All this new information! It can seem overwhelming at first. But hang in there. It makes more sense as you go along and learn more. And if you have questions, be sure to ask!
If you’ve decided to try this way of eating, you’ll need to know about macros. The term “macros” is short for macronutrients. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. A ketogenic diet is very low carb, high healthy fat, and moderate/adequate protein–typically 5% carbs, 75% healthy fat, and 20% protein. Note the percentages add to up 100%, as all our food fits into these three macros.
Carbs: 20 or less is typical for keto. I always try to stay at or under that number and it’s one of the keys to being successful with this way of eating. We don’t really need carbs to survive, although this is another common misconception. If someone tries to tell me that I must have carbohydrates, I just smile and say politely, “Well, not really, but thanks for your concern.”
Then there’s the question of total carbs or net carbs. Net carbs are total carbs less fiber less sugar alcohols. For example, if you’re counting net carbs with vegetables, one cup of broccoli is 6 total carbs – 2 fiber = 4 net carbs. In order to get the best results with this way of eating, I count total carbs. I do believe that counting total carbs in dairy has helped with my weight loss. By the way, be sure to add butter to your broccoli. Or alfredo sauce 😉
I wouldn’t worry about getting the fat & protein macros perfect if you’re just starting. Get the carbs down first and then work on getting into the ballpark for protein and fat.
Fat: The fat macro is a suggested target. I aim for two times the protein or maybe even more if I’m really hungry. Don’t worry, fat minimally affects our blood sugar and insulin levels so it doesn’t contribute to weight gain as we’ve been told. The good news is that healthy fats fill us up and keep us satisfied. In the carb-filled world, we’re hungry all the time; but in keto-land, we don’t get hungry as often.
Some people need to gradually work up to the level of fat recommended. It didn’t bother my stomach at all, but it may be easier to start at a teaspoon and work up to the tablespoon.
Protein: The protein macro number is one to try to hit as closely as we can. Most women need 50-75 protein grams per day. Men will usually need 100-125 protein grams. Too little protein and we won’t feel good and we’ll lose lean body mass. Too much and we can spike a blood sugar/insulin response which then inhibits weight loss. So try to use all your protein macros for the day while not going over. If you’re up or down a little from day to day, that’s okay. We can’t eat-by-the-numbers exactly every day.
When we start working with macros, it’s handy to use an online tracker. I use MyFitnessPal on both my computer and phone. The free version works fine for me. Some people really like myfatsecret or cronometer. As you enter the foods you eat, these trackers automatically keep track of your macros for you.
The trackers usually set to a much higher level of carbs than we’re aiming for. You can edit the goals to the 5% carbs, 20% protein, 75% fat that will bring them more in line with this ketogenic way of eating. If you’d like to see what I eat, my user name is kyndacanada on myfitnesspal.
It’s helpful to look up the macros counts of food before you eat so that you aren’t surprised later to find you’re way over or under your targets. You will often find multiple entries for the same food, so you’ll need to decide which entry best matches what you’re eating. The entries with green checkmarks are the most reliable.
I hope this discussion has been helpful! Be sure to ask questions as you go along 🙂