How to calculate macros

(Dylan Smith) #1

I’m new to keto and new to pretty much anything to do with healthy living in general.

As I start this journey I’m trying to do the techie thing and collect a bunch of data and build some reports/dashboards. And I’m trying to understand how to calculate macros.

When I read keto guidance it talks about having 5-10% carbs, 70% fat, etc. Regardless of what the recommended percentages are, I’m trying to figure out how to take my current food intake and calculate MY macro percentages.

My understanding is the %'s are a percent of daily calories. And you take the total grams of carbs/fat/protein, and adjust them so that 1g carb/protein = 4 calories, 1g fat = 9 calories. Then use that to calculate the macro %'s.

How does fiber come into play? When people say eat less than Xg of carbs to stay in ketosis, I’m pretty sure that is after subtracting grams of fiber. What about for the % of daily calories? Do I also subtract out fiber from that calc?

For example, lets say in a day I eat:
70g carbs (280 calories)
200g fat (1800 calories)
150g protein (600 calories)

That would work out to:
10% carbs
67% fat
22% protein

But what if there was 20g of fiber included in those 70g carbs? Does that change things?

(Robin) #2

Some people reduce total carbs by fiber. I think many (most, perhaps?) keep it simple and real. Just total carbs. It is actually incredibly easy to stay under 20 total carb grams, and the decision about what to use your allotted carbs on is very individual.

As we spend more time on keto, we learn to read the signals from our body. We start to love the foods that make our body happy. I believe it’s a fairly natural process as long as you stay under 20. Just start with the basics and don’t be in a rush to see results on the scale. Your scale can stall while you go down a size.

Just remember, time is on your side. You got this.

(Tim Cee) #3

I usually look at absolute values instead of percentages.

20 grams carb maximum read off the label.
Item a)10g
Item b) 5g
Total a+b=15g

0.8 grams protein per kilogram of ideal body weight minimum each day.
Ex: 50kg ideal body weight

Any fat that comes with the protein can be counted in grams. I don’t worry about an upper limit on fat. I just eat whatever fat comes with the protein. But I generally don’t do lean protein.

(Tim Cee) #4

Quite right.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #5

Macros are a tool to help you know how much of what you’re eating. If you have reliable hunger and satiety signals, macros can be very simple. Such as: sub-20 grams of carbs per day, fat and protein in about equal weights to satisfy daily hunger. If you’re just trying to lose weight/fat that will probably do for a while. Although for weight/fat loss it may help to eat less fat and more protein. For many folks this is the ‘forevermore macro’. If it works long term to enable you to maintain weight and health, good for you. If it works for a year or two and then doesn’t, well then yes you can change your macros.

If you don’t have reliable hunger and satiety signals or if you’re eating keto for other reasons than simple weight/fat loss or general health, by which I mean specific medical conditions such as T2D, then to be useful macros may need to be more precise and a bit more complicated. The carb macro should always be sub-20 grams per day and the lower the better. Once you’ve been eating keto for a while it is no problem reducing carbs to sub-15, sub-10 or even zero carbs per day consistently. Protein macros can be based on either lean body mass, if you can measure or calculate it, or total body weight as long as you’re not excessively over or under ‘normal’ weight for your height. The fat macro is generally the difference between the calories from protein subtracted from the total calories required to maintain a steady weight. If you’re trying to build muscle mass, then eat more protein and less fat.

Please do not conclude from the above that I advocate eating to arbitrary numbers . I do not. I advocate eating to numbers determined by trial and error to maintain your weight and body fat %. If you eat keto to resolve a specific medical issue, then eat to numbers determined by trial and error that help alleviate or at least not exacerbate the symptoms of the issue. If you’re trying to increase muscle mass or other lean mass, then you will need to increase protein.

As noted, many folks don’t even bother with macros other than to keep carbs sub 20-grams per day and eat equal amounts of fat and protein by weight (usually guestimated!). The ‘macro’ for them is eat when you’re hungry stop when you’re not. Also, many folks who have lost large amounts of weight say that strictly controlling eating times is just as important or even more so than what exact proportions of fat/protein you eat. Many fast by eating only during a daily ‘window’ of several hours and not eating at all the remainder of the day - and absolutely no snacking . Keep in mind, though, that if you want to encourage your metabolism to eat your endogenous fat, you need to eat less fat off the plate. Daily energy requirements are met by plate fat plus body fat and as long as you give your metabolism sufficient plate fat it will spare your body fat. But you have to do this carefully to avoid slowing down your overall metabolism. For example:

Some folks, like me, do not have significant hunger and satiety ‘signals’ to use them successfully to manage our eating. So we use macros to set daily fat/protein target amounts, not percentages , and weigh food portions to ensure we do so. Generally, those who do this long term do not find it particularly onerous and I suspect, like me, find it quite interesting to maintain daily logs. Personally, in addition, I do it so I can see exactly what I ate on any particular day and from that determine any interesting outcomes over the next few days.

I think Bikman’s recommendation of 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of total body weight is the easiest way to calculate macros if you’re not either very large or very small. I’d suggest you start at 1.5 grams and adjust over time as needed. Then by trial and error determine the total energy intake required to maintain stable weight at your new exercise-enhanced level. This may take a few months so be patient. Likely, you will eventually determine a ‘window’ of total intake of +/- 3-400 calories or so within which you will comfortably maintain. (Example: my caloric maintenance window is 2300-2700 calories per day - I’m a moderately active 76 year old male, total weight 145 pounds, BF 14-15%) You will also likely find that you end up with a macro somewhere around 1.5:1 fat grams:protein grams.

Best wishes.

PS: About the ‘maintenance window’. If I eat consistently at the upper end of my window, I will eventually (2-3 weeks) start to gain weight. If I eat consistently at the lower end of my window, I will eventually start to lose weight. That’s what I mean by calling it a ‘maintenance window’. I use it, too, for example: if I want to drink some alcoholic beverage I eat at the low end of my window for a few days before and after, since I’m going to get energy/fat from the alcohol and need to allow for that. If I do some IF for a few days, then I’ll eat to the upper end of my window for a few days afterwards to avoid losing weight.

Dr. Atkins

The number one thing to track is total carbs consumed.

Goal: eat less than 20g total carbs per day.

Some people use net carbs where they subtract the fiber from the total carbs.

Once you attain this for weeks/months, then people begin to tweak their fat and protein intake. Continue to eat less than 20g total carbs per day, but then look at protein and fat to modify.

Some people eat 70% calories from fat and 25% protein, with around 5% being made up of those 20g of carbs.

Others will increase protein to say 35% and fill with fat. However, the carbs % will fluctuate based on calories, but the goal is to eat less than 20g per day.


Forget about percentages, unless you are doing some type of therapeutic keto that requires it. Your need for proteins should primarily be based on your lean body mass, not on how many calories you are eating.

I see keto as simply “Minimal carbs. Adequate proteins. Fats as needed (for satiety).”

First, I’d suggest using this calculator to determine your macros, keeping in mind that the proteins macro is a lower limit, while the fats and carbs macros are upper limits.

So, two priorities:

  • You need to keep carbs low to stay in ketosis.
  • You need to make sure you get enough proteins. Your body needs them. Being significantly low on them over an extended period can cause the body to get it elsewhere. That may mean break-down of muscle tissue. Not good.

After that, ideally, it should be hunger that determines how many fats and additional proteins (and thus calories) that you need to be eating, if only because leaving yourself hungry all the time means keto won’t be sustainable. You don’t need to eat all of the fats macro if you’re not hungry, because the body can make up the difference with stored body fat.

“Net carbs” are basically “digestible carbs”.

Generally, there are three things to be concerned about for net carbs:

  • Fiber. Most forms are not digestible, so they can generally be subtracted out.
  • Sugar alcohols vary in digestibility. Some, like erythritol, can be subtracted out completely. Others, like Xylitol and Sorbitol and Maltitol, still have over 2 calories per gram, so should really only be half-subtracted. A comparison of Glycemic Index for sweeteners.
  • Allulose is a sugar, but has nearly no digestible component (1/10th that of regular sugar). But because it’s listed on nutritional labels as part of the carbohydrates, there’s no way to subtract it out (I think this is changing). But most products using Allulose will state the net carbs on their packaging.

Also, be aware that most countries outside of the USA already subtract out non-digestible carbohydrates on their labels, so you would do no subtracting. That’s why you can sometimes find nutritional labels where there are more fiber grams than carbohydrate grams.


10% carbs is way too much for most of us even for ketosis let alone feeling right but it’s individual, of course.
Percentages aren’t important, do whatever suits you. But if you want to be in ketosis, you need a low enough carb intake. It’s 40g net and unlimited total for me, it seems but it doesn’t give me benefits beyond fat adaptation, it’s better for me to go way lower. 20g is the safe amount in general, some people must go lower for ketosis but that case is quite rare.
I always kept it simple and only counted net carbs, total never mattered to me anyway but many people says total is easier for them and they even need that. Okay, figuring out the net for certain vegetables, fruits and oily seeds were time consuming (the site I use for tracking had them off, I don’t know what a better one does) but I only needed to do it that once. For everything else that has fiber or sugar alcohol, net is easier especially if net is zero. But each to their own. Now I know that if it matters if I count total carbs, I eat too much not proper food :smiley: But as a newbie ketoer I needed my probably 80-100g total carbs (it was hard enough to track everything else so I never tracked my total but I had plenty of fiber and sugar alcohol)… It’s easier eating meat, I do that now. Erm sorry, I got carried away.

Some items with sugar alcohol has an unhelpful label so I have no idea about net carbs but I don’t eat such things.

Well. You can’t possibly know the right macros for you. You just eat and you will see…? It’s so unnatural to eat to some chosen semi-random number… If your body doesn’t give you good feedback, it may be needed but normally you just eat according to your hunger, taste, feelings (I mean if you feel you need food despite not being hungry, you should eat) and hopefully it’s enough. If not, you can tweak things, timing, food choices but saying “oh I already ate 168g protein, I shouldn’t more so come, stick of butter as I still need energy/I am hungry” :smiley: Nope.
Planning is better but I personally never ever could make a plan, have my meal, make a photo - and eating exactly that. So I operate with hopefully great food choices and timing.
My fat intake is twice as much on one day than on the other, it’s fine. My percentages are somewhat similar as all my preferred food has similar ratios but it actually doesn’t matter if I one does 55% or 85% fat or even beyond that. If it feels right, convenient, works… Then it’s okay.
75% is clearly way too much for me for a longer period of time (I only can do it through overeating, typically massive overeating, my energy need is smallish while I need my high protein for satiation and joy) so I stay below, 65-73%? Something like that. But the occasional 80% fat day is fine ;). And I had at least one low-fat keto day, it was great.

1-2% carbs works for me best :slight_smile: But we are all different here. And grams are what matters, not the percentage.

Oh and calculators are unrealiable, obviously. They can’t know what your body actually needs energy wise. You may use them as a starting point but don’t rely on them too much.

It’s way nicer not to track at all but it may help to know how much you actually eat. I never did the forcing part of calorie counting as it’s totally foreign from my personality, I just dutifully counted what I have eaten. If it goes 1200 kcal over my plan, so be it. I won’t stay hungry. I even need my high-cal days occasionally. But if I regularly eat way too much, I try to change something. But for the many lucky people, even keto or low-carb is enough. Others need a lot of extra rules and effort and time. And the rest is in between. For a newbie, it’s best to get used to keto and not to overcomplicate or overthink things, I think. If you can afford to tweak things right away, I wouldn’t say you shouldn’t do it but for most of us, just sticking to keto is enough :slight_smile:
And fat adaptation easily may change things, my hunger and satiation changed there though timing and food choices are very important factors as well. Carbs may mess with us even on keto, that’s why my carbier keto wasn’t really good for me (but I had no other options in the beginning, it was a temporary phase).


Then that would be 50g of carbs, but unless you’re REALLY physically active you won’t spend much time in ketosis at that level, you’ll still have tons of benefits at that level, but minimal ketosis. If you were going to do Targeted / Cyclic keto and those carbs were around workouts that could work out well, which is what I do.

You’re also much better off basing your macros on grams and not percentages.

(Bacon enough and time) #10

Welcome to the forums!

A ketogenic diet is a low-insulin diet, and the key to keeping insulin low is to keep carbohydrate intake low. Your carb tolerance depends on your level of insulin resistance. A healthy person who is insulin-sensitive can safely consume more carbohydrate than someone who is metabolically-damaged and insulin-resistant. In any case, however, the limit is a fixed amount of carbohydrate, not a percentage of calories.

Protein intake should be reasonable, and here again, it is an amount (pegged to lean body mass in most recommendations), not a percentage of calories. Fat then replaces carbohydrate as the main source of energy. The standard advice is to eat enough to eliminate hunger pangs, which is impossible to determine as a proportion of calories. Prof. Benjamin Bikman summarises all this with the mantra: “Control carbohydrate, prioritise protein, full in with fat.”

The one caveat is not to skimp on calories, which can cause the body to slow down the metabolism. An abundant diet allows the body to rev up the metabolism instead, which has all kinds of benefits.