Carbohydrate tolerance varies among individuals. Some people may need to limit themselves to no more than 30 grams of total carbohydrates per day to remain in nutritional ketosis and maintain its benefits; while others may be able to consume more. However, most people with underlying metabolic issues find that they need to maintain a carbohydrate intake below 50 grams per day, especially if they have type 2 diabetes. With diabetes reversal and weight loss over time, many people’s insulin sensitivity improves, and this can open the door to increased carbohydrate tolerance. Thus, to remain in sustained nutritional ketosis you may want to initially consume closer to 30 grams per day; and then while tracking fingerstick blood ketones (the urine test is undependable) explore your personal level of carbohydrate tolerance while maintaining your metabolic health.
What’s the most important thing to do to reach ketosis? Avoid eating too many carbs. You’ll likely need to keep carb intake under 50 grams of net carbs per day, ideally below 20 grams.
The fewer the carbs, the more effective the diet appears to be for reaching ketosis, losing weight or improving type 2 diabetes.
The numbers are grams of net carbs per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), unless otherwise noted.
Also avoid or limit highly processed foods and instead follow our whole foods keto diet advice.
You should also avoid low-fat diet products. A keto diet should be moderately high in protein and will probably be higher in fat, since fat provides the energy you’re no longer getting from carbohydrate. Low-fat products usually provide too many carbs and not enough protein and fat.
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.
In our keto recipes, less than 4 percent of total energy comes from carbs, and the rest will come from protein and fat.
In keto recipes we also keep the protein level moderate. Some may find that protein above this range is converted into glucose enough to raise blood sugar levels.
However, there appears to be a disconnect between potential mechanism and clinical effect seen in published research.
- 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: Although our recipes are arranged by percent calories of carbs, protein and fat, we do not feel you need to calculate these on your own. We provide them as a reference, but practically we recommend you limit your carbs, ensure adequate protein, and adjust fat as needed for satiety and taste. that eliminates the need to constantly calculate “percent macros.”
Fiber and net carbs
Our listed carb counts are the amount of digestible carbs, also called net carbs. This simply means we do not count the fiber.
For example, you can eat nearly all the fiber you want from keto vegetables without seeing a significant sugar or insulin impact.
However, be very careful of of the term “net carbs” on labels of low-carb products, processed foods, protein bars and energy/chocolate bars. Manufacturers often use “net carbs” as a way to disguise sugar alcohols that may slow weight loss and impact blood sugar.