Macros on a Vegan Ketogenic Diet

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One of the biggest questions we get asked when it comes to vegan keto is how many calories, carbs, protein and fats should you be aiming for on a day to day basis. We touched on macros for the vegan ketogenic diet previously but in this article we’re going to give a more comprehensive view on the macros you should be aiming for.

There are three steps to calculating your macro nutrient requirements: 

  • Step 1: Calculate how many calories you should be consuming per day 
  • Step 2: Calculate your carbohydrate limit 
  • Step 3: Calculate how much protein you require 

Once you’ve got these three things figured out you simply build your diet around these factors and fill the rest in with fats.

Vegan Keto Macros Quick Reference 

For those of you who would prefer the quick answer here are the macros we recommend for a vegan keto diet, although we do recommend reading the rest of the article to understand why.

Calories:

Everyone is different – use this calculator to determine your calorie requirements. 

Carbohydrates: 

25g – 50g net carbs ( aiming for 30g or less on a standard 2000 calorie or less diet)

Protein: 

  • For sedentary people and those exercising to lose weight between 0.4g – 0.6g protein per pound of body weight per day. 
  • For active people and those wishing to build muscle between 0.6g and 0.9g protein per pound of body weight per day. 

Now let’s get started with calories!

Step 1: Calculating Your Calories 

Just about every popular nutrition plan, including the USDA’s Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), is based on macronutrient allocation. There are calculators online that will determine these for you but with vegan keto we have specific rules that we need to follow around how many carbs, fats and protein we should be consuming on a daily basis.

To calculate this we need to first determine how many calories we need to consume daily to reach our goals. We recommend using a calories calculator as it can be quite laborous to calculate it yourself. Use this free calorie calculator here. 

Just keep in mind that these calculations aren’t etched in stone. At best, they are educated guesses which serve as a fantastic starting point. 

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.

Instead, you may use the Estimate Energy Requirement equation from the Institute of Medicine. 

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  1  1 
Moderately Active  1.11  1.12 
Active  1.25  1.27 
Very Active  1.48  1.45 

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. (Source) 

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 see now why people prefer to use an online calculator!

Step 2: Calculating Your Carbohydrates

What many people don’t realize is that you don’t need to restrict your carbohydrates to 5% of your total caloric intake to achieve ketosis. Most people who claim to have reached ketosis have done so consuming between 20g-100g carbs, with 100g carbs being the very upper limit. 

But before we get into how many carbs and how much protein you need, let us explain carbs vs NET carbs. 

Total carbs vs net carbs 

Whenever we talk about carbs I am referring to net carbs. Net carbs are what’s left from total carbohydrates after you subtract fibre. 

The reason we exclude fibre from our carb counts and focus on net carbs instead is that fibre is primarily not digestible by the body and does not affect or blood sugar and insulin levels negatively.

You see…

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. To give you an idea, if you consumed 15g of soluble fibre throughout the day that would provide 30 calories. 

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! 

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. In that case, simply subtract the total grams of Dietary Fiber from Total Carbohydrates. 

Let’s take a 16-oz jar of creamy peanut butter for example. The label lists Total Carbohydrates per serving as 8g. Below it, Dietary Fiber is 2g and Sugars, 4g. So, the Net Carbs per serving of peanut butter is 6g (Total Carbs – Fiber). 

How Many Net Carbs Should I Eat Per Day? 

Generally the upper limit for ketones to be produced is around 50g net carbs per day, but for optimal performance on a normal keto diet 15-50g net carbs is the range we want to stay in. On vegan keto however we need to ensure we are getting a wide enough variety of foods and nutrients, so 15g is much too low.

A good guide for most people doing vegan keto and consuming up to 2000 calories a day, is to stay below 30g net carbs. 

If you require a higher calorie intake and are exercising you can look at increasing your net carbs to between 30g-50g as long as you remain in ketosis and your blood ketones remain in the optimal range.

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. 

Daily Carb Guidelines for Vegan Keto 

Our recommendation for net carb intake on a vegan keto diet is to keep it between 25-50g net carbs per day.

Most vegans who try keto find they achieve ketosis and lose weight just fine with this approach, and it allows you to consume a wider variety of foods and nutrients than you would not be able to otherwise. That’s important. 

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. 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 and virtually no carbs on a diet where your primary protein sources are complex carbohydrates? 

Well, many plant foods contain high amounts of protein – nuts, nut butters, seeds, and tofu for example all go a long way. 

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. 

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 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. 

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.” 

In short, 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. 

We’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 flavour. 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 allowance of protein for sedentary men and women is 0.8g per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36g per pound of body weight. 

If your goal is to increase muscle mass the American College of Sports Medicinerecommends you consume between 1.2-1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. 

Now plant proteins are not absorbed as efficiently as animal proteins, and so the Dieticians of Canada recommend increasing protein consumption by 10%. 

Based on this on the vegan keto diet the recommended protein intake is as below: 

  • For sedentary people and those exercising to lose weight between 0.4g – 0.6g protein per pound of body weight per day. 
  • For active people and those wishing to build muscle between 0.6g and 0.9g protein per pound of body weight per day. 

You can likely eat a little more than this but if there is a great amount of excess protein consumed the body will resort to glycogenesis so try to stay within these boundaries. 

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 fat’s 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 diet.

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 diet. 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.

As per WebMD fats have the following benefits:

  • Give you energy
  • Keep your body warm
  • Build cells
  • Protect your organs
  • Help your body absorb vitamins from foods
  • Produce hormones that help your body work properly

Here’s a Quick Breakdown of the Types of Fats:

Good Fats

  • 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

Bad Fats

  • 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.

So we hope this has helped you understand the macros you should be shooting for on a vegan ketogenic diet. As you know this diet can help with weight loss, diabetes, epilepsy and much more! Remember – fat’s aren’t the enemy but processed and junk foods should be avoided.

As usual if you have any comments please use the comment section below.

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