Keto Macros Demystified: Everything You Need to Know [E17]

Keto Macros Explained - Podcast Cover
Does your brain hurt thinking about macros? Join us for this week's episode as we demystify keto macros, including what to stop wasting your time on and what to focus on instead.

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Hey there, Tasha here. I hope you’re excited for today’s episode because I’m going to be talking all about macros. And I think this is gonna be really super duper helpful for people because over the years, I have got to say that this is quite honestly the biggest source of frustration for most people getting started on keto. I’d even go as far to say it’s the biggest source of frustration for most people doing keto for a long time. And if I was to lump all the questions I get into different categories, I’d say that the macronutrient category would be right at the top, bursting at the seams from all the different questions I get about this topic. So keeping that in mind, I’m going to be breaking this into a couple of different episodes. Because instead of just one giant lump of information, I want this to be actionable, manageable stuff that isn’t overwhelming. Okay. If you guys have lots of questions about it, then breaking it down into two smaller parts seems a little better. OK. So this week we’re gonna learn about what the heck macros are and why they matter for keto. And next week, I’m going to talk all about tracking macros, including tools to consider and the good, the bad and the ugly side of it. OK. So first, what are macros? The term macros is just short for macronutrients. And I know that some of you guys already know this stuff. So bear with me because we’ll get into some of the more advanced stuff and just a bit.

But macronutrients are the nutrients in your diet that make up a significant portion of your intake. That’s opposed to micronutrients. Macronutrients, yield energy, which you need in pretty significant amounts. Right. While micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals in your diet are essential, but they’re only required in small amounts in comparison. OK, so macro, micro, big versus small in the nutrient supply in regards to your dietary needs. That’s where the term “macros” comes from. OK. Now when I say vitamins and minerals, people know what I’m talking about. That’s vitamin C, the B vitamins, calcium, iron, whatever. The micronutrients are always emphasized when we learned about nutrition growing up. Right. Eat your fruits and veggies. All that good stuff was reinforced. But when it comes to macros or macronutrients, that’s where a lot of people start to get fuzzy. They don’t really know what these things really are without more context. OK. So that’s one of my goals today is to put macros into context for you. How do they work in the big picture in your diet? The macronutrients are carbs, protein and fat. So these are the big players in your diet. You’re getting a lot more carbohydrate, fat, and protein in your diet than you are getting calcium and vitamin A. And you also need quite a bit more, right, macro versus micro. And macronutrients, as I said before, those yield energy. So in terms of nutrition and food, energy is just really another way of saying calories.

So essentially macronutrients are just where your calories are coming from. Carbs have four calories per gram. Protein has four calories per gram. And fat has nine calories per gram. The body processes each of the macronutrients differently. We’re not really going to go into the nitty gritty on this one today, but each macronutrient group influences your metabolism a bit differently and it can be used by your body for different purposes. So in the context of keto, why are macros important? Now, if you’re just focusing on keto alone specifically, then macronutrients are important to support ketosis. We shift where we source our energy and how our body is metabolizing it based on what we fuel our body with. So fueling with a high carb diet influences the metabolism to be a sugar burner, right? While fueling with a low carb diet forces the body to alter the metabolism, and it quite literally changes your metabolism to primarily burn fat for fuel. OK, and if you listen to this, you know this. You guys know this already. So by restricting carbs, one of the macros, you’re able to induce ketosis. So that’s the main reason for the hyper awareness regarding macros on keto rather than simply counting calories, which would represent a total of all three macronutrients grouped together. You partition them out into separate groups and by breaking them apart into these three separate groups instead of total calories, that allows you to keep an eye on your carbs to ensure ketosis by keeping them low.

How low? About 50 grams total or lower. OK. If carbs are low, then where’s the rest of your energy coming from? Fat and protein. So that’s where these macronutrient ratios all stem from. And this is where you start to hear low carb, high fat, moderate protein and see the pie chart type of graphics. And it’s basically just showing you this big pie is your total calories. And each slice represents different macronutrients that you would be eating. Right. And if you’re keeping your carbs low for ketosis, then in that big pie chart, it’s going to be just a tiny little sliver of a pie piece. And protein needs stay relatively consistent between a low carb diet and a high carb diet. And this is going to be a medium sized piece of the pie on the graph. Right. So then that big, huge slice of pie is representing your fat. And when most people think “ketogenic” or especially if they’re not really super familiar with keto already, they think of that keto macronutrient ratio of something like 75 percent fat, 20 percent protein, 5 percent carbs or something very similar to that. And they get really super duper hung up on this ratio as if that particular ratio was somehow magical. Right. Or that the particular ratio of macros relative to each other was the driving force behind ketosis, when in reality, actual real life keto macronutrient ratios are divided into a variety of different ways.

So long as the carbs are kept low enough. OK, carb restriction drives ketosis. Not necessarily the high fat, not keeping things in specific ratios. OK, so real life keto macros are divided into anywhere from around 50 to 80 percent fat, 20 to 50 percent protein and around 5 to 15 percent carbohydrate. OK, so that’s huge variation, right? These are huge ranges and it really doesn’t give you a lot of insight into how to set your diet up, what to target or anything like that. And most of the time, if you aren’t doing a medically therapeutic ketogenic diet or if you aren’t eating to maintain your weight, then your diet won’t actually look like that typical 75/25/5 ratio. OK, that’s just kind of this textbook standard thing that doesn’t really fit into most people’s diet. In fact, the only way to get that specific ratio if you are trying to lose weight by eating at a calorie deficit would be to sacrifice your protein. And remember, your protein needs are pretty fixed. You don’t really want to decrease your protein in order to cut calories. You want to eat adequate protein in order to preserve your lean body mass, keep you full, keep your metabolism revved up. OK. So if carbs are kept at a minimum to support ketosis and your protein intake is adequate to support lean body mass, then that wiggle room in your diet to create a calorie deficit is really left up to the fat macro.

So you’d actually be decreasing fat intake to create a calorie deficit in a well-formulated ketogenic diet. And of course, when you drop your calories a bit, then visualize that lower fat content in a pie chart. The fat slice gets a little bit smaller while the protein and carb portion start to take up a little bit more space. Right. But that’s only because you’re accounting for the fat from your meals while the fat that’s being burned from your body isn’t represented in that pie chart. A more accurate picture of what’s really going on would be four slices of pie: one for carbs, one for protein, one for dietary fat, and one for body fat that’s being burned. So thinking in macro ratios or percentages and building your meals around these concepts is actually pretty misleading. It’s overcomplicating something and it’s not going to give you the best results. I think that keto macro ratios and percentages are honestly a bit pointless in the context of weight loss in particular. And you’ll find that it’s a pretty unanimous conclusion among other nutritionists or coaches that understand how this all works, and they see the best results with their clients. OK. And I’ve seen this happen time and time again. People really miss the mark with this like scarily miss the mark. So I do want to talk about it. I’ve seen people post their macros and ratios after eating only like 200 calories for the day as a celebration post and Facebook groups for having “perfect macros.” Like, “I nailed it!” because they hit that 75 percent fat, 25 percent protein, 5 percent carbs or whatever specific ratio they were trying to hit. But they only ate like 200 calories.

I’ve also seen the extreme opposite of people sharing their “perfect macros” after eating 4000 calories–well over their body’s needs. So it goes both ways. And the ratio itself doesn’t determine how much you should be eating. Your body’s energy expenditure and your body composition determine that. OK, so what should you be doing instead of sweating the ratios and percentages of the macros in your food and hoping that they magically align with these super specific ratios? Which spoiler alert: they are not going to. There’s two things that you can do, OK? One is just focus on carb restriction alone. Eat intuitively beyond that. Listen to your body and nourish accordingly. Or two, you can calculate your macros in grams. Now I have a whole episode about just focusing on carb restriction alone and I would recommend going back and checking that out. If you’re just getting started, if you find keeping tabs on your macros to be mentally exhausting, or if you just want to keep it simple, then definitely check out episode number one of the podcast. It’s called “The Easiest Way to Start Keto.” And it really is the easiest way, guys. OK. And if you’ve been doing keto for some time and you want to fine tune your efforts, maybe you’ve had a weight loss style or a plateau.

Maybe you really want to focus on improving your body composition, increase your muscle, lose fat. Or maybe you just want to have more metrics and data and you just do well with those kind of statistics about your body and you love geeking out on nutrition information. OK. I totally get it. So whatever you decide is the best fit. I have been both people, believe me. And ultimately focusing on what feels best to you is going to be the thing that you’re most likely to stick to in the long run. Like I said, next week we’re going to dive into how to actually track macros and what to do instead if you absolutely hate tracking. But first, you need to know how to calculate your macros instead of breaking your energy needs down into a completely useless pie chart. Here’s what I want you to do instead. Figure out your energy needs. Set a carb limit to support keto. Set a goal for protein to target adequate intake that supports your lean body mass and then fill in the rest of your energy needs with fat from your plate or from your body. OK. That’s it in a nutshell. For most people, the keto carb limit is going to be under 50 grams total. Remember discount fiber for net carbs. If you’re eating whole foods instead of a bunch of processed convenience foods, then that’s going to bring you close to the 20 to 30 gram net carb range.

So if you’re doing total carbs, a limit of 50 grams of carbs per day is a good place to start. But if you’re doing net carbs, set the limit between 20 to 30 grams net carbs per day. Your protein needs will depend on your lean body mass. OK. So how much bone and muscle and tissue you have. And generally to support your lean body mass, the adequate protein range is between 0.6 grams to one gram per pound of lean body mass. So some people go even higher if they’re really athletic, if they’re super active, or if they’re doing body recomposition. But for the people who aren’t very active at all, then you can set the protein goal lower. The lower end of the range is just fine. OK, but if you’re engaged in any kind of activity, then targeting the higher end of that range, like at least one gram per pound of lean body mass is a really good idea. And honestly, I think that even sedentary folks could benefit from the middle range instead of the low end, especially when they’re dieting. Because increased protein helps keep you full. It helps keep you satisfied. So that’s something to consider, too. But if you have a tough time eating high protein, then 0.6 grams per pound of lean body mass is totally fine. It’s totally adequate. So for someone with 100 pounds of lean body mass, a range of 60 to 100 grams of dietary protein would be pretty standard.

You just want to target what range you fall into. Right. So the sedentary person that has 100 hundred pounds of lean body mass would be able to get away with 60 grams of protein per day, where the really active person with 100 pounds of lean body mass would probably need more like 100 grams of dietary protein every day. Now that you set your carb limit and your protein goal, figuring out how much fat to eat is based on whether or not you want to be eating at a calorie deficit. So if weight loss is your goal, that’s going to be you. But if not, then you just take your energy needs based on your body’s energy expenditure. Then the energy from the carbs and protein is subtracted to arrive at the fat content. And if weight loss is your goal, then you just decide how many calories you want to take off from that. OK, so set a calorie deficit, subtract carbs, protein and all those extra calories that you want to burn. And whatever leftover energy there is between your needs and all of that stuff you’ve just subtracted? That’s going to be your fat macro for weight loss. And I know this is all probably sounding complicated because I’m talking about math and you can’t see what I’m talking about. But don’t worry, because I have a tool that you can use to do all the math for you.

So hang in there. So out of that leftover energy, that’s where your fat macro is going to be at. OK. And that fat macro to get the number in fat grams, you just need to divide the number of calories by nine. Remember, fat has nine calories per gram. So that’s how you get any of these calorie numbers into grams. You would divide it by nine for fat, or four for carbs or protein. OK. So let’s say you’re left with a thousand calories after you subtract your carbs, your protein in calories that you want to burn for weight loss. You divide that one thousand by nine. And that’s a hundred and eleven grams of fat. OK. So this is going to be different for everybody. And unless you’re a nutritionist fine-tuning specifics, going through this process manually is not at all necessary. OK. So don’t worry. There’s tools that will do the math for you. And I’m just explaining what any keto calculator worth using is going to do for you. OK, so what you want to look for is a calculator that will give you your results in grams rather than percentages. That is step number one in looking for a keto calculator worth its weight in salt. Because percentages aren’t going to set you up for success in the same way that grams will, OK. It’s not going to tell you anything very special. And not only are macro grams specifically tailored to your body composition versus some arbitrary ratio, they are going to be way, way easier to find and figure out when looking at a nutrition label or a nutrition database or any kind of app that you might be using for tracking.

Right. All of our macronutrient nutrition data and information is communicated by manufacturers in grams. So it makes a lot more sense to set your goals up this way in a way that’s actually labeled specifically on all the food that we eat instead of overcomplicating it. Now I do have a keto calculator on my site over at Ketogasm dot com and it’s set up exactly the way I described here. It’s specifically for females and it’s been developed as a supplement for my book Keto: A Woman’s Guide and Cookbook. So if you’re a woman interested in calculating your macros in grams, or if you have a female client that needs their macros setup, that is going to be a really great tool to use. I highly recommend it. I really can’t recommend it more. Shout out to my brother Trevor, who actually developed it for me because I could not figure out the coding. It was way beyond me. And I’ve wanted a decent calculator on my site for years, but it was just not my skill set to make it happen. OK. I had the math down. I knew what I wanted. I could not for the life of me, figure out how to code a calculator so well over my skill set.

And Trevor made it happen, so thank you, Trevor. I was before that I was always recommending other calculators with caveats and tweaks that you still needed to make. Or jumped from one calculator here to the next and sending people to like three different links to calculate their macros. OK, so this has all of those kind of features that I wanted from different things all built into one. So I am so happy to have the tool up for you guys because it will give you so much detailed information about your energy expenditure, your body composition and your keto macro goals that are actually useful and relevant to your body. OK, so I know that’s going to help for those of you who are interested. And for those of you who are not interested in calculating your macros, please, please don’t overcomplicate it. Just focus on one macro, okay? You don’t have to juggle all three to see results and do keto effectively. OK, I promise. It’s simple. If you make it simple and episode 1, “The Easiest Way to Start Keto” is gonna be a great resource to help you get started by just focus in on one macronutrient at a time. And even if you’ve been doing this for a while and you’re feeling burnt out, calculating macros, counting macros, whatever it is, you can go back to that first step, square one and just focus on that one thing. OK, you have my permission. I hope this was helpful for you guys. I will see you next week.

Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Ketogasm podcast. You are awesome. I really hope the shows added value to your keto journey. Making big changes to your eating habits can be a little tricky, but if you’re taking the time to listen and learn about keto, you’re well on your way. You got this. Be sure to visit Ketogasm dot com for the show notes with full transcripts, references and resources to help you out, including a totally free course called Hello Keto. It’s helped over seventy five thousand people start keto with confidence. I’ll see you in the next episode. Bye.

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Hi, everyone! Welcome back to this week’s episode of Easy Keto with Tasha! Today, we’re going to be talking all about keto macros.

Why macros? Over the years, I’ve noticed that this is where people struggle the most when starting keto. Even people who have been doing keto long-term still have difficulties! 

Because there are so many questions circulating around macros, this will be a two-part topic. This week, we’ll focus on what macros are and why they matter for keto. Next week, we’ll focus on tracking macros and everything that comes along with it. 

What Are Macros?

Macro is short for macronutrients. These are the nutrients in your diet that make up a significant portion of your intake. Macronutrients produce a substantial amount of your body’s energy; macros are not only relevant to keto. 

On the other hand, micronutrients are essential vitamins and minerals. Our bodies require a small number of micronutrients compared to macronutrients.

Macronutrients consist of protein, carbs, and fat. These macros are where your calories come from. 

  • Carbs have 4 calories per gram
  • Protein has 4 calories per gram
  • Fat has 9 calories per gram

The body processes each of these macros differently. They also influence metabolism differently and provide different uses for your body.

Keto Macros Demystified

When it comes to your keto macros, they are vital in supporting ketosis. The goal of ketosis is to shift where we source our energy from and how our body metabolizes it; we do this by changing our fuel source. 

Fueling with a high-carb diet with influence your metabolism to be a sugar-burner. Fueling your body with a low-carb, keto diet forces a metabolism shift; this allows your metabolism to become a fat-burner. 

Breaking Down Keto Macros

Carbs are one of our macros. By restricting carbs, you can induce ketosis. This is why there is a hyper-awareness over keto macros, as opposed to calorie-counting. Instead of looking only at the overall calorie intake, you break it down into the three sections of macros. This helps people keep an eye on their carb intake to ensure ketosis is maintained.

Ratios for Keto Macros

Typically, carbs are restricted to 50 grams or less to maintain ketosis. The rest of your body’s energy will then come from protein and fat. Carbs will make up a small portion of your calorie intake.

Protein intake should stay relatively consistent between a low-carb and high-carb diet. This keto macro will provide a medium amount of energy.

Finally, fat will make up the rest of your caloric needs. Fat will make up a large portion of where your calories come from.

Remember, it is the restricted carbs that ultimately drive ketosis, NOT the high fat. There’s also no real perfect ratio (such as the popular 75/20/5). The actual ratios for keto macros vary per person.

  • Fat: 50-80%
  • Protein: 20-50%
  • Carbs: 5-15%

Utilize Your Fat

Protein needs are mostly fixed. Eating a sufficient amount of protein is key to preserving lean body mass, keeping you full, and ensuring your metabolism is revved up. Carbs must also stay restricted to support ketosis.

This leaves fat. This is the keto macro that you can manipulate to meet calorie deficit goals. Decreasing fat intake will create a calorie deficit when your other keto macros are accurate. 

While the fat macro pertains to dietary fat, it is also important to remember that your body will be burning stored body fat as well, once you are in ketosis!

Do Perfect Macros Exist?

Thinking about your diet in terms of macros can be misleading. The keto macros and percentiles are not one-size-fits-all. Not only do they frequently overcomplicate your diet, but they also fail to provide the best results. This is something that many nutritionists and coaches can agree on.

When people only focus on meeting the “perfect” keto macro ratio, they can get completely off track. I’ve seen people excited to hit the 75/20/5 ratio; at the same time, they fail to realize that they’ve only consumed 200 calories. Just as frequently, I’ve seen people consume upwards of 4000 calories and not blink an eye because their macros met that perfect ratio.

The keto macro ratio is not what determines how much you should be eating. This is determined by your energy expenditure and body composition. 

Moving Beyond Percentages and Ratios

There are two things you can do for your keto diet.

  1. Restrict your carbohydrates and eat intuitively. Once again, carb restriction is what determines ketosis! If you want to go back to basics, or if you’re just starting out on keto, check out The Easiest Way to Start Keto. It’s an episode dedicated entirely to carb restriction.
  2. Calculate your macros in grams. You will be able to track your macros, but first, you need to calculate them. This means looking at your keto macros beyond a simple ratio or a pie chart.

Calculate Your Macros

Before you can track, you have to calculate the values you’ll be tracking. To calculate your macros, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Determine your energy needs
  • Set a carb limit that supports ketosis
  • Create a protein goal that ensures adequate intake while supporting lean body mass
  • Fill the rest of your energy need with fat from your plate or fat from your body

For most people, the carb limit will be under 50 grams of total carbs. This translates to a limit of 20-30 grams of net carbs if you are discounting fiber.

Your lean body mass determines your protein needs. The adequate protein range is between 0.6-1 gram per pound of lean body mass; this value will be more if you are extremely athletic, active, or focused on body recomposition.

Finally, the amount of fat you eat is determined by whether or not you wish to eat at a calorie deficit. If you’re not interested in losing weight, you can take your energy needs based on your energy expenditure; from there, the energy from the carbs and protein is subtracted to provide the fat needs.

If weight loss is your goal, then you’ll want to eat at a deficit. Set a calorie deficit; then, subtract your carbs, protein, and extra calories that you want to burn from your energy. Your fat macro is the amount left-over.

To figure out the amount of fat in grams, just divide it by 9! 

Keto Macros Calculator

Don’t want to calculate your keto macros yourself? You can always use a macro calculator! There are plenty available for free online.

To find a quality calculator, look for one that provides your results in grams NOT percentages! This provides you with values that are tailored to your body composition. Plus, it’s way easier to use when looking at a nutrition label!

Macro Calculator for Women

Before you start your hunt for a macro calculator, I have one available! This keto macro calculator was designed specifically for women as a supplement for my book, Keto: A Woman’s Guide & Cookbook. 

You can access this free calculator here, at Keto Calculator: Macros for Women. It provides detailed information about your energy expenditure, body composition, and keto macro goals that are actually useful and relevant to your body! 

Further Resources

Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss: Are They The Same? [E12]
What are Macros? What They Are & How to Calculate
Keto: A Woman’s Guide & Cookbook

Timestamp

Intro
1:36 – What Are Macros?
4:08 – Keto Macros Demystified
5:13 – Breaking Down Keto Macros
7:51 – Utilize Your Fat
9:42 – Do Perfect Macros Exist?
11:15 – Moving Beyond Percentages and Ratios
13:17 – Calculate Your Macros
17:49 – Keto Macros Calculator
18:59 – Macro Calculator for Women

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