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Why Does Keto Do Macronutrients Differently?
Most people follow what nutritionists call the Standard American Diet: most of their calories come from carbohydrates, a good portion of them then come from protein, and they try to eat as little dietary fat as possible. The ketogenic diet is the exact opposite: it promotes consuming most of your calories from fat, then protein, followed by a small amount of carbs. Diets like paleo or the carnivore diet or Atkins prioritize protein over fat and carbohydrates, in that order.
The Importance of Fat When Eating Keto
The ketogenic diet isn't it just about stuffing your face with bacon and Crisco and expecting to get healthier. Keto emphasizes the fact that the largest portion of calories you consume in a day should come from fat, and that fat should be from healthy, whole food sources. Eating these foods and supplying your body with more energy from fat than from carbs can help put you in ketosis and improve your metabolic health.
You can get high quality, healthy fats from the following food sources:
- Grass-fed beef, lamb, or wild game
- Free-range chickens
- Full fat dairy products from hormone-free, cage-free, and/or grass-fed animals
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil, avocado oil, MCT oil, or coconut oil
The Importance of Balancing Your Protein Intake on Keto
Obviously, the human body needs protein to live. But it's very easy for people to eat too much protein on a ketogenic diet. You want to avoid that pitfall because it essentially negates the health benefits of eating keto. The whole point of eating a ketogenic diet is to lower your carbohydrate intake enough so that your body needs to convert fat into ketones for energy because it can't get enough glucose. But if you eat too much protein, your body may decide to convert that protein into glucose instead of burning its own fat for energy. For the casual keto dieter, most experts recommend somewhere between 15% and 25% of your calories come from protein. Any more than that, and you risk knocking yourself out of ketosis.
Counting Carbs on Keto
Carbohydrates have suffered a lot of flack lately in the news and in popular culture. But that doesn't mean all carbohydrates are bad. The more high fiber fruits and vegetables you can get in your diet, the better - regardless of whether you're eating keto or following a Standard American Diet. The goal on a ketogenic diet is to avoid the high sugar, low fiber fruits and vegetables.
Figuring out your carbohydrate needs on keto depends on your goals. Since most people are only eating keto to lose weight or fix problems with their metabolic health, let's discuss the two most popular ways to count carbs on keto: total carbs, and net carbs. Net carbs is best for people who are in relatively good health and don't have much weight to lose. It gives you more wiggle room with your carbs and allows you up to 40 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber) or a maximum up 10% of your daily caloric intake coming from carbohydrates. Total carbs incorporates dietary fiber, and most experts recommend that you keep your daily carb intake to 5% of daily caloric intake (that's sometimes as low as 20 carbs per day, max).
Putting it All Together: How to Calculate Your Macronutrient Profile on Keto
Take everything you see below with a tiny grain of salt. Your goals and your macronutrient needs will differ based on things like:
- Whether you're following a strict or a modified ketogenic diet
- Your weight loss goals
- Your bodybuilding goals
- Your metabolic health
- And much more
People on a modified ketogenic diet will count net carbs instead of total carbs. People who are trying to build muscle may need to up their carbohydrate intake slightly. Obese people who need to lose weight or people with metabolic issues may want to increase their macronutrient intake and restrict their carbohydrate intake more than most people normally would. Most importantly: listen to your body. Start with the less radical split of fat to protein to carbs and adjust as necessary depending on how you feel and how good your results are.
Most people like to search online for macronutrient calculators, especially if they're just trying keto for the first time. They aren't hard to find, and there are way too many to list right here. But if you'd rather do it by hand, follow these steps:
- Use an online BMR calculator to figure out your daily caloric needs based on weight loss, muscle gain, or weight maintenance
- Multiply that number by the % of your daily caloric needs which need to come from each macronutrient
- Once you get that number, divided by the number of calories per gram in each macronutrient
- Finally, use this information to start planning out a healthy, delicious, keto-friendly meal plan
In order to make this example a little more concrete, let's use some real numbers. Lisa, our hypothetical test subject, is 32 years old, weighs 150 lbs, does light cardio 3 times per week, and wants to lose about 20 lbs before her sister's wedding. Let's also assume she would rather follow a modified ketogenic diet and only count net carbs because she's worried about her gut health and doesn't want to miss out on the health benefits of fiber. If she wants to lose the weight by eating keto, here's how her macronutrient breakdown looks:
- Most online BMI calculators estimate that she needs to consume no more than 1,470 calories per day if she wants to lose 2 pounds per week
- a basic 70%/20%/10% fat/protein/carbohydrate split means that she should consume the following calories per macronutrient each day:
- 1,470 x .70 = 1,029 calories of fat/day
- 1,470 x .20 = 294 calories of protein/day
- 1,470 x .10 = 145 calories of net carbs/day (total carbs - fiber)
- Each gram of fat contains 9 calories on average. For protein and carbohydrates, it's only 4 calories per gram. Knowing this, her macronutrient profile works out to be:
- 1,029 ÷ 9 = 115 g of fat/day
- 294 ÷ 4 = 74 g protein/day
- 145 ÷ 4 = 36 g of net carbs per day (total carbs - fiber)