Fuckin macros, man.
Macros – macronutrients – are the breakdown of how many grams of fat, carbs, and protein you eat in a day. There are all kinds of calculators online to give you the right macros for your height, weight, and diet.
But…. they can all tell you different things.
And it fucking sucks.
And it’s frustrating as hell.
WHICH ONE DO YOU TRUST?!
So here’s my comparison of 4 different macro calculators for keto!
For all the calculations, I’m using the same information (of course)
Body fat: 30%
Net carb level: 20g
Protein level (if asked): 0.8g per lb of lean body mass
I’m sure I just lost a few of you there. Me? Sedentary? I go to the gym 5x a week! I work out for 1-2 hours a day! I burn 500-800 calories in a gym session! How can that be sedentary?!
Well. I had the same question. So I went to keto reddit and searched for “activity level” to look at the posts about it. The resounding conclusion: pick sedentary, unless you’re on your feet ALL the time. Like ALLLLLL the time. The activity level charts are based on a time when we, as people, were a lot more active – more walking as transportation, more active jobs, more playing outside, less TV/internet/etc. It’s misleading, and not really explained anywhere.
I spend 90% of my day sitting or lying down, and that’s sedentary af. The 3-5ish% of my day that I spend busting my ass in the gym just isn’t enough to qualify me as ‘lightly active’ or ‘moderately active,’ imo, and reddit agrees. So. Sedentary it is.
Up first: keto-calculator.ankerl.com (aka The Keto Calculator)
This is the calculator that I’ve used from the beginning. It’s the one recommended by /r/keto, and it’s nice and simple. You just plug in the information it asks for, and boom. It spits out your information.
My macros from the Keto Calculator:
So. 1260 calories. Um… I’m going to be hungry on that, I know it. I’ve been that low before, and that was when I was binge eating a LOT. Because I was hungry all the damn time!! So let’s see what the next calculator says.
Number 2: Ketogains.com/ketogains-calculator (aka The Ketogains Calculator)
Since I’m following the ketogains 5×5 workout program, it’s only natural that I should check out the Ketogains Calculator. This one is a bit more…. involved than the first one. It breaks down your BMR (basal metabolic rate) and TEF (thermal effect of food – how much you burn by chewing and digesting) to get your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure.
This one also says to set your activity level not including additional exercise, aka, going to the gym. So for me, that’s a no-brainer – sedentary.
Then, you fill in how long you do certain exercises (cardio, weights, other) each day, and how many calories you burn doing them. Basically, you get 3 numbers for this calculator: cardio day calories, weight day calories, and rest day calories.
Here are my calories for a weight day (60 mins; I rounded down conservatively to account for time spent racking weights, etc):
So my rest day calories are 1239; pretty close to my sedentary calories for the Keto Calculator – indicating that by sedentary, the Keto Calculator really *meant* sedentary (good to know! Bc it’s not explained ANYWHERE!!!). Weightlifting calories are a bit higher, which is nice!
Here are my cardio calories (45 mins, 8 cals/min, a conservative estimate):
Almost the same – just about a 40 calorie difference.
Then you take this info, figure out your protein needs (mine is 0.8, as mentioned before, to preserve muscle mass), fill in your desired carbs, and manually adjust the fat grams to equal your non-exercise, cardio, and weight numbers. Definitely more work than the Keto Calculator, but I can work with these calorie amounts much better. However – not sure I want a different calorie goal for each day. I’m not paying $$$ to MyFitness Pal for premium to unlock that feature, and I don’t want to calculate it all by hand.
So. I could average these 3 numbers out, and get 1,445 calories per day, with this breakdown:
That’s 20g carb / 85g protein / 114g fat
Number 3: Ruled.me/keto-calculator
This calculator is a new find for me. It’s by Craig, the ruled.me guy, who’s a big name in the keto community. It’s based off the formulas for the Ketogains Calculator, and it does things a little differently.
First of all, it asks whether or not you exercise. The first calculator doesn’t do that, and doesn’t say anything about eating back calories. This one uses the same descriptions of activity levels (sedentary = desk job; lightly active = daytime walking; moderately active = active day job) and that’s where I get confused. I do lift heavy 3x a week and workout for 5-7 hours… but is that really equal to an active day job? Idk. I’ve never had one of those.
A big difference of this calculator: it has my TDEE as a full 200 calories higher than the other 2, which puts my sedentary + no exercise calories at 1426/day.
But let’s see what happens when I add in my exercise. This calculator asks how many minutes of cardio and how many minutes of weights you do a day, and how many calories you burn per minute doing them – just like the Ketogains Calculator. I took the Ketogains 6.87 cals/minute value for weightlifting, stuck with 8/minute on cardio, and averaged out my times exercised for the week (so – instead of doing a cardio day number, weight day number, and rest day number, I took cardio 2x a week at 45 mins each [90 mins] and divided by 7 to average out to ~15mins a day; for weights, I did 60 mins x 3x a week / 7 days = 25 mins)
So…. higher than the other calculators, for sure. That’s higher than my weight lifting day calories from the Ketogains Calculator, and almost *400* higher than the Keto Calculator.
But wait – there’s one more
Number 4: Ketodietapp.com/blog/page/ketodiet-buddy (aka The KetoDiet Buddy)
This is another new one for me, and I think I found it through instagram? I don’t really remember.
This one asks the same stuff – height, weight, body fat percentage, activity level, net carbs. However – it gives absolutely ZERO explanation of activity levels. Nada. None. Zilch. Doesn’t matter, since I’m putting ‘sedentary’ anyway, but that’s a bit of a flaw.
And then it gives you a few different eating level options, which is cool. It breaks down your maintenance needs, then a small (11%), moderate (22%), and large (33%) deficit. But I decided to stick with a 20% deficit, so I had to go to ‘custom’ goal and enter -20 to get this:
Which is… not… really… like any of the other numbers I’ve gotten. The protein is LOW, in my opinion, and probably not sustainable with heavy lifting. I probably wouldn’t be hungry on 1388 a day, but it might be rough on cardio days.
So there you go.
I plugged in the same numbers to 4 different calculators, and got 4 very different calorie results, with over 400 calories/day difference between them.
1260 / 1445 / 1659 / 1388
So which one am I sticking with?
I…… don’t know. I really don’t know! All this work, all this research, and I’m still confused. For the time being, I might just average them all out and use that!
That would be 1438 calories:
85g protein (I’m sticking with this number)
That’s almost exactly what the averaged result of the Ketogains Calculator told me (1g fat difference), which is interesting. That’s definitely the most involved calculator with the most explanation of the numbers, and I’m inclined to trust it. Or at least try it!
A note: If you DO use the Keto Calculator (which I have! For a long time!), this is the one where your activity level is all-encompassing; I would qualify as “moderately active” on this calculator. For shits n giggles, I went back and re-did my macors on the Keto Calculator as moderately active, and this time it told me 1588. Much higher than before, 100 cals higher than my averaged result, but still not the highest of them all.
SEE WHAT I MEAN? THIS SHIT IS HARD! I’ve been doing this for 3 years and I’m still not sure how much to eat right now. I’m going to try my averaged result (1438) until the end of the month and see how I feel. Hungry? Bingey? Tired? Or satisfied? We’ll see!
Edit: the non-round-ness of 1438 was driving me nuts so I rounded up to 1440 😂