If you’ve been venturing into the world of keto, you have probably come across the term ‘macros,’ and phrases like ‘tracking your macros.’
It may seem a bit overwhelming and confusing. But macros are quite easy to understand. In this post, I’ll explain what macros are, how you track them for the ketogenic diet, and my favorite food tracking app!
What Are Macros (And Why Do You Need To Track Them)?
The term ‘macro’ is short for macronutrient. Macronutrients are what make up all food. They consist of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
Macronutrients are what is responsible for the calorie count of your food. Both carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram.
Fun fact for you, alcohol is considered a macronutrient (and provides 7 calories per gram). But, as it adds no nutritional value to the body, it is not included in macro calculations.
Tracking your macros when on a diet takes the focus away from counting calories. If you focus purely on calories, it is easy to eat unhealthily still. But if you are focused on the right proportions of macros, you’ll be more likely to eat a balanced diet.
Before going into how to calculate macros, it is essential first to understand the different macros and the role they play in your diet - specifically from a keto perspective.
Carbohydrates are made up of sugar and starches. Interestingly - carbs are the only macronutrient that is not required for survival.
Fiber is also counted as a carbohydrate, but because we can’t digest fiber (it just works through our system), it has a minimal impact on our blood sugar. For this reason, it isn’t counted as part of your daily total.
This is why, when you are counting carbs for keto, you use the ‘net carbs’ amount.
Total Carbs – Fiber = Net Carbs
Proteins are known as the ‘building blocks’ of the body and play a vital role in almost all biological processes.
Protein plays a vital role in immune function, muscle growth and preserving lean muscle mass, tissue repair, making essential hormones and enzymes, and more.
Your body breaks down protein into amino acids. Nine of these amino acids cannot be made by the body, and are known as ‘essential amino acids.’
When it comes to calculating how much protein you need in your diet, you will base it on whether you want to preserve your lean muscle mass, or gain muscle mass.
And now we get to possibly the most contentious of the 3 macros - fats.
A certain amount of fat in your diet is essential. Your body requires fat for energy and critical functions. Some of these functions include giving your body energy, supporting cell growth, protecting your organs, and nutrient absorption.
There are 4 types of dietary fats (i.e., fats that we eat):
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats
Saturated and trans fats raise the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in your blood, and you should try to avoid these.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower bad cholesterol levels and are beneficial when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet.
What Should Your Macros Be On Keto?
This is one of the tricky parts when first starting on a keto diet.
There is a recommended breakdown of macros for the keto diet, but in reality, everyone is going to have slightly different macros they need to achieve, based on their particular goals.
The typical ketogenic diet breakdown looks like this:
- 70-75% fats, 20-25% protein, and 5% carbs.
To work out the ratio that will work for you, I recommend using the Easy Keto Calculator. This is just a calculator, if you want more exact numbers I would recommend having your macros created for you by me.
You plug in your body composition, activity level, goals, and exercise. It also allows you to adjust your protein levels.
Once you’ve got your macro breakdown, the next important step is to start tracking everything you are eating. (And I mean everything - even that sneaky little candy bar or latte on your morning commute.)
Best App For Keto Food Tracking
You may think that you can judge how much you’re eating. But especially in the beginning, it is crucial to keep a close eye on your macros until you have a better idea of quantities.
It is super easy to underestimate how many carbs you are eating daily. But, once you know what foods you should be eating (or have a keto food list) that helps out a ton.
And it is also tricky at first to get used to the amount of fat needed on the keto diet. It’s going to look like too much at first.
I’ve tried a few of the popular food tracking apps and eventually settled on my favorite - Cronometer.
I’ve been using it now for about two years (give or take a few months).
Cronometer claims to be “the most accurate, comprehensive nutrition tracking app on earth.”
The reason for this is that they get their nutritional data from verified, accurate sources.
This is in contrast to MyFitnessPal, where anyone using the app can submit anything they want. This leads to an extensive database, but an inaccurate one.
Cronometer has a smaller food database, but for me, I’d much prefer using an app knowing the nutritional information is accurate.
Another significant benefit of Cronometer over other food tracking apps is the ability to track net carbs. This is fantastic for keto dieters!
How to Use Cronometer to Track Your Keto Macros
Using Cronometer might take you a few minutes to understand, but once you do it is a cakewalk really.
When you first log into the app you'll want to immediately go to Settings on the bottom of the screen.
Then, you'll do the following:
- Input all your data as shown in the images
- Scroll to Targets and click Macronutrient Targets and set that up as shown (your protein ratio will be different and you'll have to play with that, but keto net carbs at 30 and below)
- Go back to the home screen and press the + button to add a food
- Search for a food, enter the amount you're going to eat and then hit add
It's really easy once you get the hang of it. You can also update your data whenever it updates too in the profile area.
1. Setup Your Profile
2. Edit Your Macronutrients
For the "grams of protein per kg of lean body mass" you might want to play around with this number. I'm aiming for approximately 1g of protein per pound of my GOAL weight, so I had to tweak the number to match that.
A little tedious but so worth it!
3. Learn How to Add Food to Cronometer
4. Search and Add Your Food
There is a free version and a ‘Gold’ version. Here is the breakdown of what you get in each:
You can continue to use the free version of Cronometer for an unlimited amount of time. Cronometer is pleased to offer ALL users access to:
- Nutrition data from lab analyzed sources
- Access to the Cronometer Community Database
- Create custom foods and recipes
- Sync selected activity trackers and apps to import data to your diary
- limited data analysis tools
- Ability to export ALL raw data
- Access to the iOS and Android Mobile Apps
The Gold subscription is for individuals looking for improved functionality of Cronometer. The Gold subscription provides:
- No Advertisements
- Oracle Food Suggestions
- Nutrient Oracle
- Diary Groups
- Long term data charts and reports
- Nutrient intake graph
- Timestamped data
- Custom biometrics
- Recipe sharing
- Nutrient Balance charts
Don't forget to pin this for later!