By now you know that the key to success with the ketogenic diet is to stick to your macros – that ideal ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates that kicks your body into fat-burning mode and keeps it there.
What many people love about the ketogenic diet is the fact that you don’t have to starve or restrict yourself – you don’t even have to count calories! Just because you don’t have to count calories, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits to doing so.
Keep reading to learn more about counting calories on the ketogenic diet and how to do it.
Do You Have to Count Calories on Keto?
One of the reasons the ketogenic diet has become so popular is because it is different from other diets. Not only are you actually encouraged to eat high-fat foods, but you don’t have to obsess over counting calories and eating at a deficit. But just because you don’t have to count calories on keto doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, there are many benefits to counting your calories while following the keto diet. Here are a few of those benefits:
- Counting calories helps to track your macronutrient ratio which is very important if you want to achieve and maintain ketosis.
- When you track your food intake and calories, you get a better sense for how much you are actually eating which may help you eat less.
- If you want to lose weight on the ketogenic diet, you’ll need to keep your calorie intake within a reasonable range and counting calories is the best way to do that.
Something else you may be interested to learn is that people tend to eat less when they are given the freedom to eat whatever they want. So, if you’re on the keto diet to lose weight and you’re given the chance to eat whatever you want (as long as it fits your macros), you won’t feel restricted or deprived. Instead of binging on unhealthy foods when you simply can’t say no any longer, you’ll eat sensible portions and achieve a better balance overall.
Before learning how to calculate your calories, let’s take a moment to review how calories are used by the body. About 60% of your daily intake goes to your metabolism to maintain essential bodily functions. Roughly 32% of your daily intake goes to physical activity, and the remaining 8% is largely expended through digestion as the thermic effect of feeding (TEF).
How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?
Now that you see the benefit of counting calories while following the ketogenic diet, how do you do it? The first step is to calculate your ideal calorie intake so you have something to track on a daily basis. The best way to do that is to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and go from there.
Your BMR is simply the minimum number of calories your body needs on a daily basis – this is the amount of calories you’d burn if you just sat on the couch all day. It is important that your daily intake does not drop below your BMR because then your body won’t have the energy it needs to maintain essential processes. Here’s an equation for calculating your BMR:
- 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 BMR, multiply that number by an activity factor to determine your daily calorie intake for weight maintenance. Choose 1.2 if you rarely exercise, 1.375 if you exercise 1 to 3 times per week, or 1.55 if you exercise 3 to 5 days a week. If you exercise every day, choose 1.725 and, if you exercise twice a day or work a physically demanding job, multiply by 1.9. The resulting number is your ideal calorie intake to maintain your current weight – subtract 10% to 20% to lose weight.
Remember that the key to long-lasting weight loss is to lose the weight slowly over time. As tempting as it may be to drop the weight as quickly as you can, the odds are high that you’ll gain it all back as soon as you resume your normal eating habits. Do yourself a favor and take a slow and steady approach to weight loss – your body will thank you.
How to Use Calorie Counting as a Tool for Keto
Now that you’ve calculated your daily calorie goal, all you have to do is make sure your daily intake stays within that range. Remember that sticking to your macronutrient ratio is always more important than hitting your daily calorie goals. If you can do both, however, all the better!
When it comes to counting calories on the ketogenic diet, you need to strike a balance between hitting your macros and becoming too obsessive about it. You don’t necessarily need to be 100% accurate in counting calories either – it’s mainly a tool to measure how many calories you’re taking in so you can track your intake in grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. To make it easy on yourself, download a calorie tracking app on your smartphone or tablet and plug in your daily meals.
As you count calories and track your macros, you should keep an eye on your body weight in case you need to make adjustments. General recommendations from doctors suggest losing no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week, so if you’re losing too much more than that you could be headed down an unhealthy path. Weigh yourself once or twice a week to check in and make adjustments as needed.
Counting calories doesn’t have to be difficult and, in fact, it can be a helpful tool in sticking to the ketogenic diet. The more aware you are of what and how much you are eating, the better your results are going to be. So try counting calories for a little while to see how you like it!