What are Macros?
Macros are your daily caloric intake for the keto diet, broken into categories of optimal fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. They are also your literal map for keto success.
The keto diet is based on eating good fats, drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake, and moderately limiting protein intake so that your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose. But along with eating more fat and less protein and carbs, it’s also about consuming the right amounts of each based on your goal to lose, maintain, or gain weight or use the diet for therapeutic treatment of medical conditions. That’s where “macros” (short for macronutrients) come in.
How to Calculate Macros
The optimal amount of macros is different for each person, based on age, height, weight, activity level, body fat percentages (this is different than BMI), and weight goals. How do you know what your optimal macros should be? The easiest way to determine the correct amounts is to use a macro calculator like the MyMojoMacros calculator we have here. Just input the requested information and it will calculate the breakdown of calories, protein, carbs, and fat needed for you to lose, gain, or maintain your weight, depending on the goals you set.
Regardless, the general consensus within the keto community is that you want to keep your net carbs to 20 or less grams per day to lose weight (unless you’re an active athlete, in which case you can up your net carbs a bit).
Note: Factors such as age, gender, family, and personal medical history, and genetics influence how your body responds to specific macronutrients and whether or not they help keep your body in ketosis. For this reason, we recommend you discuss your intended diet with a medical provider who knows your health history, has an understanding of the ketogenic diet, and can help you make choices that are best for you.
How to Track Your Macros
Once you know your macros, you should count (track) them to give yourself the best chance to get and keep your body in a ketogenic state.
Calculating your macros means knowing the total amount of calories, fat, protein, and “net carbs” (described below) for everything you eat and drink and keeping track of them each day to ensure you don’t surpass your daily goals. Yes, it’s a bit of work, and yes, everyone gets off track now and then. But don’t be discouraged. It’s all part of the journey and after a while, it really does become second nature. We know from experience that it’s easy to fool yourself into thinking you’re eating within your macros when you’re actually exceeding them. We also know that once you start keeping track and eating to your macros, you’ll find you’re less and less hungry over time and have far better overall success. Plus, it’s kind of fun, and definitely empowering, to see cool charts and graphs of your daily food intake.
You can manually track your daily macros intake or calculate your totals using an app, such as Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, or Carb Manager (see our review on keto apps here) or an online recipe analyzer like the one at Happy Forks. (NOTE: If you purchase the Keto-Mojo Promo Bundle, you’ll receive a 20% discount off the Cronometer Gold subcription.)
What Are Net Carbs?
Plainly put, “net carbs” are the total grams of carbohydrates in any given food minus its grams of sugar alcohols and fiber. Here’s the basic formula:
Net carbohydrates = total carbohydrates – fiber – sugar alcohols (if applicable).
If you are not familiar with sugar alcohols, we tell you all about them here.
Here’s an example of the net carb calculation, using a medium avocado, which, incidentally, does not contain sugar alcohols:
A medium avocado contains 17.1 grams of total carbs and 13.5 grams of fiber. So, to get its net carbs, you subtract the fiber (13.5 grams) from the total carbs (17.1 grams), which leaves you with 3.6 grams of net carbs (i.e., 17.1 grams carbs – 13.5 grams fiber = 3.6 grams net carbs for 1 medium avocado). Talk about reason to enjoy guacamole!
If you are looking for a keto calculator or low carb macro calculator for weight loss (or not!), you’ve come to the right place!
The Low Carb & Keto Macro Calculator will help you figure out how much of each macronutrient to eat to reach your goals.
What makes this macro calculator unique is that you can use it for both a low carb diet and a keto diet. Along with entering your information, you can select the diet type you want to follow, and even customize it to fit your needs.
Keto Diet Macros Explained
“Macros” or macronutrients in food include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They are where all of your calories come from and can each play a unique role in supporting your health and fitness goals.
The typical macro ratio for keto looks like the following:
- 5% of calories coming from carbs
- 25% of calories coming from protein
- 70% of calories coming from fat
This specific macro range is intended to promote ketosis and trick your body into burning more fat for energy instead of sugars.
Your Keto Macro Goals in 4 Easy Steps
Step 1. Calorie Needs
Your nutrition needs start with your fitness goal: are you looking to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain your weight.
This will determine the number of calories you need each day – weight loss requires a calorie deficit and weight gain requires a calorie surplus.
Then, once you’ve got your daily energy needs, you can build your macro goals accordingly.
Step 2. Carb Needs
Estimating your keto carb needs is arguably the most important step.
Research suggests a carb intake less than 20 to 50 grams per day is sufficient to promote ketosis in most people—but the exact amount you need can vary
Thus, a carb intake of 20 to 25 grams per day is a good starting place. However, if you find you are having trouble sticking to that amount you can start a little higher, at 50 grams.
You can also use your total calorie intake as a gauge.
Carbs provide roughly four calories per gram. So, if you are at a lower calorie range—less than 2,000 calories a day—20 grams would be adequate for reaching 5% of your calories from carbs. If you are at a higher calorie range, you may need slightly more.
Use the following guidelines to estimate your starting carb needs:
- Calorie range <2,000 calories/day: 20 grams of carbs a day or less
- Calorie range 2,000 to 2,500 calories/day: 25 to 30 grams of carbs a day or less
- Calorie range >2,500 to 3,000 calories/day: 30 to 35 grams of carbs a day or less
- Calorie range >3,000 calories/day: 35 to 50 grams of carbs a day or less
Net Carbs Explained
Try counting your daily net carbs over total carb intake. You can do this by tracking your fiber intake.
Fiber is a type of carb that is not easily absorbed by the body (meaning it won’t affect blood sugar levels the same way sugars do) and thus, can be excluded from your daily intake.
Take your total carbs each day and subtract the amount of fiber you consumed to get your net carb amount.
Step 3. Protein Needs
Protein intake is also important since it plays a role in supporting your lean body mass and other essential bodily functions.
Some argue protein should be kept low on keto because it can be metabolized into glucose (sugar). However, research suggests that higher protein intake may support better appetite control and a lower body fat percentage without messing with ketosis ().
Your keto protein needs can be estimated based on your activity level and fitness goal.
Choose one of the following:
|Sedentary||Little to no exercise.|
|Moderately Active||Moderate exercise 2 or more days per week.|
|Very Active||Hard exercise 3 or more days per week.|
Then, based on your goal and activity level, you can use the following recommendations:
- Maintain/sedentary: 0.6g/pound of body weight per day
- Fat loss/mod active: 0.9g/pound of body weight per day
- Gain muscle/very active: 1.1g/pound of body weight per day
For example, a 150 pound moderate active individual looking to lose weight would need 135 grams of protein per day. (150 x 0.9 = 135).
To get this amount in calories, simply multiply by four (protein provides four calories for every gram).
Step 4. Fat Needs
Lastly, your keto fat needs can be calculated based on your remaining calories. Each gram of fat contains roughly nine calories.
Here’s how to do the math:
- Take your carb amount from step #2 and multiple your grams of carb by 4 to get your calories from carbs.
- 20g x 4 = 80 calories from carbs
- Now do the same with your estimated protein needs from above.
- 150g x 4 = 600 calories from carbs
- Now add you carb and protein calories and subtract from your total daily calorie needs.
- 1800 daily calories – (600 calories protein + 80 calories carbs) = 1,120 calories remaining
- Now divide your remaining calories by 9 to get how many grams of fat you need per day.
- 1,120/9 = 124 grams of fat per day
Your Keto Macros Percentage
To calculate your macros a percentage, just divide the calories from each macro into your daily calorie needs and multiply by 100%.
- (80/1800) x 100% = 5% of calories from carbs
- (600/1800) x 100% = 33% of calories from protein
- (1,120/1800) x 100% = 62% of calories from fat
The total amount should equal 100% (5 + 33 + 62 = 100).
How to Count Macros on Keto
Living a keto lifestyle requires strict control over your macronutrients—especially carbohydrates. This can be a challenge if you are new to the concept of counting macros. But have no fear, with a little practice and nutrition know-how, you can master this skill.
Once you know your macros, the next step is to build your food choices and portions to match.
You can do this using the following:
- A complete keto food list
- A macro meal planner and portioning guide
Then it’s just a matter of plug and play as you build your ultimate keto meal prep menu.
You can also attack this from the other end by tracking your macros in a keto friendly nutrition app. All you need to do is log your food choices and try to stay within your daily ranges.
Get everything you need to dial in your keto macros! Download this free guide to keto meal prep – complete with approved food lists and meal planning templates.