How much fat, protein and carbs to eat on Keto Diet

The macronutrient ratios for the keto diet can range between 65-90% fat, 5-25% protein, 4-10% carbohydrates depending on the person.  Those are actually pretty large ranges, so they deserve an explanation.

There are a lot of details that come into play to calculate your macros for ketosis including your current weight, target weight, exercise frequency, and more.

For example, a 130 lb woman who does little exercise is not going to eat the same ratios as a 200 lb man who lifts heavy weights on a daily basis.

A more detailed explanation of the complexities of your macronutrient calculations for the keto diet follows.

If you don't care about the details and just want to know what you're supposed to eat to stay in ketosis, check out the Keto Domain keto diet calculator.

Keto Diet Macronutrient Quick Facts

  • Calories are based on basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  • BMR is dependent on height, weight, age, sex
  • Protein: based on your health goals, health concerns and/or disease treatment
  • Protein: 5-25% of your daily calories
  • Carbs: 20 grams net carbs/day for beginners equating to 4-6%
  • Carbs: advanced keto dieters can increase or decrease net carbs with experimentation based on exercise and weight
  • Fat: makes up the rest of the caloric requirements
  • Fat: 65-90% makes it the highest macronutrient

Daily Caloric Needs

If you've read anything about nutrition in the past, you understand that your daily calories depend on your current weight, target weight and daily exercise.  Your body burns a certain number of calories just by keeping itself alive.

The amount of calories required for this are determined by your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

If you exercise, you burn calories as well.  If your goal is to gain, maintain or lose weight, you will adjust your calorie needs for this goal weight.

An advanced user of the keto diet has probably found that they can actually eat more calories than normal, and still lose weight.  This is extremely exciting.  However, a beginner on the keto diet trying to lose weight should still watch calories because they are not yet in ketosis.

In addition, there has not been substantial research on the daily caloric requirements to maintain or lose weight for a person in long term ketosis.  If you are losing more weight than desired, increase your calories keeping your macro ratios the same.

Protein Percentage of Daily Calories on Keto Diet

Protein requirements on the keto diet depend on the health goal and/or health concern, so should definitely be considered before starting the diet.

Weight loss is not the only health concern that the keto diet is used to treat, and these other health concerns are where the wide range of protein percentages come in (remember 5-25%).

Are you trying the keto diet for health reasons, like cancer prevention?  Then a low amount of protein is recommended.  What about your kidney function, is it normal or do you have kidney disease?  The keto diet is not used to treat kidney disease.  However, you can still get some of the other benefits of the keto diet, but you'll need to eat even lower protein.  Are you currently in a muscle building stage?  Then we'll incorporate the highest amount of protein you can eat before the high protein affects your ketosis.

Here's my shortcut table equations to determining your protein.  Remember, these values are in grams protein per kg lean body weight.  So to figure this out, you need to have an idea of your % body fat (the rest is lean tissue).   Or just use the keto calculator mentioned at the beginning.

Health Concern
Protein (grams/kg lean body weight)
Kidney disease (pre-dialysis)*
0.54*
Cancer Therapy**
0.75**
Maintain muscle***
1.20***
Max protein for ketosis***
1.75***


The proteins you eat on the keto diet should be made up of organic red meats, organic poultry, organic dairy (although most cheeses are a little more fat than protein), high omega-3 fish like salmon and tuna, and free-range eggs.

We recommend organic because there is increasing evidence to show the omega-3 profile in red meats and dairy is close to the ideal ratio of between 1-2:1 omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids.  In addition, if you are trying to improve your health, why mess around with pesticides or hormones?  Your grocery bill may double with some of these items, but you can pay more in groceries or health care costs later in life...

Carbohydrate Percentage of Daily Calories on Keto Diet

If you are a beginner and just starting the ketogenic diet, we recommend the minimum amount of carbohydrates (20 grams net carbs)  for the fastest induction into ketosis.  On a 2000 calorie diet, that's 4% of your daily calories.  If you want more information on why such a low amount of carbohydrates is recommended at the beginning, check out our Beginner's Guide to the Keto Diet.

If you have been on the ketogenic diet for a month or longer and you know you are in ketosis, you may start to adjust the net carbohydrates. You may be able to eat more if you exercise frequently, especially at high intensity, or simply if you have a higher weight to maintain.

This is why the carbohydrate macros can range from 4-10% of your daily calories.

If you are not feeling the benefits of ketosis after a few weeks of being on the keto diet, we have a problem.  Somehow you are still eating too many carbs or protein, or a combination of the two.  You will need to analyze exactly what you are eating to fix this...carbs are sneaky and protein portions are misleading.  More than you think are getting in your diet somewhere...

Confused on what a net carb is?  Check out how to read a nutrition label on the keto diet.

 

Carbohydrates should come from low-carb vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, and cabbage.  Since fiber does not count, you end up being able to eat quite a bit of vegetables if you like, without adding many calories or net carbs.

And you really should be eating vegetables - don't skimp thinking you're doing "better" on keto by eating only 5-10 net carbs.  Vegetables are extremely important in respect to vitamins and minerals that your body needs.  In addition, it needs the fiber in these vegetables for your digestive system to function properly and to help the kidneys flush out your system.

Fat Percentage of Daily Calories on Keto Diet

Finally, the amount of fat makes up the rest of your daily caloric needs.  Fat will come out to be the highest macronutrient of the three (remember 65-90%), which is why the keto diet is a high fat diet.

When I was a beginner I thought I was eating a lot of fat, simply because it was way more than I was used to on a Standard American diet; however, I was still not eating enough!  Protein was making up way too much of my diet.

I was depending on cheese for  a lot of my calories because I knew there were no carbs.  Cheese is usually about 50/50 fat/protein, so this could be hurting you.  This is why advanced keto dieters depend on things that up their fat content super fast, like keto coffee and fat bombs.

The fat content in the keto diet is unusually high for a person who has not been on keto before.

Fat should come from healthy sources...no soybean oil or canola oil, please!  We're talking high in omega-3's, no trans fats, low saturated fats.  No, we don't believe saturated fat is a complete no-no, there's going to be some in your organic meats and cheese; however, this should not make up the majority of your fat.

Think coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, organic grass-fed butter or ghee, heavy cream, avocado oil and fatty cheeses.  You can even include avocados, olives and some low-carb nuts in this category.  Almonds, walnuts and pecans are good low-carb nuts.  Eat peanuts only in moderation.

Keto Calculator for Macronutrients

Use our keto calculator to calculate the exact macros you should be eating.  Remember, substituting more fat for carbs or protein is almost always ok.  In fact, if you're worried about losing muscle mass because of decreased protein consumption, you may not need to worry.  There has been evidence that while in a state of ketosis your body actually maintains protein better than in a standard diet.

Use the Keto Calculator! READ NEXT: 5 Tips to Beat the Keto Flu

Resources:

*Dr. Stephen D. Phinney "Ketogenic Diets and Physical Performance"

**Dr. Mercola "How and Why Too Much Protein Triggers Aging and Cancer"

***The Nephron Information Center "Dietary Protein for the Person with Chronic Kidney Disease"

2 Comments
  1. Thank you for explaining this so well. I have kidney problems & couldn’t find a lot of information on the other sites. I now feel a lot safer going on this program.

    1. If you have kidney problems, make sure to talk to your doctor. Although the keto diet is not high protein, it happens to turn into high protein for some people – this can be hard on the kidneys. Incorporate the correct amount of protein or lower and should be no problem. You can use our keto calculator if needed.

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