How To Track Your Keto Diet [Best Apps, Measuring Ketones, Macros Tracking]
Tracking your progress when you first start Keto can seem like a nightmare.
- What the heck are macros and how do you track them?
- Which Apps are good for tracking macros on Keto?
- Do you only need to count carbs on Keto? Net or total carbs?
- How much protein should you eat on Keto?
- Are your ketone levels too low for ketosis?
- Do you need to count calories on Keto?
- Do you need to track on Keto?
(You can click on any of those links above to jump straight to that section of the article.)
And even if you’ve been on Keto for a while, you might still be confused about the most efficient monitoring method to ensure your Keto diet stays on track.
Well, you’re in luck today.
Firstly, you’ll find out how to monitor the following areas of your wellbeing:
- Macros – Carbs, Proteins, Fats
- Ketone Levels
- Sleep: Quantity and Quality
- Stress Levels
Before diving deeper into keeping tabs on your Ketogenic journey, is it even necessary to track your progress on the Keto diet at all?
Should You Be Tracking on Keto?
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
This is a quote often used in business, but it also applies to health and weight-loss. Tracking can help you focus more on your health and weight as well as help you stay on track as you notice results faster.
Dr. Mary T. Newport, M.D., notes that, “While it is not necessary to measure ketone levels, many people who make the change to a low carb, ketogenic diet and/or use ketone salts would like to have some positive proof that their ketone levels are, in fact, elevated.”
Many of the pros recommend tracking your ketones. “Every morning, I check my ketones,” says Lauren Berryhill, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist. Tracking ketones helped her to stay motivated to lose 103 pounds. “It’s also helpful when I’ve eaten something new (like a sweetener like stevia or monk fruit), to see how my body reacts to it.”
However, there’s no hard and fast rule forcing you to track your macros or anything else on Keto.
Just by cutting back on carbs and increasing fats, many people start to feel and look better. Plus, Keto can provide a ton of other health benefits.. (1)
Specific Circumstances When Tracking on Keto Can Really Help:
Even if you’re not a tracking junkie, then there are still specific circumstances when tracking comes into its own:
- If you’ve been sticking to Keto for weight loss for 1-2 weeks but haven’t seen your weight change at all. If your weight loss has plateaued and you don’t know why
- If you think you’re following the Keto diet carefully, but you’re just not seeing the benefits other people say they experience (e.g., higher energy, better moods, less bloating)
- If you want to achieve much higher ketone levels, whether for therapeutic reasons or to boost athletic performance
- If you find sticking to Keto tougher and think you’d benefit from the discipline that comes with tracking
If you think you might find tracking useful, where should you start?
What Should You Be Tracking On Keto? [+ Ideal Goals To Set]
What you should be tracking depends to a significant extent on why you are following the Keto diet.
Think about these 3 questions…
Do You Want To Lose Weight with Keto?
Registered Dietitian Emily Hunter, RD, says, “Weight loss is complicated and multifactorial. Everyone has unique needs and factors such as food availability, stress, sleep quality, cultural norms, medications, genetics, and socio-economic status are frequently forgotten. However, research indicates that the ketogenic diet is the most effective method of losing weight in a six month period.”
If weight loss is your primary driver, consider tracking your macros. Taking photos is another excellent way to keep an eye on your progress. Periodic body-fat testing also makes sense. A calorie deficit is important for weight loss but, as you’ll see below, tracking macros will give you your caloric intake without having to count calories separately. (2) For more accurate data, do a DEXA scan before you start Keto, then do one monthly to see how your body composition – in particular, your body fat percentage and its location as well as your muscle mass – changes over time.
Do You Want To Enhance Your Physical Performance with Keto?
You should focus your tracking efforts on the results you get in the gym or when out running. Food diaries, particularly what you eat before and after working out, can give you a clear indicator of whether you’re hitting your targets. You should also record your recovery times along with how you feel after each workout.
Do You Want More Mental Clarity with Keto?
For general tracking, keeping a journal with a rating of how sharply you’re thinking acts as an ongoing barometer. Monitoring your productivity at work or in your daily routines can include overall progress alongside how long you were able to focus. Tracking your ketone levels can also help.
Now you have an idea of what you might need to track and for what reason, it’s time for the logistics of tracking starting with macros.
All About Macros
Macronutrients (macros) are simply the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats your body needs.
There are 3 important Keto macros:
- Carbs: Normally, your body gets its energy principally from carbs. With Keto, that changes. (3) When your body is in ketosis, it will start burning fats and use them along with ketones to fuel you instead. (4)
- Proteins: Proteins are packed with amino acids. The body uses protein to build and repair muscles. Proteins also help with growth and boost your immune system.
- Fats: Fats help to absorb important vitamins, and they also protect your organs and aid growth. Not only this, fats provide you with the energy you need on Keto.
What sort of macro percentages should you be looking to eat on a Keto diet, then?
For a quick and simple estimate of your Keto macros, use our keto macros calculator.
How Many Carbs To Eat On Keto?
The general guideline is to keep your net carbs under 25 grams a day when following Keto.
It’s important to note the distinction between net carbs and total carbs.
Since your body cannot digest fiber, classed as carbohydrate, you need to deduct these carbs from your total to calculate net carbs. (5) This is because fat-burning ketosis hinges on net carbs rather than total carbs.
So, keep eating low carb vegetables on Keto (or else take a prebiotic fiber supplement).
How Much Protein To Eat On Keto?
Working out your daily protein allowance in grams is straightforward if you take it slowly and logically.
You need 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein for each pound of lean muscle.
1) Calculate your body fat in pounds and lean muscle mass using this simple formula:
- Body Fat in Pounds = Total Weight (Pounds) x Body Fat Percentage (Decimal)
- Lean Muscle Mass = Total Weight (Pounds) – Body Fat (Pounds)
Example: You weigh 200 pounds, and your body fat is 30%.
- Body Fat in Pounds = 200 x 0.3 = 60 pounds of body fat
- Lean Muscle Mass = 200 – 60 = 140 pounds of lean body mass
2) Calculate your daily protein allowance using your lean body mass:
- Daily Protein Allowance in Grams = Lean Body Mass (Pounds) x 0.8 to 1.2 (Dependent Upon Your Needs)
Example: You weigh 200 pounds, and your body fat is 30% as above. You decide for the sake of ease to use 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle.
- Daily Protein Allowance in Grams = 140 x 1 = 140 grams of protein each day.
So that’s your carbs and protein macros taken care of. In the examples used, that’s:
- Carbs: 25 grams
- Protein: 140 grams
How about fats, then?
How Much Fat To Eat On Keto?
It’s at this stage of calculating your macros that calorie intake rears its head.
You need to consume the remainder of your calorie intake in fat and you can do this without much difficulty.
For this example, we’ll use a daily intake of 2000 calories and the same macros as above for carbs (25 grams) and protein (140 grams)
Total Daily Calorie Intake – Total Daily Calorie Intake (Protein) – Total Daily Calorie Intake (Carbs) = Total Daily Calories (Fat)
Both carbs and protein pack around 4 calories per gram.
Fat, by contrast, contains 9 calories per gram.
Example: 2000 – 560 – 100 = 1340 Daily Calories In Fat
To translate that daily caloric intake into your macro, divide the number by 9.
Here are the complete daily macros for the above example:
- Carbs: 25 grams per day
- Proteins: 140 grams per day
- Fats: 149 grams per day
Calories On Keto
There are many variables when it comes to the number of calories you should eat on Keto.
While many people use the Keto diet as an effective method of losing weight (6), you might just want to maintain your current weight or even pile on a few pounds.
Everyone is different.
Factor in your level of activity and other variables and you’ll see why daily calorie intake can vary widely from person to person.
Bottom line, it’s much easier to track your macro intake while you’re following Keto than endlessly to count calories. As long as you manage to stick to your macros, you’ll by default also fall within your desired calorie intake too.
Each gram of fat, protein, or carbs is equivalent to a certain number of calories:
- 1 gram of fat = 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
- 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
So, if you eat a dish that contains 30 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein, then you’ll have eaten (30 x 9) + (4 x 4) + (25 x 4) = 386 calories
That’s why there is no need to track macros and calories separately. Just recording your macros will keep your calories on track!
Now you’ve got a sound overview of the ratio of macronutrients you should be consuming daily, how about those all-important ketone levels?
In stark variance to most diets, the Keto diet puts your body into a state of ketosis.
In this state, your body burns more fat rather than relying on glucose and as part of this process, ketones are created.
But what are these ketones?
What Are Ketones?
In the simplest terms, ketones are an energy source. (7)
There are 3 ketone bodies that your liver produces:
- Acetoacetate (AcAc): During ketogenesis, acetoacetate is the first ketone body produced.
- Acetone: This is the least profuse of all ketone bodies, although t can be produced in fairly high quantities when you first start Keto.
- Beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB): Once your body has fully adapted to Keto, BHB becomes the most abundant ketone body and the primary fuel source for both your muscle cells and brain.
Where are these ketones usually found?
- Acetoacetate is mainly found in your urine
- acetone in your breath, and
- BHB in your blood.
Do You Need To Track Ketones?
In a word, no.
You can reap the rewards of a Keto diet without using any ketone testing equipment but there are 2 specific instances when tracking ketones is a wise move…
- When you first start Keto, tracking ketones can be useful. To enter ketosis, everyone needs slightly different macros. If you know your ketone levels, you can better monitor your progress and help with fine-tuning.
- If you are following Keto for weight loss (8), keeping an eye on your ketone levels can help you to make any necessary tweaks more easily.
The most important thing is not to obsess about these ketone levels or allow it to stress you.
If you do need to track those ketone levels, though, how do you go about it?
How To Track Ketone Levels?
There are 3 main approaches to measuring the ketone levels in your body:
Blood Ketone Meters
While monitoring the ketone levels in your blood gives the most precise reading, the blood ketone measurement strips can be costly.
Blood ketone measurements can vary throughout the day.
The blood ketone readings are done with a ketone meter that’s similar to a regular blood glucose meter, but the strips that are used are special ketone strips that can cost $1 per strip or more.
These ketone urine strips are much cheaper but don’t give you very useful or accurate results. This is partly because your urine ketone levels aren’t always a good indicator of how far in ketosis your body is.
Reusable breath ketone meter
The breath ketone meters cost around $150 each but they can give you a decently accurate reading in a matter of seconds. They’re also reusable and require no strips that cost additional money.
What Ketone Levels Should You Aim For?
As with so many elements of Keto, there is no fixed optimum level of ketones.
Opinion varies considerably among nutritionists, doctors, and scientists. Check here for a summary of what a range of experts feel.
Ketone levels are normally expressed in terms of millimoles per liter (mmol/L).
Think about the reasons you’re following Keto in the first place and use the following figures as a rough benchmark:
- Following Keto For Weight Loss: 0.5 mmol/L and above
- Following Keto To Improve Athletic Performance: 0.5 mmol/L and above
- Following Keto To Improve Mental Clarity: 1.5 to 3 mmol/L
- Following Keto For Therapeutic Reasons: 3 to 6 mmol/L
I explored optimal ketone levels in this article if you want to read up on the science in more depth.
Having dealt with macros, calories, and ketones, what else should you consider keeping track of when you’re on the Keto diet?
What Other Goals Are Worth Tracking on Keto?
Before moving on to some of the best tracking apps to help make your life easier, there are a couple more things well worth monitoring when you’re on Keto…
Sleep (Hours Slept and Quality of Sleep)
The focus of this article is on Keto tracking but a few passing comments about sleep merit a mention. Getting enough sleep and the right quality of sleep is critical for your health so achieving this should not be overlooked.
Psychiatrist and writer Jean Kim, M.D., says, “Sleep is crucial to overall health and daily functioning. Increasing evidence has tied lack of sleep to a host of mental and physical disorders, including increased depression, irritability, impulsivity, cardiovascular disease, and more.”
Aim for 7 or more hours of sleep each night if possible.
By aiming to go to bed early and get up when the sun rises, you’ll more easily keep your circadian rhythms in check.
Avoid all blue light or wear blue-block glasses after dark if you absolutely must use your tablet in bed.
Tracking Sleep: Whether you prefer writing things down on paper or using a fitness tracking app like FitBit Charge 2, log the hours you sleep along with any time when you wake in the night.
Stress levels and How You Feel
Aside from damaging other areas of your life, stress causes the body to produce cortisone which can lead to overeating and weight gain. (9)
Don’t neglect how you feel overall when you’re considering tracking your progress on Keto.
Tracking Stress Levels: A simple journal using a scale of 1 to 10 based on your regular mood is a simple but effective way of charting your stress levels on an ongoing basis.
It’s time to move on to some fantastic tracking apps if you want to step your efforts up and get things logged the smart way.
Best Apps for Tracking Macros on Keto
Figuring out the exact macros to fuel your body can seem overwhelming at first. Hopefully, the explanation above has clarified things for you.
Thanks to modern technology, you can calculate your macros, track your food, and even save your favorite meals, right at the click of an app.
To round out, here are 5 of the top apps for tracking and calculating macros…
We’ll highlight the chief advantages and drawbacks of each now. You can see at a glance which app will bring you the specific benefits you’re looking for in a tracking app.
One of the leading calorie-tracking apps, MyFitnessPal, has a free version that’s more than fit for purpose.
If you’re following Keto, though, opting for the paid app might be worthwhile. This is mainly because the free app doesn’t let you track net carbs.
- Vast food database with over 6 million foods and you can even add your own recipes so you’re spoiled for choice
- Easy to track packaged foods with barcode scanning feature
- Track a wide range of restaurant meals so keep to your macros even when you’re out and about
- Keep tabs on all nutrients. As well as calories, fat, protein, and carbs, you can also track sugar, fiber, cholesterol and vitamins for a complete picture of your health and progress
- Progress graph to chart any weight loss or gain with ease
- Log your water intake in cups, ounces or ml to make sure you’re getting enough fluids
- Social sharing adds a layer of accountability to your tracking
- Syncs simply with other fitness apps for your convenience
- Accuracy of the food database can be questionable at times
- The free app doesn’t track net carbs so you’ll need to pay unless you want to calculate this yourself
- Need to use macro percentages not gram goals
- Fairly heavy advertising throughout the app
Cronometer is a paid tracking app that also offers a gold subscription for still further functionality.
More tailored specifically toward followers of the Ketogenic diet, Cronometer is well worth popping on your shortlist.
- Monitor both macronutrients and also 60+ micronutrients for a complete tracking package
- Dedicated Ketogenic diet mode allows you to track net carbs fuss-free
- Track both macro and micronutrient targets by percentage or grams according to preference
- No ads mean a more streamlined experience with less intrusion
- Food database is extremely precise so you can track with more confidence
- Choose how strict you want the diet to be with preloaded macro suggestions for each level
- Based on Dr. Mercola’s book Fat for Fuel
- Bar code scanning simplifies adding food
- Syncing is straightforward widening your tracking ability
- The food base, while highly accurate, is somewhat limited in scope
- Costs $2.99 although this is exceptional value for what you get
- No ability to chart weight loss or gain
- No social sharing except with gold subscription
- Not the most user-friendly app so a fairly steep learning curve
The CarbManager app makes the bold claim of being the world’s easiest and most comprehensive macro tracker. But does it live up to it?
- Input your data using search, voice or camera so extremely adaptable
- Barcode scanning featuring more than 1 million foods
- Tracks net carbs so no fussing around if you’re using this app to track your macros
- Over 300,000 low-carb recipes to tantalize your taste buds
- Great spread of resources including forums, recipes, and e-books so you can further your knowledge under one roof
- Keep an eye on your water intake which is crucial for overall health
- Charts for your weight and BMI great for anyone who prefers visual aids
- Interact easily with friends and the CarbManager community
- Premium features only unlocked through a pricey subscription
- Can be buggy at times, but most glitches remedied by closing then reopening the app
- Carb counts may not always be accurate so keep a close eye out
This free app, Senza, is now available on Android as well as iOS. It’s a decent but slightly buggy tracking tool. It’s designed by folks who follow a ketogenic diet, so it works better than some other macros tracking apps.
Many users report glitches, but the advanced functionality and live support with a Keto-friendly nutritionist make it well worth popping on your shortlist.
- Interface is highly responsive, bold and easy to read so perfect if you’re not too tech-savvy
- Search for foods and find the nutrition information you need with is with most preloaded
- Barcode scanning makes importing new foods a breeze
- Includes 5 Days to Keto guide that helps you with the transition into keto
- Can link up with friends and share data encouraging you to maintain your progress
- Monitor your electrolyte intake for an added insight
- More advanced features than many apps so you can track glucose and ketones or see the insulin load of the foods you eat
- Connects seamlessly with Apple Health Apps
- Live support from a nutritionist for all your Keto questions
- Occasional glitches with tracking and incorrect data although this problem seems to be improving as the app develops further
- Some snags with macros not adding up correctly
- Issues with restaurant tracker not working optimally
5. FitBit Charge 2
To round out, the enduringly popular FitBit remains one of the best ways to track your fitness levels and sleep quality.
If you’re looking to track your macros, check out one of the above 4 options. For fitness and sleep purposes, though, the mighty FitBit remains the industry standard.
- Comfy to wear with interchangeable bands so perfect when you’re working out
- Tracking is extremely consistent across the board
- Sleep insights and sleep stages update gives you valuable information key to your general wellbeing
- Oversized display makes reading the information you need a cinch
- Impressive 5-day battery life makes your life easier
- All-day activity tracking so monitor everything you do seamlessly
- Cardio Fitness Level score is a great way to push yourself forward
- Integrated breathing exercises perfect for warming down or relaxing
- Fitness tracker so don’t buy this expecting to log all your direct Keto-related needs
- Low-quality gesture recognition is a disappointment
- No GPS so you’ll need to harness your smartphone
Remember: Tracking Can Be Beneficial But Do What’s Right For You
Tracking, in all its forms, is not essential to follow Keto successfully and enjoy the shower of benefits this way of eating provides. According to Registered Nurse Abby Roaquin, RN, “Many people have successfully lost weight on a low carb-high fat diet without tracking what they eat to the exact gram and percentage of their macros.”
If rigorous tracking doesn’t feel right for you, don’t feel compelled to follow this path.
That said, for the purposes of troubleshooting, having access to hard data makes it much easier to identify potential flashpoints.
Also, if you’re struggling to stick to Keto, tracking can act both to spur you on and give you the ability to tweak your macros confidently then monitor any differences.
Hopefully, if you decide that keeping a close eye on things makes sense for you, today’s article should make that process a whole lot less hassle!
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