When beginning a vegan keto diet you’ll need to know how many calories, carbs, protein and fats should you be aiming for on a day to day basis. This post will provide you with a comprehensive view on the macros you should be aiming for.
Step 1: Calculating Your Calories
Just about every popular nutrition plan, including the USDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), is based on macronutrient allocation 1https://mynutrition.wsu.edu/nutrition-basics/. There are calculators online that will determine these for you but with vegan keto there are specific rules that you need to follow around how many carbs, fats and protein you should be consuming on a daily basis.
Calculating Calories With A Calculator:
The first step is to determine how many calories you need to consume daily to reach your goals. The easiest way to do this is with a calorie calculator as it can be quite laborious to calculate it yourself.
Head over to freedieting.com and use their calculator to get your daily caloric intake:
You may simply enter your height, weight and exercise level and you’ll be presented with a calorie level for ‘fat loss’ or ‘extreme fat loss’.
Choose whichever seems more reasonable to you and inline with your goals, then note it down. You now have your daily caloric goal.
Calculating Calories Manually:
If you’d like to calculate your calorie requirements manually we’ll show you how in a minute. The standard Recommended Daily Allowance is 2500 calories for men and 2000 calories for women, but this is only a broad guideline and doesn’t take into account your individual situation and goals 2https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1126.aspx?categoryid=51.
Instead, you may use the Estimate Energy Requirement equation from the Institute of Medicine 3https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Medicine_Equation.
Adult Male over the age of 19 – Estimated Energy Requirement
(662 – (9.53 * Age)) + Physical Activity * ((15.91 * weight) + (539.6 * height))
Adult Female over the age of 19 – Estimated Energy Requirement
(354 – (6.91 * Age)) + Physical Activity * ((9.36 * weight) + (726 * height))
|Activity Level||Adult Male||Adult Female|
Sedentary means only the light physical activity associated with independent living, moderately active means about half an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise in addition to this. Active means at least an hour of exercise and very active means being physically active for several hours each day 4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Institute_of_Medicine_Equation.
There are separate calculations for boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 18, toddlers age 2, obese girls between the ages of 3 and 18, and obese boys between the ages of 3 and 18.
To solve the equation, calculate your weight in kilograms and your height in meters. Physical activity is assigned a numeric value based on the level of activity.
You can might see why many people prefer to use the online calculator instead!
Step 2: Calculating Your Carbohydrates
What many people don’t realize is that you do not necessarily need to restrict your carbohydrates to 5% of your total caloric intake to achieve ketosis. Most people who have reached ketosis have actually done so consuming anywhere between 20g-100g carbs, with 50g being the common upper limit and 100g carbs being the very upper limit for some people who have been on the ketogenic diet for a long time 5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3826507/6https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/post/2013/11/21/How-Many-Carbs-per-Day-on-Low-Carb-Ketogenic-Diet.
To understand how many carbs you should be aiming for you’ll first need to understand the difference between total carbs and net carbs.
Total Carbs VS Net Carbs
Net carbs are what’s left from total carbohydrates after you subtract fibre.
The reason we exclude fibre from carb counts with vegan keto and focus on net carbs instead is that fibre is almost completely indigestible by the body and does not affect or blood sugar and insulin levels negatively7https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/understanding-fiber/.
There are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble. Most fibre is insoluble meaning it cannot be digested by the body and passes through without providing any calories. Soluble fibre on the other hand does contribute calories but the body can only process these at 2kcal per gram of soluble fibre which is insignificant when you consider how much soluble fibre one might consume on any given day 8http://fiberfacts.org/fibers-count-calories-carbohydrates/. To give you an idea, if you consumed 15g of soluble fibre throughout the day that would provide a miniscule 30 calories worth of carbohydrate.
Research also shows that soluble fibre does not negatively affect blood sugar levels. In fact increases in soluble fibre are directly correlated with a decrease in blood sugar 9http://www.diabetes.co.uk/nutrition/soluble-fibre.html
Product packages in the US now break down total carbohydrates into two subcategories – dietary fiber and sugars. You typically won’t see an option for insoluble fiber as both soluable and insoluable are included in the dietary fiber count. Simply subtract the total grams of dietary fiber from total carbohydrates to get the net carb count.
Take a 16-oz jar of creamy peanut butter for example. The label lists total carbohydrates per serving as 8g, dietary fiber as 2g and sugars as 4g so the net carbs per serving of peanut butter is 6g. Total carbs (8g) – fiber (2g) = net carbs (6g).
A Quick Note On Sugar Free Products And ‘Sugar Alcohol:
Sugar is something that should generally be avoided on a keto diet, but be wary of sugar free products. Manufacturers of low carb products will often use ‘sugar alcohols’ to sweeten the product.
It is generally accepted that sugar alcohols do not raise glucose levels, but they can cause ketone levels to drop and so should be either avoided or taken into consideration.
Three of the most common sugar alcohols to look out for are maltitol, lacitol, and sorbitol.
See this guide on Matthewsfriends.org for more information.
The Bottom Line On Carbs With Vegan Keto
Try to stay on the lower range of 25g – 50g unless you are burning a lot of energy and consuming more calories.
- If you are getting 1600 calories or less, try to stay around 30g per day
- If you are getting 2000 calories per day, you could up it to 40g.
- If you are getting more than 2000 calories per day and are exercising alot you can look at increasing your net carbs up to 50g.
It’s different for everyone but generally the more active you are, the more calories you’ll require and more net carbs you can consume.
Following the above guidelines works for most people, but you may find you need more or less.
Step 3: Calculating Your Protein
Proteins are the primary building blocks of your body and are used not only to build and repair muscle, but to support organs, tendons, hormones and much more 10https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/howgeneswork/protein. The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains:
“Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.”
If we don’t get enough protein on a vegan keto diet our bodies will not function properly and we may experience a whole host of negative symptoms.
On the other hand, too much protein and the body will use gluconeogensis to convert protein into glucose which will result in higher insulin and blood sugar and potentially kick you out of ketosis.
Getting enough protein is one of the more familiar challenges new vegan keto dieters face. The idea of eating more protein than carbs is easier to adopt than the actual practice of eating more protein than carbs. So, how do you get enough protein while restricting your carbs where your primary protein sources are complex carbohydrates?
Well it’s not as hard as you think. Many plant foods are both low in carbs and high amount in protein – nuts, nut butters, seeds, and tofu for example all go a long way. Specialist products such as beyond meat and Quorn are also fantastic sources of protein while also being both low carb and delicious.
Complete VS Incomplete Proteins
Proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids, of which there are 20. 9 of these amino acids are considered “essential” because the body cannot produce them on it’s own, and so must be gained from food. For a protein to be considered complete it must include all 9 of the essential amino acids 11https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_protein.
While there are only a handful of plant foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids need to be considered a complete protein (including soybeans, quinoa, buckwheat, tempeh, tofu, flaxseed, chia, hemp seed) you can still get more than enough protein on a daily basis by eating a variety of plant foods with incomplete protein throughout the day.
In fact, every vegetable has some form of protein, and just because they aren’t “complete proteins” on their own doesn’t mean your body will suffer. This is because your body stores excess amino acids when consumed, and so as long as you are consuming a variety of plant foods you are going to be getting more than enough of each of the 9 essential amino acids throughout the day 12https://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-protein-combining-myth/.
The American College of Sports Medicine states:
“However, even vegetarians can achieve adequate protein intake when a variety of plant sources are included ensuring intake of all essential amino acids.”
Complete vs incomplete proteins are a non-issue as long as you are eating a variety of vegetables and other plant based foods.
Recommended Protein Supplement
In the event you fall short on your total protein intake, you can supplement your protein intake and still stay within your macros with a protein supplement.
I’ve tested a whole bunch of plant based protein powders and found Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant Based Protein to be the absolute best in terms of mixability and flavor. They offer both chocolate and vanilla and I usually have both on hand to mix up my daily protein smoothie.
Having a protein shake at breakfast or midday is a good way to add protein, vitamins and minerals quickly and easily without adding too many additional carbs.
Daily Protein Guidelines
The recommended daily intake of protein for people either not exercising or exercising moderately is 0.36g per pound of body weight. Adjusted for the fact that plant-based proteins absorb are metabolized about 10% less efficiently than animal proteins because they are more similar to our own protein, the RDA or protein for vegans is 0.41g per pound of body weight per day 13https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.php.
This includes a “generous safety factor for most people”, meaning the true RDA to maintain health is likely lower.
The example 180 pound female we mentioned earlier would require an average of 73.8g protein per day (180*0.41).
Athletes require a higher amount of protein for peak performance – around 0.36 to 0.86 grams of protein per pound (0.41 to 0.95 for a vegan).
The Bottom Line On Protein With Vegan Keto
- For sedentary people and those exercising to lose weight: 0.41g of protein per pound of body weight per day (or more)
- For very active people and those wishing to build muscle between 0.41g and 0.95g protein per pound of body weight per day.
If you’d like to learn about the specific foods you can eat to get protein on a vegan ketogenic diet, refer to this list of high protein, low carb vegan foods.
Fill the Rest with Fats
Now that you know how many calories your aiming for, your net carb limit and how much protein you should be consuming you just need to do what you can to reach these goals. You don’t need to worry about your fat intake as by default if you meet the requirements for calories, carbs and protein the rest will be fats which is our primary form of energy on a vegan keto diet.
But Aren’t Fats Bad?
There is a common misconception that eating fats will ‘make you fat’ but this is not neccissarily the case, especially not with the ketogenic diet. Even with standard diets the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends a daily fat intake of 20-35% for people on a standard diet14http://www.nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2002/Dietary-Reference-Intakes-for-Energy-Carbohydrate-Fiber-Fat-Fatty-Acids-Cholesterol-Protein-and-Amino-Acids.aspx.
Saturated fats in particular (butter, animal fats, coconut oil) have gotten a bad wrap linking them to cardiovascular disease and elevated cholesterol levels but there are studies emerging which question the validity of these claims, even on a standard diet15https://chriskresser.com/the-diet-heart-myth-cholesterol-and-saturated-fat-are-not-the-enemy/. Have a look at the results from this study which concluded:
“People who get more than three quarters of their total calories from carbohydrates have a 28% higher risk of death than those who get about half their calories from carbs” and “Individuals with a high carbohydrate intake might benefit from a reduction in carbohydrate intake and increase in consumption of fats.”
In particular with the way the vegan ketogenic diet works your body actually metabolizes fats for energy when in ketosis, so as long as you are avoiding ‘Trans (Processed) Fats’ like those found in fast food and hitting your other macros you don’t need to worry about your fat intake.
Natural fat’s are actually an essential part of any healthy diet even when not in ketosis.
Healthy (Non-Trans) Fats From Wholefood Sources Have All Sorts Of Potential Benefits 16https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/truth-about-fats#1:
- Give you energy
- Keep your body warm
- Build cells
- Protect your organs
- Help your body absorb vitamins from foods 17https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/default.htm
- Produce hormones that help your body work properly
The Bottom Line On Fat’s With Vegan Keto:
Fat is healthy for you, especially when on a ketogenic diet because it’s metabolised quickly and used as your primary source of energy. Calculate your calories, choose a net carb range and ensure you get enough protein. After that, fill the rest in with healthy fats from wholefood sources (not junkfood).
There are four main types of fats which you can eat.
- Saturated Fats – For vegans you’ll mainly get this from coconut oil or palm oil
- Monounsaturated Fats – Many plant based oils such as olive oils, canola oils, sesame oil, avocado oil, as well as avodados, nuts and seeds.
- Polyunsaturated Fats – Oils such as soybean oil, corn oil, suflower oil, and walnuts, sunflower seeds, soybeans, todu
- Trans Fats – The type of fat you really want to avoid are called trans fats. These are found in processed foods, junk food, fast food, and store brought baked goods such as cookies.
This wraps up the overview of macros on a vegan ketogenic diet. I hope this has helped you understand the macros you should be shooting for and why.
- Use a calorie calculator to get your daily caloric requirements.
- Count net carbs not total carbs.
- Stick to 30g net carbs (or between 25g – 50g).
- There are plenty of sources of protein and you can always supplement with a low carb vegan protein shake.
- Fat’s aren’t the enemy but processed and junk foods should be avoided.
Kane is the founder of Veganatheart.org. The vegan ketogenic diet has helped him to personally lose weight as well as improve his mood and overall health.
He is passionate about helping others achieve the same benefits by showing that keto does not have to involve animal products.