Keto Macros (Macronutrients) Explained
What are keto macros?
What are keto macros (or keto macronutrients)? If you’re new to the ketogenic way of eating, you will quickly come across this term and it can sound very complex and confusing. Let’s break it down.
Macros (“macronutrients”) are molecules that your body uses to create energy for itself. So, when we talk about macros in the keto diet, we’re talking about the components your body extracts from your diet to create the energy it needs to function properly. So, we get our macros from our diet but in keto it’s important where and in what proportions the macros come from, i.e. do the macros come from fat, protein or carbs (answer: all three) and how many macros are coming from each?
Macro stands for “macro molecules” or “macro nutrients” and macro is Latin or Greek for large. It means big and so these are the three big categories of nutrients that your body needs. Now, there are lots of things your body needs – vitamins, minerals, fiber, water – but let’s talk about the three big macros, big molecules and big nutrients that you need: protein, fat and carboyhdrates.
Keto macros and the keto diet
The keto diet works by triggering ketosis in your body. Ketosis is the process where you body goes from burning carbs (sugar) for fuel and burns fat instead. (The fat is in the form of what is called “ketone bodies” – or just “ketones”, hence the diet’s name).
Ketosis is brought about by managing the ratio of the main macronutrients (for the purpose of the keto diet macronutrients are fat, protein and carbohydrates). On the keto diet, your calories come from these macronutrients in the following proportions:
- Fat: 60–80%
- Protein: 20–30%
- Carbohydrates: 5–10%
It’s vital that anyone on the keto diet follows these proportions – failure to do so will likely mean you’ll not attain ketosis and the diet will not work for you.
So, for example, if you set the goal of limiting yourself to 2,000 daily calories per day, you will consume those calories in the following amounts:
- Fat: 1,200-1,600 calories
- Protein: 400-600 calories
- Carbs: 100-200 calories
And whilst the keto diet is not a calorie-restriction diet, an element of calorie tracking will produce faster weight-loss results.
Let’s take a closer look at each keto macronutrient and the role it plays.
Keto Macros #1: Fat
Let’s look at one of the most important macros in the keto diet – a key to a life – fat.
Fat is the first macro nutrient that you need to know about. Fat is made of fatty acids (triglycerides and other complicated stuff, as you go down in the molecule sizes). But we’re going to stick with just fat. You need fat to live – it’s an essential nutrient.
Every membrane of every cell in your entire body is made up of lipids which are fats. They’re a macro form of the macro fat and so without eating the essential fats that you need; you can’t even make the cell membranes that hold your cells together. Obviously, that’s going to lead to disease if you’re not eating enough fat so that’s the first vital macro nutrient.
Among the family of fats, there are ones that are called essential. What does that mean? They are the fats which if you don’t eat for a long enough period of time, you’ll get sick, you’ll suffer and you’ll die. You have to have them. They are essential for proper human body function. So, fat is the first keto macro.
Keto Macros #2: Protein
The second macro molecule in the keto diet is protein. Most people understand proteins as the building blocks of the body. Proteins are made up of strings of amino acids.
There are essential amino acids and essential proteins that if you don’t eat them
you will get sick, you will suffer and you will die. The human body has to have protein in order to survive.
Now a lot of people eat too much protein and if you know anyone who goes to the gym, chances are they take a protein supplement. However, unless you’re training for Mr Universe or you’re an elite level athlete, you probably don’t need a protein supplement or a collagen powder. You just need to eat good grass-fed meats and make good grass-fed bone broth. You’re going to get all the protein, all the collagen and all the other good nutrients you need from this. You probably don’t need to waste money on powdered supplements.
Keto Macros #3: Carbohydrates
If you’re eating ketogenically – or another low-carb, high-fat diet, you know that eating even a small amount of carbs will elevate your blood sugar level which elevates your insulin level and that can turn off y0ur body’s fat-burning mechanism.
And whilst there are essential amino acids and proteins, there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. There is no carbohydrate that if you did not eat, you would die or suffer.
There are many doctors, nutritionists and dieticians who will tell you that you should eat 30 grams of carbs per meal or 50 grams of carbs per meal and even some of them will tell you more than that. That’s ridiculous nutrition advice. You do not need to eat any carbs in any particular meal. Your entire body is more than capable of burning ketone bodies (an alternative energy source that is derived from fat).
Your body knows exactly how to burn fat for energy. Here’s something that you may have heard that is also a lie: “you have to have sugar for your brain”. That’s not true. Your brain is perfectly happy to burn ketone bodies which you can get from the metabolizing fats. Furthermore, your body doesn’t need any blood sugar from an outside source. It’s perfectly able to make the glucose it needs through a process called gluconeogenesis (synthesizing glucose from non-carbohydrate sources).
In addition, your body is very good at recycling proteins (assuming a healthy kidney). When you eat proteins, you can check your urine at your doctor’s office and there will be no protein in your urine at all. Your body breaks that
protein down constantly and reuses the amino acids which are what the proteins are made of and so for most people to be their healthiest they need to eat high-fat, medium protein and very low carb – which is what the keto diet prescribes. Those are the three macronutrients fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
How do you track your macros?
This is where it can get a little labor-intensive. However, the good news is, there are lots of great “keto macro calculators” available in your favourite app store. You input what you are eating and the calculator will let you know if you’re within the suggested macro proportions.
Tracking your macros is an essential part of your keto diet. In fact, if you don’t track your macros correctly, chances are the keto diet won’t work for you (or, at the very least, you won’t see nearly as dramatic results as others may be getting). So, grab yourself a keto calculator and get tracking. Alternatively, if that seems like too much effort, why not subscribe to customised, ready-made meal plans that you simply follow to ensure your keto macros are on point?