Many people feel there is a legitimate carb limit for keto, but the truth is there isn’t. Of course, on this high-fat, low-carb diet it’s best to stick to consuming a low carb amount, but it really depends on how a body responds. The Body Reboot book further explains what type of food to eat while on a keto diet, and it also discusses its many health benefits. If going past the carb limit is a concern, and it happens there are ways to get a body back into ketosis (which means a body burns ketones rather than glucose). And don’t worry, just because a person eats an extra strawberry they won’t get put into keto jail. Every person has a different carb limit that works well for them, and sometimes it may even change depending on the day. To figure out which carb limit works best for you, do some research, test to see if you’re still in ketosis after a “cheat” day and listen to your body. So how do you go about finding your ideal carb limit? Keep reading for some excellent advice on the matter.
Ruled.me says despite different opinions, there is a carb limit that most people should stick with to be successful on the diet. Most people eat around 25 grams of net carbs daily and Ruled.me explains what we should eat while a body is in ketosis to stay under that amount.
Although everyone may need to restrict their carbs to slightly different amounts to get into and stay in ketosis, there is a carb limit that almost anyone can use to achieve results. This keto carb limit is 35 grams of total carbs and 25 grams of net carbs. (Net carbs are found by subtracting the grams of the fiber from the total grams of carbs.)
If net carbs are further limited to less than 20 grams, then most people will get into ketosis even more quickly. Keeping your carbs consumption at this level and rarely going above it is a reliable way to stay in ketosis (as long as you eat the right amount of protein — more on that later).
To figure out how to track your carbs and stay below the carb limit, here’s a guide you can use to keep it as simple as possible.
And here is a brief list of what you should and shouldn’t eat to achieve ketosis:
Do Not Eat
Grains – wheat, corn, rice, cereal, etc.
Sugar – honey, agave, maple syrup, etc.
Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, etc.
Tubers – potato, yams, etc.
Meats – fish, beef, lamb, poultry, eggs, etc.
Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, etc.
Above ground vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
High Fat Dairy – hard cheeses, high fat cream, butter, etc.
Nuts and seeds – macadamias, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
Avocado and berries – raspberries, blackberries, and other low glycemic impact berries
Sweeteners – stevia, erythritol, monk fruit, and other low-carb sweeteners >
Other fats – coconut oil, high-fat salad dressing, saturated fats, etc.
If it’s helpful, figuring out a guideline on what helps you lose the most weight may be beneficial. If you eat fewer carbs, it’s likely you’ll lose more weight. However, if you’re trying to maintain your current weight without losing more, you may consider staying on a moderately low carb diet instead. This is how Diet Doctor defines the different levels of eating low carb on Keto:
How we define low carb and keto
At Diet Doctor, we define the different levels of carbs this way:
Keto low carb: less than 20 grams of carbs per day. This level will be ketogenic for most people — if protein intake remains moderate. In our keto recipes, less than 4 percent of its total energy is coming from carbs, and the rest will come from protein and fat.1 In keto recipes we also keep the protein level moderate, as excess protein can be converted to glucose in your body.
Moderate low carb between 20 and 50 grams per day. In our moderate low carb recipes, energy derived from carbs will be between 4 to 10 percent. The rest will come from protein and fat.
Liberal low carb: between 50 and 100 grams per day. In our liberal low carb recipes, energy derived from carbs will be 10 to 20 energy percent. The rest will come from protein and fat.
*Note: the limit of 4 percent of energy coming from carbs in a ketogenic recipe means that if you are eating 3 meals a day, at a range of about 2,000 calories a day, you will easily stay below 20 grams of carbs. Many of our keto recipes will have you eating significantly less than the maximum amount of carbs each day.
Yes, it can be challenging finding the ideal carb limit that works best for you, but all it takes is first getting into ketosis, and after your body gets used to eating fewer carbs you can experiment. See how you feel, how your body responds, and focus on your goals. Bulletproof outlines a few more low-carb approaches that can work well.
Find the Goldilocks zone of carb intake: not too low, not too high
This is where you get to do some personal experimenting. Most people do best eating somewhere between 30-150 grams of net carbs daily. “Net carbs” means you can subtract fiber and sugar alcohols (like xylitol) out of your daily carb count – they don’t affect your blood sugar or get stored as glycogen.
Here are three different low-carb approaches within the 30-150 gram range:
Cyclical Ketogenic Diet
Eat high fat, very low carb (<50g net carbs/day) 6 days a week, then have a carb refeed on day 7 (~150g net carbs).
A cyclical ketogenic diet works very well for a lot of people. On the other hand, re-upping on carbs once a week will keep you out of deep ketosis, which may cause carb cravings (Brain Octane helps with that). Try a weekly carb refeed and see how you feel.
Full Ketogenic Diet
Eat high fat, very low carb (<50g net carbs is a good rule of thumb), every day, with no carb refeed.
For some, a full-on ketogenic diet can burn a lot of fat and provide energy for hours on end. Others burn out and get exhausted after a couple months. Watch for exhaustion, stomach issues, and dry eyes – if you get any of these, you may do better with a cyclical ketogenic diet.
Eat high fat with 100-150g of net carbs every day.
Women often do best with this option – lower-carb can sometimes mess with your hormones. 100-150g may work well for you if you’re working out a ton, too – some athletes find they burn out with fewer than 100g of carbs on workout days (although it’s certainly possible to rock your workouts while in ketosis).
Keep in mind that your daily carb limit may change if you decide to workout more regularly or have an intense workout. In fact, Perfect Keto recommends eating fast acting carbs a half an hour before and after a workout to provide your body with enough energy. These added carbs should not affect ketosis as a body will use them right away.
If you engage in regular physical activity at an intense level (and three or more times per week), note that the standard ketogenic dietary ratios likely won’t be quite enough to cater to your performance needs. That’s where targeted ketogenic diets come into play.
In targeted keto, during training times only, you might want to integrate a carb “boost” both immediately before and immediately after your training sessions. This will ensure your muscles have enough glycogen to perform their necessary task mid-performance and fully recover and replenish afterwards.
When adopting this targeted principle, you’ll still be following the standard ketogenic dietary ratios throughout the day, but then you’ll consume 15-30 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates in the half an hour window before and after training.
Since your body will immediately use these carbs during these two windows, there’s next to no risk of your ketogenic state being reversed or adversely affected. This targeted ketogenic diet will ensure proper sustenance for sports performance — and intense physical activity in general — while following the keto diet.
If you’d like to calculate your macros based on your age, height, weight, and other factors a few sites that have them are Perfect Keto and Tasteaholics. If you’re a keto newbie, this may be an excellent place to start so you can experiment and figure out how many carbs are ideal for you to eat daily.
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Discover how to activate your body's “Reboot Switch” that flips on a fat burning inferno so you can finally achieve your weight loss goals!