Learn the top 5 most important things to understand about keto macros before starting the keto journey. And if you’ve already started? It’s never too late to figure it out the right way!
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What you need to know about keto macros
When you embark on your keto journey, what is the first thing people say?
“Go calculate your macros”.
Ok, great. You calculate your macros and then what? I used to take this for granted in that I am well educated in nutrition. I have a master’s certificate in Holistic Nutrition and am well versed in what foods and nutrients do to our bodies.
For the average new keto’er who is not familiar with macros and potentially just spent 20 years believing that the food available to us in a grocery store couldn't possibly be there if it could kill us, right?
That is a shock to the system enough as it is. But to then have to consider that not all fat is created equal and not all carbs are equated equate and, oh, guess what – protein affects your blood sugars too!
Back to the original macros piece. Often at the beginning, there is macros confusion combined with bits of pieces of info like “keto is the all you can eat bacon and butter diet”. I suppose that might sound good at times!
Also, people aren’t taught to count net carbs instead of total carbs and then end up saying that they don’t have enough carbs left for veggies. So let’s set the record straight with keto and macros. First of all, macros are specific to each person. My macros are different than yours.
The generally accepted keto macros breakdown is approximately 5-10% from carbs, 15-30% from protein and 60-75% from fat.
Many people get more aggressive with these and it is closer to 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fat.
The point is that it will vary by person and by goal. Here are the top 5 important things that you should understand about macros once you have them calculated. By the way, make sure to use a keto calculator, not just a regular macros calculator.
#1 If you are counting macros, then you are counting calories
When someone asks if they should only be counting macros or should they also be counting calories – it is clear they don’t quite understand how macros relate to calories. Which is TOTALLY FINE!
We all learn new things and can't possibly know it all from the beginning! Basically, if you are counting macros, then you ARE counting calories. What do I mean by this? Well.....
Each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 calories.
Each gram of fat contains 9 calories. Did you know fat was higher in calories? Read on!
Each gram of protein contains 4 calories.
Ever wonder why fat fills you up more? There are many reasons, but one reason is that it has more calories! Let’s say your breakfast is 5g of carbs, 10g of program and 27g of fat. This would equate to 20 calories from carbs, 40 calories from protein and 243 calories from fat, for a total of 303 calories.
So, counting your macros inherently means counting calories as well.
The focus isn’t to be on calories FIRST though, that is the point. The focus should be on macros first. This doesn’t mean that you get a free pass and have to not care about calories at all. You still need to mindful of having a calorie deficit if you are wanting to lose weight and your macros should reflect that.
#2 Macro amounts should be recalculated often.
Your personal macros are created based on your current weight, sex, activity level, and goals. As those change, your macros need to change.
For example, the amount of energy your body needs at rest at 250 pounds is vastly different than what it needs at 175 pounds. The rule is to recalculate every 10 pounds. I don’t know that it needs to be that often, but what does it hurt, right? This one is an easy one.
#3 All macronutrients are not created equal
If I eat a similar lunch on 2 consecutive days of the week that doesn’t mean they are equal simply because they are similar. It depends on WHAT they are.
For example, yesterday I had 2 eggs, homemade pesto sauce, homemade keto bun, and an avocado. Today I had 2 eggs, homemade pesto sauce and..... a piece of keto coffee cake that I made last night.
Now, they are similar right, but vastly different in terms of health. Yesterday, there were no sweeteners, minimal dairy (in fact the only dairy was a bit of goat cheese in pesto), and included an avocado which is one of the healthiest things you can eat. Today…. was coffee cake. It was super good, but from a health perspective, vastly different.
Yesterday, my carbs came from avocado and some almond flour in the buns. The buns also had psyllium which is great for fiber, as is the avocado. Let’s pretend the macros were the same each day.
Can you see how one use of my allotted macros is healthier than the other? I say ALL THE TIME – get your carbs from veggies first. That is how it should be for your health.
Too many people don’t eat veggies because they don’t have any carbs left. No. They CHOSE not to have carbs left. They chose to have the coffee cake instead of the homemade bun and avocado. Just like I chose it today.
WHAT you eat matters. Not just it’s macronutrient profile.
#4 You don’t have to hit each macro
Here is my cheat sheet for “hitting” your macros:
Carbs – this is a hard upper limit. Stay under the limit.
Protein – this is a goal. Try to hit it. A little over or a little under is fine. But try to get close.
Fat – this is a lever. As long as you get above what your body needs per day for fat, no need to hit this macro. If you are hungry – great. Eat some healthy fat. If you are not hungry, there is NO need to try to get your fat in.
#5 Macros will become more a guideline and less a prison as you move along
The last thing I want to mention about macros is this: You might be obsessing about them now, but down the road, you won’t be. Whether your goal is weight loss or you are doing keto for other health reasons, you will not be a slave to your macros forever.
In the beginning, diligence is required. Tracking is required. Learning about food is required.
But guess what? Once you know all this, then it gets easier. You now KNOW how to eat and you are familiar with foods and don’t have to track everything.
Now, if you stop tracking and start gaining weight or your blood sugar starts going up again, I recommend tracking again for a while to get you back on track. Otherwise, after a few months – you should be good to just keep on keepin’ on!
In conclusion, macros are more important than their percentage.
Understand just what macros are, ex, macros is short for macronutrients - hopefully, you knew that! Know what they are, which foods are best to fuel your body, and how you can best be healthy. Meaning, don’t throw caution to the wind screaming “Yeah, bacon and butter”!