So, you have cut out all those pesky carbs, upped your fats and are following the LCHF approach, but are not seeing the results you were expecting. Perhaps you have a health condition such as Insulin Resistance or PCOS which may require some extra vigilance to heal, or you may want to try and speed up your weight loss results. The keto tracking instalment in the keto beginners series delves further into some of the tracking you can do to find the keto that works for you.
You might be wondering what is keto tracking? Well, keto tracking encompasses a few different things. It includes tracking your macros, how to track your macros, deciding whether you track net or total carbs and testing your ketones. You don’t have to do these things to be following a keto diet. If you feel you have hit a plateau or want to really dial in your diet then keto tracking may be something you want to try.
Net carbs vs Total carbs
There are two different ways of counting your carbs; total carbs and net carbs.
Total carbs is when you are measuring all the carbs you consume in a day. Many in the keto world use less than 20g total carbs as their limit each day. This can be pretty difficult as any vegetables will make this add up very quickly. It can be a little challenging in Australia to properly work out total carbs as the nutritional labels show net carbs .
Net carbs is the carbohydrate amount minus any fibre it contains. Some people like to work on 20g net carbs per day as this allows you to increase your green leafy vegetable intake. Vegetables contain some carbs but they also contain fibre. To find out the net carbs of things like vegetables it is useful to use a tracking app as there is no label to refer to. For example, 1 cup of almonds has 28g total carbs and 16.2g fibre making the net carbs 11.8g.
See the example above, on the left (US version) the dietary fibre is nestled under the carbohydrate, this means the carbohydrate amount includes the fibre, so this is total carbs. The nutrition label on the right (Australian version) has the dietary fibre as its own entry (not nestled under carbohydrate). So the amount shown as carbohydrates is the net carbs.
It is your choice if you choose to count total or net carbs. When we first started we monitored our total carbs and found this was good for becoming fat adapted and learning carb amounts in foods. However, net carbs can allow you more flexibility, variety and vegetables. Our advice is to experiment and find what works best for your body and health issues.
Tools for Tracking Macros
There are several different tools available to help count your macros. Here are a few of them.
- Very popular
- Has lot of different ingredients listed
- There is a free version
- Can be used on all devices
- Can share your diary with friends. This is great for a couple as one person can enter the meal and the other can just copy it
- Food can be added by anyone and you can often see the same thing added several times with different macros
- Not designed for keto and counting macros
- Paid version is $12.99AUD a month. This includes a nutrient dashboard, food analysis, calorie goals by meals, different goals each day, meal levels for macros, quick add for macros, goals for macros can be by grams or % and exclusive content. We have never used the paid version, but feel the cost is not worth the extra features, as we don’t feel we need them
- The free version does not calculate net carbs for you. It also can get confusing when using Australian products to know if the carbs are total or net
- Designed specifically for keto
- Has built in keto and low carb recipes
- The premium version allows you to set your daily carb limit and goals using the built in keto calculator. As the cost for the premium version is a once off we can see value in this versus the premium version for MFP
- Can be used on all devices
- There is a cost involved. For the basic version, the app is $2.99AUD and the premium version is $10.99AUD. Personally, I feel this cost would be worth it for the keto friendly aspect
- Can only be used on phone or tablet and not a desktop
Note: we have not used this app.
- Has a free version
- Desktop design is much easier to use than MFP. We have used both MFP and Cronometer to work out macros of our recipes and cronometer wins hands down for the design and ease of use to create meals.
- Premium version is $5.99 a month and this includes find what nutrients need a boost for the day, sort diary into custom groups, share food and recipes with friends and advanced analysis.
- Not having a share with friends option in the free version is a disadvantage over MFP. We have used this option when tracking as a couple with MFP and find it very handy.
- Not designed for keto and counting macros
Other tracking apps that you may want to investigate are Live Strong My Plate, CarbMaster, Fat Secret, Senza and My Net Diary. We don’t have any experience with these and would love to hear your experience about them in the comments.
Our advice would be to try one for a while and see how it works for you. If the one you are using isn’t working for you, try one of the others.
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Tracking your Macros
The goal percentages for a keto way of eating are typically 5% carbs, 15-25% protein and 70-80% fat. This is one way of dialling in your macros.
Another way, is to calculate your specific macros using a macro calculator. These calculators will work out your specific macro needs in grams and your calorie needs based on your health goals, current weight and activity level.
We would recommend using a macro calculator as it’s a more accurate way to calculate the macros for your specific needs. Just working on the percentages above, may allow you more flexibility, but may contribute to a plateau or slow down your progress.
Another aspect of keto tracking can be to start keeping a track of your calorie intake as well as your macros. When considering your overall calories there are two schools of thought around this in the keto world. Some believe that calorie intake is not important if you are eating to satiety and only when hungry, as fat storage is ultimately based on your body’s insulin response.
The other school of thought is more based on the calories in versus calories out model. As the keto lifestyle involves a high fat intake and fat has significantly more calories than carbs and protein it can be easy to overeat calories eating this way.
Some people find that they do not need to worry about calories when they first start on keto, but as they get closer to their goal weight they need to fine-tune things. A macro calculator will be able to give you a guide on your specific calorie requirements if you would like to know.
How do you know if you are in ketosis and burning fat for fuel? The easiest way is to measure your ketones. The three ways to test your ketones are urine strips, ketone breath analysers and blood ketone monitors.
Urine Test Strips are the least preferred testing method as they are the least accurate. They are known to show readings when you first enter ketosis but the longer you are in ketosis, the less ketones you will have in your urine. They are a cheaper option though so may be a good thing to use at the start to know you are producing ketones.
Breath Ketone Analyser is another way of testing your ketones, this time measuring the acetone in your breath. The benefit of measuring your breath is that it is less invasive than the blood measurement and it can be more cost effective as you only spend the one-off fee to buy the device. Accuracy is better than the urine strips but not as accurate as the blood ketone measurement.
Blood Ketone Monitoring is the most accurate way to monitor your ketone levels. We use the Freestyle Optium blood glucose monitoring system and the freestyle blood ketone strips. It does require you to pierce the skin on your finger and get some blood. The ketone strips are also very expensive.
If you decide to measure your ketones to make sure you are in nutritional ketosis, the desired blood reading is between 0.5mmol/L and 3.0mmol/L. The benefit of measuring your ketones is that you can confirm you are in ketosis and you can also see what affect different foods have on your ketone levels.
Our recommendation is to invest in a blood ketone monitor so you can measure your ketones as accurately as possible.
The thing we love about keto is there are many different ways to keto. Keto tracking is not required at all. You may decide to adopt one or more of these keto tracking methods. The key is always finding what works for you. If you are interested in fasting check out Keto beginners guide – fasting on keto.
If you are looking for more information about starting a ketogenic lifestyle check out our beginners guide series.
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