Simple Macro Calculator & Sample Meal Plan
I get a lot of questions every day around what one should eat. What are the best macros to follow on a keto diet? How often should I eat? Should I fast? These are some of the most common ones I get, but the winner is definitely the macros question. Since most of the macro calculators I see online are pretty crappy, I end up giving different guidance based on the type of keto diet the individual is following (standard keto vs. carnivore keto, etc), the person’s diet history (how long have they been doing it? Are they insulin resistant?) and the person’s muscle mass and activity.
That being said, people LOVE their macro calculators! So, I will attempt to create one that I think may be the closest to “one size fits all” as possible—both for a standard keto diet, as well as a carnivore keto diet (coming soon). This is based off of my personal experimentation, and the work I have done with a variety of clients over the past several years.
Tracking is a useful tool, if you know how to use it
It’s no secret that I love to track. I understand that many do not, and they do fantastic. For me, tracking guides my decisions because I am a creature of habit, and when I do change things, I am able to tell if and how much it affects me, positively or negatively. If you are similar in this way, read on. If tracking just stresses you out, I do not want to contribute to your stress! Read on if you are curious, but just know that this is not vital to your success. This is a lifestyle, and it cannot be understated that there is no finish line. So many of us are attached to this “diet mentality”. We can easily commit to almost anything, if we know that there is a beginning and endpoint. This is why statistically, the online programs that have the most conversions and sales are 3-4 weeks. You could have a totally awesome diet and exercise program that is well written, with a one month on ramp and all the right progressions that take into account the time it takes to adapt, and it just won’t sell like a 3-4 week cookie cutter program. The fact of the matter is that people see something like that and are completely intimidated. It seems like too much of a commitment.
We all have different backgrounds, and sure, a lot of us have a history of disordered eating (yours truly included). However, our goal for you is to improve your life in more ways than one. You are not content with the “pop keto” you will see online that preaches things like, “75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbs” or “don’t eat too much fat” or “don’t eat too much protein” or (a favorite of mine) “I do fine with a piece of wheat toast because it fits my macros and I am still losing weight”. Hopefully, you want to dig deeper and you want to learn more.
That being said, having a set of guidelines as a starting point may be helpful. And if you ever see or hear me talking about macros, invariably, I say “as a starting point”. That’s because we really are all special snowflakes. We have the same digestive systems and for the most part, we all tolerate some foods well and others not so well. But we have different genetics, epigenetics and stimuli that may result in us feeling better or worse on a certain set of macros.
I am going to share with you what my priorities are, so you can see why I see things the way I see them.
- Start with protein.
The more I learn, the more it confirms the importance of protein. Hair falling out on a ketogenic diet? Possibly a lack of protein. Training feeling like crap after months, and you are diligent with electrolytes and taking adequate rest? Probably need some more protein! There are several reasons why adding some protein may really enhance your diet. So don’t be afraid of it just because someone told you to be! Regardless of what happens after increasing your protein for a short period, it is highly unlikely that you will die. If you feel worse, feel free to curse me out.
Oh yeah, and here are two great resources for understanding the role of protein on low carbohydrate diets: Amy Berger's AWESOME article on gluconeogenesis and Dr. Benjamin Bikman's AWESOME Low Carb Breckenridge talk on the relevance of dietary protein on low carbohydrate diets.
I should add that the reasons many people do well with higher protein are many. If you are eating higher protein the right way, it is coming from animal flesh—preferably with an adequate amount of fat. If you are part of the chicken, tilapia and protein shakes brigade, you’re probably not going to do as well by a long shot. First, because these examples are actually devoid of anything else BUT protein. They don’t have adequate vitamins and minerals, they don’t have adequate fat to absorb these micronutrients, and because of the second reason they also don’t taste good.
The exception would be the third choice—protein powder. Nowadays, there are some really tasty protein powders on the market. They almost taste TOO good. The reason I say this is because a protein powder can easily turn into a trigger food. They’re all loaded with artificial sweeteners—sometimes 3-4 of them. Maura was an affiliate for a supplement company, but we re-evaluated that, and did not renew when her contract was up because too much of what goes into these supplements is against what we stand for (as delicious as some of these products are). So, protein is very helpful, if it comes from the right source. Since you have heard Brian and I talk about Phinney and Volek ad nauseam on The Ketogenic Athlete Podcast, you are probably already familiar with their recommendations on protein: 0.6-1.0 grams per pound of lean body mass. For our purposes, we will use 0.8 x lean body mass.
- Set your fat goal.
This is another area where I have evolved in my thinking. I still believe that added fat should be higher at first. The reasons I give are twofold: first, if you are coming off of carbs and having issues with cravings, fat tends to satisfy those cravings because it is just so rich and delicious. Secondly, as a non-fat adapted individual, your system is the equivalent of a gas tank with a small leak in it. You need to give your body more raw material for ketone production, because the fact of the matter is that a lot of those ketones are going to end up in the toilet. That being said, I don’t necessarily think it needs to be as high as I previously thought, even at the beginning. So, my revised view on this is as follows. Whereas before I would advise people to set their protein, and then set their fat to around 2x their protein, my new, provocative and CRAZY recommendation is to set fat to about 1.5x protein. I know. I am a loose cannon.
- Set your carb limit.
This is the easiest section! Set total carbs to 25. Why? Well, for one, right now I am actively trying to eat more carbs and they are still ending up at 25-30. So I think 25 total carbs is plenty. A little more than the typical 20, since I know some of us are still attached to fiber. Still, low enough to discourage people to go crazy with sugar alcohols (don't do it!).
Putting it all together
Here is an example. This is, of course, completely hypothetical.
A 5’11”, 225 lb Cuban man with an infectious smile and a captivating personality, with 10% body fat decides to start a ketogenic diet.
Lean body mass: 202.5
Protein macro: 162 grams
Fat macro: 243 grams
Carb macro: 25
And, what do you know? These actually break down to 22% protein, 75% fat and 3% carbs. That’s a nice macronutrient breakdown, if I do say so myself.
Sample Meal Plan
12 oz of coffee
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp MCT oil
1 tbsp avocado oil
9 oz of 80/20 ground beef
1.5 Hass avocados + course celtic sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Meal #2 (snack)
3 oz of Wild Planet canned mackerel mixed with 2 oz of cream cheese
1.5 oz of Bunker Hill cheese crisps
10 oz ribeye steak
4 oz of zucchini noodles with 0.5 tbsp of melted ghee
Simple macro calculator, simple meal plan. Now, go forth and be awesome.