Ketosis 101

What Are Macros and How Do I Calculate Them

The number-one piece of advice you’ll receive when starting the ketogenic diet is to stick to your macros. That sounds easy enough, right? But what are macros anyway, and how exactly do you calculate them in order to stick to them?
Learning to calculate your macros is one of the first steps you’ll take when starting the keto diet. Keep reading to learn what they are and how to calculate them to maximize your results.
Understanding the Three Macronutrients
Before you can calculate your macros, you need to know what they are! The term “macros” is short for macronutrients which is a word used to describe the three primary nutrients from which your body derives energy – protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each contains a different number of calories per gram and performs a specific function within the body.
For most people, carbohydrates are the primary macronutrient that makes up the majority of their diet. Carbohydrates are made up of chains of sugar molecules which the digestive system breaks down into glucose which can then be utilized for energy. General dietary recommendations suggest that you get 45% to 65% of your daily calories from carbs, but the ketogenic diet is different (more on that later). Carbohydrates contain 4 calories of energy per gram.
Protein is the macronutrient your body needs to repair and regenerate your muscles, tissues, and cells. It plays a role in immune support and in producing the hormones that regulate essential bodily functions. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are 20 of them – 9 of these are considered essential amino acids because your body can’t synthesize them. This means they have to come from the food you eat. Protein contains 4 calories per gram as well.
Fat, the all-star of the ketogenic diet, often gets a bad rap but it is actually highly essential for balanced nutrition and total health. This macronutrient plays a role in healthy brain development, cell function, and nutrient absorption. It also cushions your organs to keep them safe. Fat contains 9 calories of energy per gram, so it is much more highly concentrated in terms of energy than the other two macronutrients. This is important to remember!
Calculating Your Calorie Needs
Now that you know the basics about the three macronutrients, what is the proper ratio for the ketogenic diet? Most followers of the diet recommend the following:
• Fat – at least 70%
• Protein – no more than 20% to 25%
• Carbs – a maximum of 5% (about 20g)
If you know anything about the ketogenic diet, you know that fat is king. The only way to switch your body from burning carbs for fuel to burning fat is to reduce your carb intake and ramp up your fat intake. You’ll need to consume at least 70% of your daily calories from fat, but you can go as high as 75%. Protein intake should be between 20% and 25% but carbohydrate intake should not exceed 5% on any given day. For most people, that’s a maximum of 20g to 25g net carbs.
So, how do you know how many grams of each macronutrient to eat? You’ll have to determine your ideal calorie goal and then calculate your macros from there.
Let’s start with how to calculate your daily calorie goal.
The beauty of the ketogenic diet is that it turns on your body’s fat-burning switch and helps you shed stored fat without severely restricting your calorie intake. For most people, a calorie range between 1,600 and 1,800 is adequate, though you may have a little wiggle room on either end. If you want to calculate your exactly calorie needs, use these equations:
• Male BMR: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5
• Female BMR: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161
Once you’ve calculated your basal metabolic rate (BMR) you should adjust it based on your daily activity level to determine your maintenance calories – how many calories you can eat to maintain your current weight. If you are sedentary or lightly active, multiply your BMR by 1.53. For moderate activity, use 1.76 and, for vigorous activity or a physically demanding job, use 2.25. From there, you can either stick with that number or decrease it by 10% to 20% if you want to lose weight.
How to Calculate Your Macros
Now that you have your daily calorie goal in hand you can calculate your daily macros. Remember, you’re shooting for a range of 70% to 75% fat, 20% to 25% protein, and no more than 5% carbs.
Here’s how to calculate your macros:
• Fat – Take your calorie goal and multiply by 0.7 and by 0.75 – those two numbers represent your daily range of total calories from fat. Divide each number by 9 to get your total grams of fat.
• Protein – Take your calorie goal and multiply by 0.2 and by 0.25 – those two numbers represent your daily range of total calories from protein. Divide each number by 4 to get your total grams of protein per day.
• Carbs – Take your calorie goal and multiply by 0.05 – this is your maximum calorie intake from carbs. Divide that number by 4 to find your maximum daily carb intake in grams.
Now, let’s take a look at an example:
• Profile: 35 year-old man weighing 185 pounds (84kg), 6-foot tall (183cm), lightly active
• BMR = (10 x 84) + (6.25 x 183) – (5 x 35) + 5 = 840 + 1,144 + 175 + 5 = 2,164
• Maintenance Calories = 2,164 x 1.53 = 3,310
• Weight Loss Calories (15% deficit) = 3,310 – 497 = 2,813
• Fat Range = 1,969 to 2,110 calories (219g to 234g)
• Protein Range = 563 to 703 calories (141g to 175g)
• Net Carbs = 140 calories (max 35g)
Having learned exactly what your macros are and how to calculate them, it’s time to do a little math. Put what you’ve learned here to work and calculate the proper macros for your ideal calorie range. Just remember, it’s more important to be within the proper macronutrient ratio than to stick to a daily calorie goal, so make that your priority!

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