Keto Macros: the ideal ratio for fat-loss

There is a lot of buzz out on the internet about macronutrients on ketogenic diets.
Ketogenic macros are the subject of many of blog posts and YouTube videos, each one giving an opinion on which is the right proportion of macronutrients you should eat on a ketogenic diet.
The most accredited version wants the fat to be 70% the proteins to be 20% and the carbohydrates to be 10%.
Well, I beg to disagree...


 

You've been mislead

In this article, I want to tackle the issue of how most of the information you can find about ketogenic-macronutrients-ratio is misleading and probably result of blind and misinformed copy-paste.

I have been using ketogenic diet and fasting to lose fat and maintain weight for the past 3 years and I have been in contact with many people that successfully lost lots of weight following my suggestions.
In my opinion, who advocates the 70-20-10 ketogenic macros ratio, fails to take into consideration the purpose of the diet.

The term "ketogenic macros" is unfortunately pretty generic and ultimately, it all depends on which is the result you want to achieve with the ketogenic diet.
In fact, if the ultimate goal of your diet is to lose weight (fat), then - in theory - you should not eat any fat at all.
Think about it... the only way you can lose your own fat is to use it as source of energy. This means you must create a caloric deficit big enough to trigger your body into using stored resources AND it means you should not introduce fat in the form of food... otherwise, that would go as preferred source of energy.
It makes sense, doesn't it???

Yes, who advocates that you should eat 70% fat is totally wrong!
...that works ONLY if the diet is supposed to maintain your current weight... but in my experience, most of those who look for information on ketogenic macros have the ultimate goal of losing weight... therefore they are given the WRONG information.
I believe it is time to fix that.

Let's look into this problem more closely: how do the correct percentages look like???

I would suggest to stop copy-pasting information from the internet and reframing this question by focusing on absolute numbers rather than percentages.


 

Reframing the Ratio problem

You know that we have three types of macronutrients available: Fats, Proteins, Carbohydrates.
Let's address them one by one and see which are the proper amount for a healthy diet.

FATS

Each gram of fat brings 9 kcal of energy.
Considering that both proteins and carbs bring 4 kcal/g, it is no wonder why the body stores energy in the form of fat: it is more than twice efficient than storing it in proteins or carbs!
Yes, evolution is pretty smart.

The first big shift from the mainstream ketogenic macros ratio 70-20-10 is that, in order to maximize fat-loss, one should try to limit as much as possible the fat intake from food.
This makes the 70% fat intake look ridiculous, borderline urban legend.

The first rule to set the ratio of ketogenic macros for fat-loss is then this one:

Rule #1: fat intake from food should be as low as possible.

 

PROTEINS

Proteins provide 4 kcal of energy per gram. However, the main function of proteins is not to provide energy but to participate in virtually every process within cells. Proteins are essential parts of living organisms.

We know for a fact that eating too much protein is bad. It's bad for your kidneys and there are other processes that are affected if you eat too much protein. So we shall keep the protein intake to a reasonable number.

Dr. Jason Fung specializes in treating diabetic patients with advanced nutrition techniques. In his case, "advanced" does not mean hi-tech or futuristic. He simply went all the way down on the minimalistic road and asked his patients to engage in a prolonged fasting.
In his studies, Dr. Fung demonstrated that prolonged fasting produces NO relevant muscle mass loss. This is quite a breakthrough as it contradicts what all the Media and experts want us to believe.

In his book "The Complete Guide to Fasting", Dr. Fung explains in detail many of the processes happening in the body while fasting.
He explains that, until there is fat to burn, the body will not "feed" on muscles but keep burning fat. If it wasn't so, after months of fasting Fung's patients would be reduced to balls of fat with no muscles... which is not really happening in reality. What happens is that they all lose massive amounts of fat and their lean mass remains virtually the same... even without touching any food at all!!!

Once again, Media and mainstream information have been misleading us.

Think for a moment... how could they sell you protein powders if it comes out that you actually do not need that many proteins?
How could that sell you weight-loss products if all you should do is simply not to eat?

A multimillion dollar industry would collapse... and that is why we are kept in the constant worry of losing muscle mass and we are told to eat 5 times per day.
I believe it is time to wake up.

I am very fond of the findings of Dr. Fung and I rather eat fewer proteins than too many, therefore I set my bar to 1g per kg of lean mass (where the lean mass is the weight of the body without the fat).

Now, this is different from person to person and in my case, with 64kg of lean mass, I should eat about 64 grams of protein per day.
Remember that I purposely downsized the amount of proteins, so any number between 64g and 96g (1.5 x 64g) will be a very healthy quantity.

Now that we have fixed a range for the proteins, let's talk about carbs.

 

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are the preferred macronutrient for the body to extract energy from.
It is fairly easy for the body to break down carbs into glucose that can be used from cells as energy source.
Carbs are contained in most food, in different amounts. Meat and fish contain no carbs at all.

Since the purpose of a ketogenic diet is to make you extract energy from fat rather than from glucose, you should stay off glucose as much as possible. This means that when it comes to ketogenic macros, carbs should be really banned from the list.

Of course, since almost every food contains carbs, it is impossible to stay totally off carbs.
However, it is highly recommended not eat more than 40 grams of carbs per day because eating more would very likely kick you out of ketosis.This, again, is because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and if you have glucose in your blood your body will start to fuel on glucose, resulting in an increase of insulin and ultimately in the stoppage of the fat burning process.

Obviously, we don't want this to happen... so we should not exceed the 40 grams per day limit.
We are always free to eat fewer carbs if possible.

At this point, taking my case as an example, we're talking about a diet with 64 grams of proteins and 40 grams of carbs.
From a very practical point of view, due to the content of macronutrients in the food I eat, I struggle to keep this numbers consistent and on most days I end up consuming around 70g of proteins in front of 35g of carbs (more proteins and fewer carbs).
This is actually very good cause I am low on carbs (lower than 40g) and my protein intake of 64g was purposely downsized.

Now, if you look at the proportion 70g of proteins vs 35g of carbs, you notice that it is in the same ratio of the notorious 20%-10% advocated by Media and experts.

So yes, this part they have it right and, after having verified that, we can write down two more rules:

RULE #2: the amount of proteins should be double of the amount of carbs;
RULE #3: carbs intake should be limited to 40g per day.

Considering everything said so far, my macronutrients intake stands now to 0g of fat, 70g of proteins, 35g of carbs.
Translating this into percentages gives 0-67-33.

Of course, as it is impossible to eat zero carbs, it is impossible to eat zero fat as well ...so we have to revise this ratio considering what really happens when we bring this concept into the real life.


 

Real life situation

Every food is composed of a different ratio of micronutrients so you cannot really generalize and pick percentages out of the hat.

Also, as fats have a caloric content which is double compared to proteins and carbs, introducing a few grams of fat in the diet results in a high amount of calories and it will quickly offset the ideal ketogenic macros ratio of 0-67-33 calculated above.

As mentioned in the very beginning of this article, ratios should be taken with a grain of salt and one should always think in terms of absolute numbers. The best way to proceed is to make a practical example and extract numbers from it.

We'll now take a complete "good" ketogenic meal and see what is its content of proteins carbohydrates and fat. We will consider it a good meal when it meets two rules we just set:

  • not more than 40 grams of carbohydrates;
  • the amount of proteins is double of the amount of carbs.

 

NOTE: if you are following my daily fasting advice, you can consume this food as ONE meal, otherwise you'll have to divide the quantities throughout the day.
This is one of the advantages of daily fasting: by eating once per day you have the possibility of having bigger meals and you do not have to go crazy sticking to small portions every time you want to eat something!
You see that fasting makes a ketogenic diet much much easier.

 

GOOD KETOGENIC MEAL EXAMPLE

  • Chicken Breast 150g (approx 248 kcal, 0 NET carbs);
  • Green Peas 200g (approx 162 kcal, 18g NET carbs);
  • Mushrooms 50g (approx 11 kcal, 1g NET carbs);
  • Carrots 50g (approx 21 kcal, 4g NET carbs);
  • Cheddar Cheese 40g (approx 161 kcal, 1 NET carbs);
  • Low Fat Plain Yogurt 100g (approx 165 kcal, 7g NET carbs);
  • water.

So with the numbers from this example, we end up with a ratio of 31% fat, 49% protein, 20% carbs.

The ultimate purpose of this exercise is to show you that the ratio of macronutrients for a ketogenic diet for fat loss is something which is quite unimportant.
What you should keep in mind is the rules we set for the calculation of the ratio:

RULE #1: fat intake from food should be as low as possible;
RULE #2: the amount of proteins should be double of the amount of carbs;
RULE #3: carbs intake should be limited to 40g per day.


 

Wrapping everything up

Now that this is clear, I'm going to flip it on its head by giving you a final tip.

What happens if you maxed out your daily quantity of carbs but you still want to eat?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: since you should not exceed the protein intake, you should eat just fat.

This will increase enormously the ratio of fat versus proteins and carbs... and it will indeed slow down your fat-loss BUT it will have no harm on your ketogenic state.

This is the reason why the most popular ratio of macronutrients for a ketogenic diet is 70-20-10... because if you want to eat more than the 600-700 calories per day, you have to start eating fat big time and this will move the ratio towards fat... but this doesn't make the 70-20-10 ratio any more ideal... it is just plain wrong in principle.

Remember that if you are on a ketogenic diet for fat-loss - especially if your fasting - you do not want to eat too much and you do not want to eat too much fat.

Hopefully, this short piece of advice makes you see under another light the information you find on the Internet. It should also help you to question all the stories you've been told about food and diet in general; in particular:

  • when you are overweight there is no need to eat multiple times per day;
  • losing muscle mass if you do not eat enough proteins is just a myth;
  • if your goal is losing weight, you do not need to take any protein powder or protein supplement;
  • the ideal ratio of ketogenic macros is 70-20-10 ...no, it is not!

 

Finally, my warm suggestions for a successful, rapid and definitive fat-loss experience are:

  • do not obsess on numbers;
  • follow the 3 rules above;
  • start daily fasting... it will supercharge your diet and change your life for good!

 

If you really want to use a calculator to get a better insight on your macros ratio, I suggest you use this one HERE.
They guys at ruled.me have done a great job at making a calculator which is flexible enough to let you chose your target in terms of caloric deficit... so if you choose to eat about 600 kcal/day you can see how the macros ratio comes to match what I just described in this article ;)

 


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