In the keto community you will see people talking about macros (fats, proteins and carbs) and the macro split. This simply means the % of calories from fat, protein and carbs that you eat in a day. If you want keto to work long term for your weight loss goals, you need to individualise it.
Sticking to that standard macro split can actually stop you from getting the results you want. Your body is totally unique, your biochemistry is unique and the experiences your body has had, like illness, injury or chronic disease, are unique to you. To give your body what it needs for long term weight loss, keto needs to be personalised.
Personalised Keto Macros
I don’t have a calculator to offer you because they don’t work. Yes, they work by giving you a jumping off point but you need to do the work of figuring out what macros work for you. When it comes to weight loss, there is no magic bullet or pill here. You need to do the work to work out what split of macros is going to work for you to get to your health and weight loss goals.
I know that might be disappointing and there might be some temptation to just follow someone else’s guidelines. This might work initially but eventually, sooner or later, you will find that it stops working. You stop losing weight and may even regain weight. If you do the work now, when weight loss slows or stops you know how to manage that without cutting out calories or fasting more.
The problem with the standard macro split
If you decide you want to start with the standard 70,20,10 split of calories from fat, protein and carbs there are few things you need to know. This will help you when weight loss slows or stops which it does eventually. The key to getting started again without having to cut calories, fasting more, exercising more and all of the other things we are told to do to lose weight the conventional way.
20% to 25% of your calories from protein per day
This is a great jumping off point but only if you are not restricting calories. If you are eating enough, let’s say 1800 calories, then 20% will give you 360 calories from protein. Since protein has 4 calories per gram, you get 90g of protein per day. That is a great amount of protein. The only thing you need to do is to prioritise getting to that goal every day.
If you are stuck in restriction based weight loss habits then 20% of your calories from protein may mean you are eating too little protein. Using the same maths as above, if you are eating 1200 calories per day, you are getting 240 calories from protein which means just 60g of protein.
Ideally you should be eating 1.5g of protein per kg of “ideal” body weight. Let’s say you are 167cm tall then your ideal weight should be around 65kg (but don’t get hung up on these “ideal” body weight numbers). That means that to get enough protein you need to eat at least 97.5g of protein every day. Protein priority means making sure you get to that goal every day.
70% – 75% calories from fat per day
This might seem like a huge number. With 9 calories per gram, fat is a much bigger source of calories than either protein or carbs (both 4 calories per gram). However the nuance that is lost with this advice is that a large portion of those calories from fat, should come from your body fat. At least at the beginning when you have more body fat.
It doesn’t mean eating very low fat or zero fat. It means that you shouldn’t be adding butter to everything or drinking coffee with extra fat or cream in it. The less fat you eat, the more body fat you will use. As you lose body fat, you have to increase the amount you are eating.
5% to 10% calories from carbs per day
I think this is the number that needs to be most flexible. Many people, especially women, might need a bump up in carbs at certain times. If you have an injury, for example, eating slightly more carbs and keeping yourself out of ketosis can help healing. This is because carbs are protein sparing. It’s a delicate balance. A balance between getting enough to help keep your hormones balanced and low enough to bring insulin down and reverse metabolic syndrome.
Women sometimes need more carbs to help balance sex hormones especially before the start of a new monthly cycle. If you have spotting before your cycle starts it can be a sign that you might need to up your carbs a little. It might not be every month but when it happens, bump up your carbs a bit and see how much better you feel.
Keto needs to be personalised
I sat down recently with Keto expert Patricia Daly. Patricia is an experienced and internationally recognised nutritional therapist (MSc (Advanced Nutrition), dipNT, mBANT, rCNHC), author and educator in the area of integrative cancer support. Patricia is co-author of the book The Ketogenic Kitchen with chef Domini Kemp.
During our conversation we went through how, in both of our practices as ketogenic nutritionists, we have seen over and over again the power of personalising keto and what happens when you don’t. You can listen to the episode here: