How Many Carbs Should I Eat To Stay In Ketosis? The primary concern of ketogenic eating is to limit carbs. Carb reduction forces your physical body to drop carbohydrates, which converts fat into fatty acids for quick, steady energy. Limiting carbohydrates also creates a hormone response that generates a metabolic state referred to as “ketosis.” Ketosis offers various health advantages and is the subject of many research studies.
What is ketosis?
Ketosis is a metabolic process that helps the body survive when it doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy.
Normally, your body converts carbs or glucose into energy and produces insulin to process the glucose in your bloodstream. When glucose is used as the primary energy source, fats remain unused and are stored in the body, contributing to weight gain.
The keto diet aims to put your body in a state of ketosis by restricting the amount of carbs your body can use for energy. Instead of using sugar or glucose from carbohydrates, your body will break down ketone bodies—a type of fuel produced by the liver from fat. The result is that your body burns stored fat for fuel.
Studies show that ketosis takes about 72 hours to kick in.
What Is The Keto Carb Limit?
When it comes to your personal macro recommendations, you’ve got to turn to the science. We know there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to health on other diets, so why would keto be any different?
As it turns out, it’s not. Regardless of what the internet has told you, there doesn’t seem to be any conclusive research indicating that the 20 gram carb suggestion is right for every one.
So why does everyone keep saying this?
This advised carb amount mainly comes from the recommended keto macro ranges, which include less than 5% of your calories come from carbs – on a 2,000 calorie diet, 5% of your calories would equal roughly 20 grams of carbs per day or less.
Most people will still use 20 grams or less as a starting place, but there are a few other things to consider when it comes to your individual carbohydrate goals on a ketogenic diet. These include:
- How many calories do you need each day?
- How active are you and what types of exercise do you perform on a regular basis?
- What did your diet look like before starting keto?
- Is your goal to achieve ketosis?
- Are you counting net carbs or total carbs?
Why does eating too many carbs disrupt ketosis?
Not following accepted ketogenic diet guidelines can disrupt ketosis because carbs are the body’s preferred energy source. If your carb intake is too high, carbs may be used for fuel instead of ketone bodies, which is the main source of fuel during ketosis.
The keto diet flips the balance of carbs and fats that are traditionally recommended for good health:
- USDA Guidelines
- 55% carbs
- 20% protein
- 25% fat
- Keto diet
- 5% carbs
- 20% protein
- 75% fat
What should you eat to avoid disrupting ketosis?
Keto is all about carbohydrate deprivation rather than calorie restriction. As a rule, focus on naturally high-fat foods and avoid highly processed foods labeled trans fats as much as possible. Foods that can disrupt ketosis pretty quickly include:
- Sugar and sweetened beverages
- Too much fruit
- Processed meats (these often have hidden sugars)
- Fat-free and low-fat dairy (too much lactose, which is a dairy sugar)
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, and some winter squash
- Too much alcohol
Some people believe that to achieve ketosis, they can’t eat carbohydrates at all, or that if they are not in ketosis 100% of the time, it will not work. None of those statements are correct. A typical keto diet may include:
- Grass-fed and free-range pork, chicken, beef, and eggs
- Vegetable protein sources such as soybeans
- Nuts and seeds
- High-fat dairy products such as cream, whole butter, and hard cheese
- Leafy greens
- Fish and seafood
- Olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Beginners Guide to Finding Your Daily Carb Limit on a Keto Diet
The fact is, the amount of carbs you can tolerate and stay in ketosis depends on your particular body, how long you’ve been living keto, your exercise regime, and more. So, when you’re first starting a keto diet, it’s recommended to stick with 20 grams of net carbs per day or 20 grams of total carbs for therapeutic purposes. While 20 grams of total carbs is the amount that can get pretty much everyone into ketosis provided you eat within your daily macros, 20 grams of net carbs is the starting point for most people trying to achieve weight loss or general health benefits. To learn more about the difference between total carbs and net carbs,
To ensure your body completely acclimates to the keto lifestyle, it’s recommended that you stick to 20 grams of net carbs per day for a full three months before you set out to explore your own personal carb edge.
Quick Net Carbs Primer
Net carbs are the total carbs minus the fiber (minus sugar alcohols if applicable). For example, a medium red bell pepper has 7 grams of total carbs and 2.5 grams of fiber. Therefore, the net carbs in a red bell pepper are 4.5. This is the number you would track to monitor your carb intake each day.
How to Determine if You’re in Ketosis
The best way to see if you’re in ketosis is to regularly test your blood using a blood-ketone testing meter. (For the most reliable results, be sure you follow the guidelines on exactly how to test and when to test.)
When you first embark on a ketogenic diet and begin testing your ketones, you’ll see your ketone levels start to rise from “Lo” to 0.1 mmol/L (the first measurable result) and higher. You’re in nutritional ketosis at 0.5 mmol/L.
Other signs your in ketosis can include some common (but temporary) discomforts known as keto flu symptoms. They’re common among people transitioning out of a high-carb diet and can include:
- Brain fog
Meanwhile, your body may give other indications, too, including:
- A slight fruity or acetone smell on your breath, also known as “keto breath”
- Increased energy (this typically happens once you’re in full ketosis)
- Decreased sugar cravings
- The ability to go longer between meals
Why Everyone Has A Different Carb Limit for Ketosis
At ruled.me, we recommend that everyone starts their ketogenic diet with the carb limit of 35 grams of total carbs. However, if you are not getting into ketosis or you want to find your personal keto carb limit, then you must know the other factors that contribute to ketosis.
Although this is a nuanced topic that is impacted by many different variables, let’s stick to the four things that you have the most control over when it comes to achieving ketosis. Below, we’ll go over these.
How Keto Adaptation Changes Your Ketone Burning Abilities And Your Carb Limit
Everybody can adapt to burning ketones for fuel. In the process of keto adaptation, the mitochondria (the energy powerhouse of the cell) becomes more efficient and starts replicating itself. This provides most cells with the ability to use ketones as their primary energy source instead of sugar.
These adaptations allow the body to shift into ketosis more quickly than when you first started the ketogenic diet. Also — as an added bonus — the more keto adapted you are, the more carbs you will be able to eat while remaining in ketosis.
The best way to take advantage of keto adaptation is by staying on a strict ketogenic diet for at least 3 to 6 months before trying anything fancy with your carb intake.
By this I mean, you must restrict your carbohydrates to 35 grams or less per day, get into a consistent ketosis, and give your cells at least a couple months to adapt to this way of living. This way of eating is the only way to get all of the benefits of ketosis, ketones, and keto adaptation.
There are also a couple of other factors that can improve or impair your body’s ability to adapt to the ketogenic diet that you should be aware of. These factors include exercising, eating the right amount of protein, and mitigating stress.
Carb targets to stay in ketosis
According to a 2018 review of the different types of ketogenic diet, a person should consume up to 50 grams (g) of carbohydrates per day to stay in ketosis.
A female on a keto diet should consume 40–50 g of protein per day, while a male should consume 50–60 g of protein daily.
But different keto diets allow for different amounts of carbs, protein, and fat:
- Standard ketogenic diet: Overall, 70% of a person’s intake is fat, 20% is protein, and 10% is carbs.
- Cyclical ketogenic diet: There is a cycle of 5 low carb days and 2 high carb days.
- Targeted ketogenic diet: A person can eat more carbs around high intensity workouts.
- High protein ketogenic diet: Overall, 60% of a person’s intake is fat, 35% is protein, and 5% is carbs.
The standard keto diet has been the subject of most research, and experts who recommend ketogenic diets tend to be more likely to recommend this type.
How to calculate carbs
For anyone on the keto diet, it is important to consider the number of “net carbs” in foods.
A person can calculate the number of net carbs in a serving by subtracting the amount of fiber from the total number of carbs. If the food is processed, a person should also subtract half the sugar alcohol content. These quantities are included on food labels.
We look into these terms and the calculation in more depth below:
These are all the carbs in a serving of food, including the type that the body cannot completely digest and transfer into glucose for energy.
The body is able to absorb these, and they are also called digestible carbs.
To calculate the number of net carbs in a serving, subtract the fiber content from the number of total carbs. If the food is processed, also subtract half the sugar alcohol content.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest and so cannot transform into glucose to store and use for energy.
The amount of fiber is included in the number of total carbs, but not in the number of net carbs.
To calculate the number of net carbohydrates in processed foods, a person also needs to subtract half the amount of sugar alcohol from the number of total carbs.
The body does not digest all sugar alcohols, so these have less of an effect on blood sugar levels than regular sugar does.
Some examples of sugar alcohols include:
- hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
How Protein Can Keep You From Ketosis
Insulin is known as a blood sugar lowering-hormone. However, not only carbs but also protein increases insulin levels. The hormone helps to shuffle sugar and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into cells.
Since high insulin levels can prevent ketosis, you should try to limit insulin release.
Even though protein does not nearly cause the same insulin spike as high glycemic carbs do, too much can make ketosis less stable.
This is why carb restriction shouldn’t be your only focus on the ketogenic diet. To achieve ketosis efficiently, eat the right amount of protein and limit your carbohydrate consumption. Don’t just do one or the other.
In general, you should aim to get around 25% of your calories from protein. If you’re active or restricting calories for fat loss, then it is best to increase your protein intake. To find out the exact amount of protein you should eat,
What are the pros and cons of following a ketogenic diet?
The keto diet has been linked to a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as protection against certain neurological disorders and improved cognitive function.
- Curbs cravings: Some studies report that people feel less hungry while in ketosis, and many people lose weight while on the keto diet.
- Controls sugar levels: Research suggests that ketosis may help in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity.
- Promotes brain health: Ketones have a protective effect on the brain, which is why they can help with seizures. They reduce oxidative stress and improve brain mitochondrial function. Researchers are now investigating the keto diet in the treatment of various brain conditions.
- Boosts energy: Ketones are a more efficient energy source than glucose. They have more energy per weight and require less oxygen to be metabolized.
- Helps prevent cancer: Cancer cells cannot thrive in the presence of ketones. As a result, researchers are looking into ketones and ketogenic diets as adjuvant cancer therapy.
- Reduces inflammation: Ketones have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation is a major cause of many diseases.
- Eliminates processed foods: This diet eliminates almost all processed foods, which is always beneficial to overall health.
- Constipation: Because you’ll be eating far fewer carbs than you’re used to while on a keto diet, you’ll also most likely be eating less fiber. This can cause digestive upset like constipation.
- Low energy: Many metabolic changes occur in your body before you can switch to using fat for fuel from glucose. During this time, it’s normal to feel tired, weak, and foggy because your body conserves energy for metabolic processes.
- Nutrient deficiency: Avoiding whole grains, beans, fruits, and many vegetables can result in nutrient deficiencies.
- Short-term side effects: Fatigue, headache, brain fog, and upset stomach, also known as “keto flu,” are common short-term side effects.
- Long-term health risks: Kidney stones, osteoporosis, and liver disease are among long-term health risks. Other risks are unknown because no long-term studies have been conducted.