What Are Macros?
Macros, short for macro-nutrients, are the molecules – Fat, Protein, and Carbs – that the body uses to create energy.
Each food consists of varying amounts of macros, usually measured in grams on nutrition labels.
- 1 gram of Fat –> provides 9 calories (or kcal)
- 1 gram of Protein –> provides 4 calories (or kcal)
- 1 gram of Carbohydrates –> provides 4 calories (or kcal)
- 1 gram of Alcohol (specific types, mentioned below) –> provides 7 calories (or kcal)
Why Counting Macros is More Important than Counting Calories
The concept of counting calories is simple. If you want to lose weight, consume lesser calories than your body needs each day and it will start burning excess fats for energy.
On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, eat more calories than your body requires each day and your body will start storing excess calories as fat or other fuels.
If you simply choose to maintain your current weight, then consume the exact amount of calories your body requires and you are good to go.
Either ways, it is important to understand your daily calorific requirements and modify your diet to suit your goals.
Your daily calorific requirements depend on the below parameters:
- Daily level of activity
There is, however, a catch with counting calories, especially when it comes to losing weight.
When the body is short of calories it requires for the day. It will target all available energy storage sources to fulfill the deficit, which includes both fats and proteins. Thus, lack of protein in the diet can lead to muscle loss, which is an undesirable outcome and can lead to severe health concerns.
This is where Counting Macros is more essential and it becomes more important to understand the source of calories than just the amount of calories. On a low carb diet like Ketogenic Diet, it is critical to understand how much carbs one is consuming in comparison with healthy fats and proteins.
A 100 calorie intake from healthy fats (such as avocados or ghee) is considered healthier than a 100 calorie intake from carbs (such as grains or starchy vegetables).
Typically, it is advised for dieters on Keto to target less than 50 grams of carbs to maintain Ketosis.
How to Count Macros?
To count macros, simply add the number of grams of fat, protein and carbs you consume each day. You’ll find this information in the nutrition labels on each food packaging or else look for it on apps or calculators such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+.
In the initial days, it is advised to make daily notes of macro intakes to develop a general sense of nutritional value for different food types. After you have developed a decent understanding, you can keep a subconscious check on the type of food you consume along with the portion size.
The exact amount of macros an individual needs to consume depends person-to-person and varies based on the same parameters as counting calories.
Counting Macros for Keto
Ketogenic diet, by definition, is extremely low on carbs, moderate on proteins, and high on healthy fats.
The typical breakdown is as follows:
- Fats: 75%
- Proteins: 20%
- Carbs: 5% (Mostly through non-starchy vegetables)
So, a typical daily entry of macros for Keto would look like this: 165 gram fat, 110 gram protein, and 30 gram carbs.
Or, in terms of macros, total calorie intake = 165 x 9 (from fats) + 100 x 4 (from proteins) + 25 x 4 (from carbs) calories = 1,985 calories.
Here, the macro breakdown is coming from 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs.
Important points to note while calculating Macros:
1. For Ketogenic diet, instead of calculating total carbs, focus on “net carbs”.
Net carbs = Total carbs in a food – total fiber content
Fiber is not included as part of your macros because it is not absorbed by the body, helps in bowel movement and maintains a healthy gut.
So, if you had an avocado with 20 grams of carbs and 12 grams of fiber. Only, net carb of 8 grams should be added to your macros.
2. Besides fiber, sugar alcohols, such as erythritol and xylitol, are also not counted towards your net carbs. These are excellent replacement for your daily sugar intake as they are not absorbed by the body and are excreted as it is. However, ensure you don’t consume more than 50 grams in a day.
3. Do not rely on one website or app for complete nutrition calculations. They might differ in their methodologies, so it is always best to double check or verify from multiple sources. Food labels on foods are typically a good source but a double check is warranted.
4. Ketogenic diet due to its tendency for water weight loss may leave the body dehydration. So, stay hydrated and take plenty of electrolytes in the form of coconut water or soy broth.