metabolic issues are unable to lose weight eating normal levels of carbohydrates.

What is a Keto Diet?

The keto diet was first developed for use by those with epilepsy. It later became popular among bodybuilders to cut fat before competitions. It will cause your body to burn nothing but fat for energy instead of using glucose (carbohydrates).

A person achieves this by greatly limiting carbs and eating more fat. In the absence of carbs, the body will begin converting both dietary fat and body fat into ketones which are then used by the cells of your body for energy.

It’s important to understand that a calorie deficit is still required for fat loss to happen.

Keto Macro Calculation

If you wish to calculate your keto diet macros, the first thing to do is to establish your estimated TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

Here’s the formula:²

For males:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 = REE

For females:

10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161 = REE

Tip: Remember your high school math lesson about Order of Operations: (PEMDAS from left to right) when solving the equation for yourself.

Now factor in your movement, since you probably don’t lie in bed all day.

  • Sedentary
    Regular daily activity like a little walking, a couple flights of stairs, eating, talking etc. (REE X 1.2)
  • Light activity
    Any extra activity that burns an additional 200-400 calories for females or 250-500 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.375)
  • Moderate activity
    Any extra activity that burns an additional 400-650 calories for females or 500-800 calories for males more than your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.55)
  • Very Active
    Any extra activity that burns more than about 650 calories for females or more than 800 calories for males in addition to your sedentary amount. (REE x 1.725)

Once you have your TDEE established you can then calculate your keto macros.

Set a Calorie Deficit

Before you calculate your keto macros you must start by creating a calorie deficit. 20% is a pretty safe starting point, so deduct 20% from your TDEE.

Hint: Our calculator does all the preceding math for you.

How Many Carbs?

The keto diet isn’t carb free but just really low in carbs. Just 5% of your total daily calories should be in the form of carbs.

How Much Protein?

Some people on a keto diet make the mistake of consuming too much protein.

Your body can also convert protein to energy for the body. Eating more than is needed for muscle repair and preservation will cause your body to do this. The goal is to burn body fat for extra energy, not extra protein.

No more than .8 grams per pound of body weight should be consumed while on a keto diet.

The Rest is Fat

The rest of your remaining calories should come from fat.

Example: A  moderately active woman who is 30 years old,  5’5″, and 180 pounds would have a weight loss TDEE of 1908 calories. Here are her keto macros:

  • Protein: 144 grams (30%)
  • Fat: 137 grams (65%)
  • Carbs: 24 g (5%)

Keto Foods

high fat foods

Here are some foods that will help you reach your keto macros.

  • Avocado
  • Ground flax seed
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Grassfed butter
  • Dark meat chicken
  • Eggs
  • Steak
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Bacon
  • Sour cream
  • Hard cheeses
  • Nuts (watch the carbs)
  • Seeds (watch the carbs)
  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond butter
  • Leafy greens and other low-carb veggies like cucumber, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts, etc.

How Much Fiber?

You still should consume green leafy and other low carb veggies while on the keto diet, but some people may need to consume fiber supplements in order to be in the optimal fiber range for your body. Psyllium husks are a good natural fiber choice if you feel you aren’t getting enough.

Tests For Ketosis

Luckily, you don’t have to guess whether or not your body is in ketosis. There are several over-the-counter testing methods to determine your ketosis status.

  1. Urine keto test strips
  2. Ketone Breath tests
  3. Blood ketone testers

You want to be in the range of 0.5 – 3.0 for blood ketones with the optimal fat burning target of 2.0.

Problems with Ketogenic diets

There can be a pretty intense adjustment period when starting a ketogenic diet. While adjusting to ketosis many report the following symptoms:

  1. Brain fog– Your brain loves glucose and consumes a lot of it. While it’s adjusting to ketones you may feel pretty spacey and out of it.
  2. Lack of energy– Feeling tired and lethargic is another symptom of the adjustment to using fat for energy instead of sugar.
  3. Lack of strength during workouts – Without carbs quickly replenishing your muscles’ glycogen supplies, your muscles will tire out more quickly.
  4. Cravings– Again, your brain will not be happy and will want you to eat carbs. Be prepared for some intense cravings when you first start.

Note: Since keto dieting is restrictive it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor before starting. Your doctor may want to do a fasting blood test to make sure there aren’t any blood sugar issues that could make doing keto dangerous for your health. Ketogenic dieting has been shown to reverse type 2 diabetes in some individuals.³

How Long Should I Keto?

Since keto dieting is a short term solution when used for fat loss, it really should be used for only about a month or two months max.

Some advocates of keto dieting say people should eat this way for life, but we don’t see that as a realistic way to eat long term. Besides, life is far too short to never enjoy cake, pizza, cookies and a nice glass of wine. Moderation and balance always win over restriction.

Transitioning From the Keto Diet

You should then transition to a normalized set of macros like Flexible Dieting advises. While keto dieting can be good for short term fat loss, it’s important that it not brainwash you into thinking that certain foods or macros are “bad”. Eating a balanced diet with an understanding of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)  is the healthiest way to eat and the most sustainable way to lose weight long term.

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    References:

  • Yancy, W. S., Olsen, M. K., Guyton, J. R., Bakst, R. P., & Westman, E. C. (2004). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemiaA randomized, controlled trial. Annals of internal medicine140(10), 769-777. http://annals.org/aim/article/717451/low-carbohydrate-ketogenic-diet-versus-low-fat-diet-treat-obesity
  • Mifflin, M. D., St Jeor, S. T., Hill, L. A., Scott, B. J., Daugherty, S. A., & Koh, Y. O. (1990). A new predictive equation for resting energy expenditure in healthy individuals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51 (2), 241-247. URL http://www.ajcn.org/content/51/2/241.abstract
  • Yancy, W. S., Foy, M., Chalecki, A. M., Vernon, M. C., & Westman, E. C. (2005). A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet to treat type 2 diabetes. Nutrition & Metabolism2(1), 34. <a href=”https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-2-34″>Study link</a>

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