What Are Macronutrients?
There are three major macronutrients important to your health & energy:
- Healthy Fats
On a low carb diet, you want to limit your carb intake to force your body to burn fat for energy instead of carbs/sugar. This is done by limiting your carbs to achieve a state of ketosis. See Low Carb High Fat Diet Explained to understand the science behind the way that works – in simple terms. 🙂
Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, which is why you might get a boost from eating sugar. On a LCHF diet (or low carb ketogenic diet), fat is your FUEL. Your body and brain actually run much better on Healthy Fats than they do on carbs & sugar – with a lot less “crashing”, and a lot less health risks!
As you know, on a low carb diet we also track Fiber. Most people subtract Fiber from Total Carbs to get Net Carbs, with a limit of 20 net carbs per day max.
I use MyFitnessPal, which is a FREE Macro Calculator and a great way to keep up with your progress. It also allows you track exercise and calories burned, water intake, and determine accurate nutrition facts for your recipes.
To give an example, I am eating my breakfast as I write this. It’s 1/4 cup Daisy Brand Cottage Cheese, 1/3 cup pecan halves and 2 medium strawberries.
It’s a very healthy LCHF (low carb, high fat) breakfast of “real food”:
Here is that meal in the MyFitnessPal Macro Calculator:
A healthy low carb diet is approximately 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs. As you can see, this meal fits that criteria very well. The percentages are over your total daily calories, so you can tweak your meals as you go to meet your goals.
Don’t Over-Complicate It! How To Use Your Macro Calculator Without Stressing Out…
People get frustrated and stressed trying to track macronutrients or use a macro calculator to follow a healthy low carb diet. I get that. There is tons of information in MyFitnessPal itself, and facts flying around the web too, and it’s enough to make your head spin! 😛 I’m going to simplify this for you though, and make it super easy…
It’s very important to track properly.
Eating “too lean” can stall your weight loss and tank your energy.
Without tracking, there’s no real way to know how many carbs you’re actually consuming. And there’s no nutrition data or food diary to refer back to if you experience health issues or a weight loss stall.
By tracking, you can easily identify what may be causing certain issues. It also helps A LOT if you ask someone for help, if you have actual data for them to go over with you.
Don’t over-complicate it though, or let it become a total obsession.
Just eat 20 net carbs a day max, and get 70% in healthy fats minimum.
20 net carbs, 70% in fats.
That’s it. Keep it that simple! 🙂
My advice is to eat as much “real food” as possible. The less processed food the better, and the less complicated your recipes the better too.
A good rule of thumb is: Meat & Greens + Healthy Fats. Unless you’re vegetarian of course, in which case you’ll get your protein from other sources.
On the topic of protein…
This becomes a HOT debate across low carb groups & forums: high protein vs high fat. I encourage you to do your own research on that. A high protein diet over an extended period of time can cause serious health issues, most commonly: kidney function. I’ve seen this over and over. Don’t make that mistake.
* If you’re a high protein advocate, don’t freak out on me yet. 🙂
Here’s the thing: While I don’t focus on protein as one of my macronutrients, I get plenty of protein in my diet. More than the recommended amount, even. Protein does not help you build muscle or make you stronger, by the way.
From WebMD: “Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men.”-source
You will NATURALLY get enough protein on a LCHF Diet.
Even though the focus is on eating healthy fats, and using fat as your source of energy (instead of carbs), you’ll still get plenty of protein in your diet. I’ve heard people say that you need 100 or 150 grams of protein a day. I’ve also heard people say you should drink half your body weight in water, which is NOT TRUE lol.
On that note, don’t try to go by grams. Just get 20 net carbs a day or less, and at least 70% of your calories in healthy fats. Period. Analyzing grams gets really confusing, because many LCHF foods are both healthy proteins AND healthy fats – like eggs and salmon, for example.
So when it comes to tracking your macronutrients, go by ratios only.
Here are my Macro Ratios for Saturday:
As you can see, that is: 78% Fat, 19% Protein, 3% Carbs.
What you don’t see… is that I consumed 116 grams of Protein that day.
So while people will argue “you need high protein” – they probably don’t realize you’re naturally getting… PLENTY. 🙂 I know that it gets confusing looking at Macro Ratios AND grams – so don’t. Just keep it simple: 20 net carbs max, 70% fat minimum, eating real healthy foods. Keeping it THAT simple will let you take a deep breath, RELAX, and ENJOY your beautiful low carb high fat foods. 🙂
MyFitnessPal gives you tons of data to work with, and that’s a GREAT thing! But it doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to all of it -lol. In fact, just ignore half of what she says. I swear, half the time I think that lady needs Prozac. 😛 haha.
MFP is set up for low fat / low calorie diets, so half the data won’t be relevant to you anyway. Just ignore it.
It’s a good idea to eat the highest quality foods you can to make each of your 20 net carbs and each of your calories “really count” toward good nutrition. The goal of being on a LCHF diet is to become HEALTHY. Not just to weigh less, but to also get HEALTHIER in the process. So make smart food choices, and make each of your carbs count toward a healthier leaner YOU. 🙂
Don’t sweat it too much in the beginning through. Just track 20 net carbs or less, 70% in healthy fats (minimum). That’s it. You’ll naturally start making better/smarter food choices as you go… because reading labels is VERY eye opening! So like I said, don’t over-complicate it, and don’t give in to the “food bullies”. Just track net carbs and healthy fats, and learn as you go.
I hope that helps clear up some confusion, and makes tracking your macronutrients or using your macro calculator EASIER. Because easy is GOOD. 🙂 *cheers*
p.s. If you have questions about tracking, protein or fat – leave a comment!
There are many healthy foods that are great sources of both protein AND fat. Some of my favorite “real foods” that are part of my regular “low carb staples” include: pecans, walnuts, Daisy Brand cottage cheese (because it only has 3 REAL ingredients!), avocado, salmon, tuna, ribeye steak, strawberries, spinach, yellow squash fried in olive oil, avocado pecan chicken salad, and I love “loaded broccoli” (steamed broccoli topped with butter, sour cream & cheese). YUM!
You can see most of my meals by following along on your favorite social channel if you need some fresh (EASY) low carb food ideas: