Understanding & Tracking Macros and using MyFitnessPal
The three macros (macronutrients) are carbohydrates (carbs), protein, and fats.
Macros make up the calorie content of all foods we consume each day to live and function. When we start to consider how we are consuming calories, it is easier to make better choices about the food we eat. By having a better understanding of macros, we can make better decisions about the food we consume. For example, knowing the average bowl of cereal contains around 50g of carbs and a portion of keto pancakes contains 3.7g of carbs we can clearly see here which is the better option to eat if you're looking to reduce your carb intake.
On Keto, carbohydrates are reduced as they have the highest effect on blood sugar, converting into glucose. The raise in glucose levels triggers an insulin release, which then helps store the glucose as either glycogen or fat in our cells. The only essential macros are fat and protein. For years we have been following a theory that we must consume a large proportion of our food as carbs, however there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate!
Protein provides the body with the building blocks to build or repair tissue. Most our body is built on protein, such as muscle, skin and bones. The digestive process, immune system and blood are powered by protein to work properly. Even hormones, antibodies, enzymes are proteins. Ensuring that you maintain a good level of protein is essential.
Although the phrase 'fat will account for the majority of your calorie intake' may seem daunting, it's much easier than you think. Good quality meat and fish, cooking oils/butters and dressings are all great sources of healthy fats! It is not essential to drown everything in creamy sauces, consume loads of fat bombs, or drink 'Bulletproof' Coffee every day in order to be 'keto'. If you focus on a good source of protein at each meal (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, cheese), chances are you'll have a good level of fat too.
On a low carb / keto lifestyle, carbs will still form a big part of your food consumption but they will come in the way of non-starchy vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, aubergine, courgette and lots of leafy greens such as spinach and kale, plus berries.
There are a wide variety of protein sources to suit almost every taste including meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, yogurt and cheese. Lots of our bread recipes also contain a decent amount of protein.
Fat comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Let's start with the obvious ones...butter...yes real butter! Coconut in it's many and varied guises...oil, flour, milk, cream or even just straight out of the shell. Also olive oil, avocado oil and ghee. Fat also comes from all dairy products, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, avocados and olives.
The macro calculator on this page: https://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/ will not just give you the basic breakdown like many others but will also give you a good indication on body fat and a weight loss graph. All you need to know are your weight, height and date of birth. From there it will work out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate - the number of calories you would burn in a day if you did nothing) and then it will ask you to select how active you are. Unless you have a very active job, I would always select Lightly Active and this will work out what your AMR (Active Metabolic Rate - the amount of calories that you'll actually burn in a day). The calculator will then give an estimate on your Body Fat % based on your current weight / height however you can adjust this figure if you feel it is not accurate.
You will then select the level of carbs you want to aim at achieving each day. When starting your journey it's sometimes not a bad idea to give yourself a little wiggle room, so set the carb level to around 50g. If you want to go strict Keto straight away then around 20g is the recommended total. It is important to remember, however, that you need to listen to your own body to see what works best for you.
The calculator will then give you a recommended protein level based on standard guidelines. You can be a little flexible with protein but initially it's best to start with the recommended amount and then adjust it depending on how you feel after a week or two.
Once these two macros are calculated, the rest of your calorie intake will come from fats, including dietary and body fat. At this point you are asked to select a deficit - this deficit is where the body will use stored body fat to provide energy. Selecting 10-15% deficit is usually the best place to start.
Using these figures you now have a guide to help you create your meal plan. You can also use an app such as MyFitnessPal to help you track your food intake to give you clarity and peace of mind. You will need to alter the factory settings to your personal calorie and macro values to get the best out of the app.
Click the links below for MyFitnessPal tutorials to help you get set up.
When creating recipes, MyFitnessPal gives you the option to import recipes direct from the internet. We don't recommend doing this as it may default to using American ingredients, which will mess with the net carbs vs total carbs. More info on this is here.