Keto Macros: Adjusting Carbs, Protein, and Fat to Fit Your Goals
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Keto Macros: Adjusting Carbs, Protein, and Fat to Fit Your Goals

Keto Macros: Adjusting Carbs, Protein, and Fat to Fit Your Goals

Posted 4 months ago

Brian Stanton

Brian Stanton

Author

Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Dr. Kevin R. Gendreau

Scientific Reviewer

Expert Approved

If you’ve tried the Keto diet, you’re probably familiar with counting macros. The basic idea is to keep fat high, protein moderate, and carbs low to enter the fat-burning state called ketosis. 

What happens if you go over your Keto macros? That depends on the macronutrient. 

Most people know that keeping carbs low is the number one rule of Keto. Missing the mark here will generally (though not always) derail your Keto diet. 

There’s more confusion, however, when calibrating fat and protein macros. Keep reading and we’ll clear it up. 

What Are Macros?

“Macros” stands for macronutrients. The three primary macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein, and fat—provide the calories needed to fuel your body.

Calories, by the way, are a form of stored energy. In your body, calories are converted to usable energy as ATP, which in turn powers all your cells. 

Technically, alcohol is also a macro. But unless you count social lubrication, it has no important functions.

The different macros have different caloric densities. Here’s how that looks:

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram 
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram
  • (In case you were wondering, alcohol has 7 calories per gram)

Why are they called macros? Because carbs, protein, and fat are required in large (or “macro” amounts) to keep your body humming. Micronutrients, predictably enough, are required in micro amounts.

Which Macros Matter Most?

Of all the macros, you could argue that protein is the most critical. Amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are needed to build muscle, synthesize hormones, heal wounds, promote neurological function, and much more. 

But protein isn’t so great for making ATP, and that’s where carbs and fats come in.[*] They’re both “preferred” energy sources.

Besides providing energy, dietary fat also helps you build cell membranes and absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.[*] These aren’t functions you want to miss out on. 

Carbs provide a vital form of energy called glucose, but in the absence of carbs (such as Keto or fasting situations), your body can make its own glucose via gluconeogenesis.[*] Because of this, carbs are arguably the most optional macro.  

Your Macros on Keto

On a Keto diet, you consume 55 to 75 percent of your calories from fat, 15 to 35 percent from protein, and less than 10 percent from carbohydrates. Keeping your macros in these ratios helps keep the hormone insulin low, signaling your body to burn fat and enter ketosis. 

Keeping carbs low is the key. Why? Because carbs raise insulin levels more than the other macros, and rising insulin will kick you out of ketosis faster than you can say “ketogenesis.”[*]

After carbs, protein is the next most insulinogenic macro. Then comes fat, which has a minuscule insulin impact.

This explains why therapeutic Keto diets (which were originally created to help manage seizures in people with epilepsy) demand you eat 80% or more of your calories from fat.[*] That’s what’s required to elevate ketones into the higher ranges. 

But assuming you’re doing Keto for fat loss or general health, you’ll have more flexibility. 

How Much Flexibility Is There With Keto Macros?

Your macro flexibility will depend on your unique physiology and health goals. Let’s see how this applies to carbs, protein, and fat. 

Carb Macros: Can I Go Over Them?

The general rule is to keep carbs under 10 percent of calories, but some people do better on more or less. 

For instance, an active person may benefit from a Cyclical Ketogenic Diet that allows 1-2 high-carb days per week. The extra carbs may help active folks refill muscle glycogen, the storage form of glucose accessed during hard or long efforts. 

But a sedentary person should consider a different strategy. Obese and overweight people, for example, may want to keep carbs under 5 percent of calories (20 to 30 grams of net carbs per day) to promote ketosis, appetite suppression, and weight loss

Protein Macros: Can I Go Over Them?

Inadequate protein is one of the biggest Keto mistakes. Why? Because people think that consuming 25 percent of your calories from protein means that three-quarters of your plate should be pure fat. 

But that’s not the case. Remember, protein and fat have different caloric densities. By weight, a proper Keto meal should be about half protein and half fat. 

The takeaway is to prioritize protein. You may be short on this macro which is critical for muscular and hormonal health. 

But wait, won’t all that protein kick you out of ketosis? While it’s true that therapeutic Keto diets (to treat epilepsy, cancer, or Alzheimer’s) call for lower protein intakes, it’s been shown that high-protein Keto diets can be compatible with weight loss.[*

Fat Macros: Can I Go Over Them?

Fat is the most ketogenic macro. Eating more of it will not interfere with ketone production. 

But overeating fat will cause weight gain  or difficulty with weight loss. That’s what overeating does, regardless of the macro. 

Nuts are the worst offenders here. Start munching these Keto-friendly calorie bombs and before you know it, you’re holding an empty bag. Not ideal for shedding pounds. 

The other problem with overdoing fat is that it cannibalizes your protein intake. A leafy salad drenched in olive oil may keep you in ketosis, but it won’t provide the building blocks to keep your body strong. 

How To Adjust Your Keto Macros 

Determining your ideal Keto macros is a highly individual process. It will take some trial and error.

A good starting point for weight loss and general health on Keto is 60/30/10. (That’s fat, protein, and carb percentages). You can go up or down on the fat and protein a bit, but be more strict about your carb limit. 

Once you have a baseline, you can make adjustments. If you’re super active, consider bumping up carbs and protein—and subtracting fat. See how you feel and perform at these different ratios.  

If you’re less active, consider reducing net carbs to 20 or 30 grams per day. This will accelerate the transition (called fat-adaptation) to burning body fat for energy.

To keep your macros game on point, log all your meals in the Carb Manager app. If you don’t use a macro tracker, you won’t get the data you need. 

In time, you’ll develop an intuitive sense for counting macros.

Comments 7

  • SaraB104

    SaraB104 21 hours ago

    Having issues eating enough fat without going over another macro. Any advice?

    • Linzi loo

      Linzi loo a day ago

      I always keep my carbs low but sometimes go over my protein allowance. Is this ok every now an then

      • Losingit1953

        Losingit1953 a month ago

        I have different macros for regular vs PSMF days. Can CM handle 2 different sets of macros?

        • OutstandingAvocado120190

          OutstandingAvocado120190 a month ago

          I recently was advised by my MD to discontinue oral DMII Meds due to ckd. Should I lower my carb intake even more. Net carbs @ 18

          • FavorableCauliflower444576

            FavorableCauliflower444576 2 months ago

            Very excited to try Carb Manager! Ready to lose this weight and be a healthier me!

            • StellarKale405998

              StellarKale405998 4 months ago

              I am returning to Carb Manager and find that you have changed everything. I was last using it in 2020. I gained the 30 pounds back again. I was on 20 gms of net carbs. How do I change it from 60 to 20 again?

              • KB

                KB 3 months ago

                Go to SETTINGS (the wheel in the top left corner of the screen). Under GOAL SETTINGS, choose MACROS CALCULATOR. In Step 1, you'll see (and be able to adjust) the daily calories that came from your Getting Started Wizard responses. Scroll down to Step 2, MY MACRO GOALS — you should see a box showing macros and a drop down box “arrow”; click it and slide down to CUSTOM. You’ll see sliders there to adjust. At the bottom of the screen, choose APPLY.