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You’ve probably heard that you can eat all the meat and fat you want on the ketogenic diet–and lose weight. That sounds pretty great to steak aficionados, but it’s not entirely true.
The main tenets of the popular diet is to eat plenty of fat, limit carbs, and consume protein in moderation–an element that is lost on many people, says Liz Weinandy, R.D. at Ohio State University Wexler Medical Center.
“When people start keto, they eat a lot more protein than what’s allowed on a keto diet,” she says. “Most of them [dieters] are following Atkins.”
The plan is centered around maintaining ketosis, or fat burning mode. Typically, our bodies run on carbohydrates, the brain’s preferred fuel source. Severely limiting carbs forces your liver to create ketones from fat, which becomes your body’s primary source of energy.
Changing your metabolic state isn’t easy, but here’s how you do it:
First, you need to follow the right macros for keto
All food includes some mix of macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. In a true keto diet about 70 percent of your daily calories will come from fat. Protein makes up another 20 percent and carbs are limited to only 10 percent, says Weinandy. Generally, most experts advise keeping carb intake to roughly 30 grams per day, but this varies by person.
Nutritional needs are individual specific and based on a variety of factors including, height and activity level. Generally speaking, an active 40-year-old needs roughly 2,600 calories to maintain his weight. If our guy cuts a moderate 10 percent of his caloric intake to lose weight, he’ll need about 2,340 calories a day.
This equates to 1,638 calories from fat, 468 calories from protein, and 234 calories from carbs using the suggested ratio. Nutrition labels and food tracking apps report macronutrients in grams, so you’ll need to do a little math.
Every gram of macronutrient contains calories:
- Fat = nine calories per gram
- Carbs = four calories per gram.
- Protein = four calories per gram.
To convert calories to grams, simply divide the total number of calories for each macronutrient by the number of calories in one gram.
1,638 calories from fat/9 =182 grams of fat peer day
468 calories from protein/4 = 117 grams of protein
234 calories from carbs/4 = 58 grams of fat.
Some keto dieters only track carbs, but that’s a big mistake, says Melanie Boehmer, RD and CDN at Lenox Hill Hospital.
“Your body converts extra protein into sugar or carbohydrates.” she explains.
What do you need to track your macros for keto?
The keto diet is a huge commitment and requires a few tools to be successful. An inexpensive food scale to weigh food can offer an idea of how much food you’re actually consuming since it’s easy to misjudge portion sizes. Tracking meals in online calculators like MyFitnessPal is easy, and they also provide nutrition information including macros. The free version is fine, but the premium membership includes a plans feature where you can specify specific goals and provides more detailed macro tracking.
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