How to Track Macros on Keto
Keto Beginners Series

How to Track Macros on Keto

How to Track Macros on Keto

Posted a year ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Tony O’Neill, PT, DPT, MSc, RDN

Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

New to Keto? Trying it out, but still learning the ropes? If you haven’t already, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the concept of tracking macros. Tracking macros—short for macronutrients—means tracking your carb, protein, and fat intake for each and every bite of food. 

At first, tracking macros may seem like a pain. It’s extra work to log your meals, even if you have a well-designed app that makes this as easy as possible.   

Ugh. Another thing to do every day. 

But it’s worth it. Once you dial in your macros (especially your carbs), you’ll get your low-carb diet humming on all cylinders. 

The truth is, the benefits of Keto—fat loss, better energy, reduced cravings, and focus—are 100% dependent on hitting your macros! We’ve had users complain that they’d been on Keto for 9 months, and it just isn’t working for them. But then - lo and behold - after they began strictly tracking macros for 30 days, they came back and reported life-changing results. 

How’s that for motivation?

Today you’ll learn all about tracking macros. We’ll cover what they are, why they matter, and practical tips you can implement right away. Enjoy! 

What Are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients are nutrients required in large, or “macro”, amounts in your diet. Nutrients required in smaller amounts, like vitamins and minerals, are called micronutrients. 

Macronutrients come in three main forms: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These three macros provide the raw materials to produce energy, build muscle, heal wounds, and much more. Technically, alcohol is also a macronutrient, but it’s not essential, and not something you need to track on a macro-based diet.

Another feature of macronutrients? They contain calories. (Calories approximate the amount of energy released when a food is digested.) Here are the calorie counts in each macronutrient: 

  • Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram
  • Alcohol: 7 calories per gram (in case you were wondering!)  

Despite what you may have heard, calories matter on a macro-based diet. For instance, if you eat too many calories (even healthy fat calories) on a Ketogenic diet designed for weight loss, you probably won’t lose weight. (Fortunately, most people find that overeating isn’t a problem on Keto, likely due to reductions in hunger hormones like ghrelin.)[*]

So yes, calories matter. But the type of calorie matters too. In other words, a fat calorie doesn’t affect your body in the same way as a carbohydrate calorie. And protein has its own special functions too. 

With that in mind, let’s run through these macros:

#1: Carbohydrates 

Carbs are how plants store energy. (Think grains, fruits, and roots). So plants store carbs...then animals eat them. 

When we digest carbs, they end up in our blood as blood sugar. This blood sugar can either be used immediately for energy, or stuffed away as glycogen (stored sugar) or fat. Your ability to process carbs depends on the hormone insulin, which we’ll cover soon.[*]

#2: Protein

Protein is found in both plant and animal sources, and it’s an absolute dietary necessity. Getting enough protein helps you maintain muscle, produce neurotransmitters, and synthesize a wide variety of hormones.[*

If you don’t get enough protein, your body breaks down your muscle mass to meet those needs. Yikes. That doesn’t happen when you restrict carbs or fat.  

#3: Fat

Fat gets a lot of flak, but assuming we’re talking about healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, butter, and animal fat—this is mostly undeserved. Fat helps you produce and store energy, absorb fat soluble vitamins like A, D and K, and build cell membranes.[*]

On a Keto diet or during a fast, fat becomes your primary energy source. In other words, eating fat helps you access body fat.[*] Let’s dig into why. 

Why Macros Matter On Keto

The #1 rule of low-carb dieting is to mind your macros. On the Keto diet, minding your macros means eating 60-70% of your calories from fat, 20-30% from protein, and 5-10% from carbs.[*

This isn’t just for funzies. Keeping your macros in these ratios signals your body to enter the fat-burning state known as ketosis. 

Keeping carbs low is the crucial piece. That’s because keeping carbs low keeps blood sugar low—which means that less insulin (your blood sugar boss) is released into circulation.[*

With insulin absent, a neon sign lights up inside your liver cells: CARBS ARE SCARCE! TIME TO START BURNING FAT AND MAKING KETONES.

That’s how ketosis happens. And when you stay in ketosis over a period of weeks, the benefits of fat loss, stable energy, appetite management, and mental clarity often follow. 

What About Net Carbs?

You just learned why you need to cut carbs on Keto. Not all carbs, however, are on the chopping block. 

Fiber and sugar alcohols, for instance, have very little blood sugar (or glycemic) impact.[*][*] Because of this, they won’t meaningfully affect your Keto macros. 

So instead of total carbs, consider tracking net carbs on Keto. When you track net carbs, you’ll be much less restricted in what you can eat.   

The equation for net carbs looks like: 

Net carbs = Total carbs - fiber - sugar alcohols

Avocados, for example, have about 12 grams of total carbs, but 9 of those are from fiber. Only 3 net carbs, phew!

Any macro tracker worth its salt will have net carb functionality, although many include this feature with their premium membership only. Net carb tracking is free with Carb Manager, and you can learn how it works here

Customizing Your Macros

No diet is one-size-fits-all. You’re a unique individual, and you have unique needs. Let’s use Keto as an example.  

Let’s say you’re doing Keto for weight loss. In this case, you might want to cut carbs below 5%, lower than a person maintaining weight.  

Alternatively, if you’re extremely active (CrossFit, say), you might want to bump up the carbs and protein a bit. Protein in particular is essential for repair and recovery after exercise. 

So, how do you calculate your macros? You use technology to calibrate your diet to your specific needs. 

Carb Manager, for instance, features a macros calculator that allows you to customize macros based on diet (like Keto), activity levels, weight loss targets, and more. If you’re on a Keto diet, the key to success is to hang near the recommended macros, then make adjustments based on your goals and lifestyle. The macros calculator makes this easy.     

IIFYM

Keto isn’t the only diet in which you track macros. IIFYM, or “if it fits your macros”, is another approach that’s catching on for weight loss. 

The IIFYM diet is higher in protein and carbs than Keto, and bases your macro and calorie targets on your resting metabolic rate, activity levels, and weight goals. If you’re interested, calculate your IIFYM macros here, then use a macro tracker like Carb Manager to meet them. 

Tips for Tracking Macros On Keto

Now for the fun part: Actually tracking your Keto macros! (The highlight of your day, I know). Here’s some actionable advice to get you started.

#1: Write things down

You’ll want to use an app to track your macros (that’s tip #3!), but still: Don’t neglect the ancient power of pen and paper. 

When you write something down, you’re more likely to make it happen. In one study, people who pre-planned exercise were 2-3 times more likely to follow through than those who didn’t.[*]

Practically speaking, this could mean:

  • Using a journal to plan your meals and macros each morning
  • Logging your meals in the app, and comparing your actual results to your plan

Give it a try. 

#2: Track Ketone levels

Ketones are tiny molecules produced when your liver burns fat.[*] Once released into circulation, they fuel your brain and body with clean, efficient energy. 

Ketones can be measured in both blood and urine. If Ketone levels are elevated, it’s a good sign your low-carb macros strategy is working.  

To test Ketone levels accurately and affordably at home, consider picking up a Keto-Mojo meter. As a bonus, Carb Manager will likely be rolling out an integration in the near future. 

#3: Use a macro tracker

When you embark on your Keto journey, don’t do it alone. Hire a digital health coach to guide your steps. 

If that sounds expensive, don’t worry: It’s not. We’re talking about an app here! 

A macro tracker makes your Keto diet MUCH easier. You tell it what you ate, it queries a massive food database, and out pops your macro ratios. Then you adjust accordingly.  

But a quality app should offer more than just macro tracking. The Carb Manager app, for instance, gives you meal plans, Keto advice, community support, a video tutorial course, and over thousands of low-carb recipes. 

With all that support, why spend big bucks on a health coach? You have everything you need, right there in your pocket. 

Comments 31

  • IncredibleAvocado906343

    IncredibleAvocado906343 23 days ago

    New to this. Seems a little confusing to me!

    • Spring

      Spring a month ago

      How to find a keto health coach for over 60

      • SplendidArugula991249

        SplendidArugula991249 2 months ago

        Thank you. Very informative article. I find so many answers by reading your articles.

        • Fit'N'Fab

          Fit'N'Fab 2 months ago

          Once we get adapted to following the macros perfectly, would it be okay to keep the carbs and protein percentage same but cut down on the fat just a bit? I do sometimes find consuming that amount of fat makes me feel too full and heavy. Would really appreciate if anyone here could help me with this. Thanks in advance 🙂

          • SplendidArugula991249

            SplendidArugula991249 2 months ago

            https://help.carbmanager.com/docs go here to get all the information you could ever need. It helped me.

        • SpectacularCauliflower696307

          SpectacularCauliflower696307 2 months ago

          Is it ok if im a kittle short on my macros (fat and proteien) I find if i try and add something, my calories are way over 🤔

          • Prayingkoala798

            Prayingkoala798 5 months ago

            So has anyone gotten an answer to their questions from the app creators? Or are we answering each other ? I am a non premium member and have lost 5 pounds in not quite 2 weeks on Leto… i never can get the complete amount of fat daily and sometimes I need to supplement the protein w collagen peptides… I am very full and I usually go a bit over on carbs and I tested my urine for ketones yesterday and I am there! Yay me! My husband is attempting the carnivore diet and refuses to use this app(no idea why) but isn’t as far on the ketone scale as I am . Has anyone had similar experiences?

            • Prayingkoala798

              Prayingkoala798 5 months ago

              Can any sugars be consumed on Keto? Doesn't alcohol (like wine ) have sugars and carbs?

              • Betsy A.

                Betsy A. 5 months ago

                What does .6 on a keto meter mean?

                • FortuitousAvocado126732

                  FortuitousAvocado126732 6 months ago

                  How does one balance drinking alcohol into getting into Keto? I’ve been trying for a week & test strips come back negative. What do I increase/decrease with fat/protein/calories/carbs to counterbalance the alcohol? Just being real….

                  • FortuitousKale313332

                    FortuitousKale313332 a month ago

                    Low carb wine is available. The one I saw I think was name Boca. I personally did not try it but my husband did and said that it was ok.

                  • Amsunup1@outlook.com

                    Amsunup1@outlook.com 3 months ago

                    I wonder about a glass wine.

                  • OutstandingKetone874344

                    OutstandingKetone874344 4 months ago

                    I drink gin and tonics. gin has 0 carbs, then I drink sweeps diet tonic, also 0 carbs. toss in some fresh mint and its great! You can always drink Truly. Not my favorite, but its ok. Its more of a girly sweet drink

                • ExcellentMacadamia414727

                  ExcellentMacadamia414727 7 months ago

                  I was told by my physician to eat 1800 calories per day and less than 100 carbs and to use the Carb Manager (for weight loss) Nothing was mentioned about the other macronutrients. What is recommended for the % of protein and fats?

                  • PropitiousKetone304485

                    PropitiousKetone304485 6 months ago

                    That’s 100 calories, not 100 carbs.

                  • PropitiousKetone304485

                    PropitiousKetone304485 6 months ago

                    5% carbs, 20% protein, 75% fat

                • Gaysie

                  Gaysie 7 months ago

                  I selected 7 day keto plan, clicked set macros to fit profile.meals are way over the suggested amount listed per meal Like under Breakfast lunch or dinner what’s up?

                  • Amsunup1@outlook.com

                    Amsunup1@outlook.com 3 months ago

                    Same question. Why aren't the designer of Crab Manager answering our questions?

                  • WinThin

                    WinThin 6 months ago

                    I'm having the same problem. Did you get an answer?

                • FabulousMacadamia603067

                  FabulousMacadamia603067 7 months ago

                  I have my macros set and at first I was losing weight. This past week I have been very hungry and not losing weight. I have my calorie limit at 1350. Do I need to increase this? I walk about 5-7 miles per day with my job doing semi heavy lifting.

                  • UnbelievableAvocado842995

                    UnbelievableAvocado842995 6 months ago

                    Not a medical professional but based on what I understand it is possible to be too limiting. There are great nutritionists and medical doctors that talk about keto and what you can adjust for your levels and what to eat when. One of the doctors did a talk on how you cannot eat too much fat. If your truly doing keto then eating additional fat will not cause weight gain once your fat adapted or in ketosis. The healthy fats will also turn off your hunger signals. You may want to try doing some research or even reach out to some of these doctors...Dr.Ken Berry, Dr. Nick (YouTube easy source for this one.)

                  • FabulousMacadamia603067

                    FabulousMacadamia603067 7 months ago

                    Could someone please reply???

                • kini6960

                  kini6960 8 months ago

                  I hope you deliver what you promise.

                  • OutstandingKetone322239

                    OutstandingKetone322239 8 months ago

                    So where do I do this tracking? Ie where do I list my foods? This app means nothing if I can’t do this.

                    • Babs

                      Babs 8 months ago

                      Under “daily log”

                  • Gad1966!

                    Gad1966! 8 months ago

                    So much success! So glad I have This app!! World of help.

                    • StellarArugula521372

                      StellarArugula521372 8 months ago

                      Why doesn’t the entered carbs equal the totals?

                      • Babs

                        Babs 8 months ago

                        The entered carbs are what you ate during a meal/snack etc.… The total net carbs are what you can have during the day...it adds up as you eat through the day-You don’t want to go over your daily limit!

                    • RousingRadish505919

                      RousingRadish505919 8 months ago

                      Excellent assist information

                      • OutstandingKale257571

                        OutstandingKale257571 9 months ago

                        So much to learn- I love it!

                        • GorgeousKetone350957

                          GorgeousKetone350957 9 months ago

                          If I don’t get all of my net carbs in will it affect my weight loss?