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How Many Carbs Should I Have Each Day On Keto?

The ketogenic diet is based on eating particular percentages of macros - your carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Specifically, you’ll be aiming to eat more fat and less carbs, with a moderate amount of protein. 

The aim? To change your metabolic state to ketosis, hence the name Ketogenic. In a state of ketosis, your body will shift from using glucose (from carbohydrates) for fuel, to burning fat and using ketones for fuel. This change in metabolic state means your body will burn fat which helps you lose weight, as well as balance blood sugars since there will be fewer, if any, blood sugar spikes from glucose release.

But exactly how many carbs should you be eating each day on the Keto diet? There are many different opinions, so how can you know which is the right amount for you? 

Read on for a break-down of carb limits, the difference between net and total carbs, and importantly - how to work out your personal carb allowance while following Keto.

Recommended Macro Portions On Keto

On a Ketogenic diet you’ll be keeping a close eye on the amount of macros you eat each day since you’ll want to make sure your body gets into and remains in ketosis. This means you’ll be aiming to consume the majority of your calories from fats, a moderate amount from protein, and only a very small portion from carbohydrates. The recommended percentages are 80% fat, 15-20% protein and a maximum 5% from carbohydrates.

 

While percentages may seem simple enough, you may be wondering how much this actually means when it comes to preparing your meals and snacks.

There is a lot of information out there about carb limits and allowances for the Keto diet. But many of them differ in their advice when it comes to specific grams of macro allowances.  Some say you should aim for a limit of 20g of net carbs per day, while others suggest an allowance of 50g of net carbs per day. Others still say an ideal amount is 35g per day of net carbs because it’s thought to be a safe bet to keep you in ketosis.

What are these amounts based on?

The common 20g carb limit recommendation comes from the average calorie intake of 1800-2000 calories per day. To work out the amount of carbohydrates to the gram, you find 5% of your calorie allowance and then divide that number by 4 (there are 4 calories in each g of carbohydrate). 

This gives you the amount of carbohydrates to the gram that you ought to be eating each day to remain in ketosis.  With the average calorie intake of 1800-2000 calories per day, this equates to approximately 20g of net carbs.

The right amount of carbohydrates to eat each day comes down to the correct proportions to put your body in ketosis - and keep you there. If you eat too many carbohydrates or protein, your body will use glucose for fuel instead of ketones and you’ll no longer be in ketosis.

How Many Carbs Are Right For You?

You’re probably wondering why there’s a variation in the recommended macro amounts, and which one is best for you. This depends on a number of factors, so while 20g of net carbs is the ideal limit for some on Keto, 50g of net carbs may be the best allowance for others.

Things to consider when working out the perfect carb limit for you include:

Your Goal

What is it that you hope to achieve by going Keto?  You may be aiming to lose weight and so you’ll reduce overall calories. Others may want to maintain weight but improve other health issues, in which case calorie intake may remain the same or increase.

Your goal will determine the amount of calories you take in each day and therefore the limit of carbs you can consume every day. The more calories you eat, the greater your carbohydrate allowance will be.

Your Calorie Intake

Your calorie intake will be determined by your goals and lifestyle. If you wish to lose a considerable amount of weight your calories intake will be much lower, whereas if you would like to maintain weight or build muscle, your calorie allowance will be higher.

The amount of calories you consume each day will automatically change your daily carb limit, since it will always be a maximum 5% of your calorie consumption.

For example, if you need 1,200 calories per day to reach your Keto goals, 5% of which can be carbohydrates - you can eat 60 calories worth of carbs which equates to 15g (divided by 4) of carbs per day. Whereas if you’re taking in 2,500 calories every day, 125 calories can be made up of carbohydrates (5%) which works out to be 31g of net carbs per day.

Your Activity Level

Similarly, the amount of physical activity you do will affect the amount of carbs you can eat every day. If you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle and wish to lose weight, you will need fewer carbs to fuel your body.

However, if you’re very active and enjoy high-intensity training, your carb limit can be higher to fuel your activity level without sabotaging your Keto efforts.

You can figure out your unique calorie and macro allowances by completing online calculators or take a look at ‘What Are Macros and How Do I Calculate Them?’ for more info.

Total or Net Carbs

Lastly, carb allowances may differ depending on whether net or total carbs are referred to.  Some recommendations might use the total figure of carbs allowed per day, while other advice might be based upon net carbs instead. It’s important to know which is being used, as it can greatly impact your carbohydrate allowance and your journey on Keto.

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What Are Net Carbs and Why Do They Matter?

You’ll hear a lot of mention of net carbs while learning about and following a Keto diet, but what exactly are net carbs and why do they matter to your Keto lifestyle?

Net carbs refer to the carbohydrates your body will absorb and therefore those that will affect your blood sugars, insulin levels, and metabolic state. Not all carbohydrates are absorbed by your body - certain carbs such as fibre and sugar alcohols cannot be easily digested.

For this reason, fibre and sugar alcohols can be deducted from your total carbohydrate intake, to provide you with your net carb allowance. Take almonds as an example, per cup almonds contain 31g of total carbs, but 18g of that total carbohydrate is made up of fibre. This means the net carb content of a cup of almonds is 13g. This is significantly different and has a big impact on your carb allowance.

Managing your macros is much easier using a net carb limit since it gives you a little leeway.  Plus, many nutritious and beneficial foods such as veggies, fruits and nuts are high in fibre; while this means they have a high total carb content, their net carb (minus the fibre) means you can still enjoy them and benefit from their nutritional value, without crashing through your carb limit.

Working with net carbs rather than total carbs for your carbohydrate allowance essentially means you can enjoy more of the nutritional foods you like. 

Cater Your Carbs To You

Your carbohydrate limit depends on many factors. It’s important you know what you hope to achieve going Keto, and calculate your macros based upon your lifestyle, current health and goals.

This provides you with a calorie limit for each day, from which you can work out your personal carb allowance. Define your net carbs from your total carbs and make sure you stick with one or the other. Working with net carbs can be beneficial since it makes allowances for fibre, and you’ll be able to benefit from eating high-fibre nutritious foods such as fruits and veggies.

Your carb limit will be different to someone else's on Keto, not only is that perfectly ok, it's to be expected since everyone is different and has their own unique goals.

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