How low carb is a keto diet?
A keto diet is a very strict low-carb diet, containing less than 20 grams of net carbs per day.
Here are three examples of low-carb meals, based on how many carbs you aim to eat in a day. Note that only the left plate is reliably ketogenic:
We recommend starting out by following the dietary advice as strictly as you can. When you’re happy with your weight and health, you could carefully try eating a few more carbs (if you want to). Learn more
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Here’s our leaflet with basic keto advice. Print it out, put it on your fridge, or give it to your curious friends:
Carb Limits for Keto Beginners
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 weightloss or general health benefits. To learn more about the difference between total carbs and net carbs, see below or read more here.
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 dietand 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
How to Test Your Carb Limit
Once you’ve been steadily in ketosis for three months, you’re in a good position to test your carb edge, i.e. figure out whether you can tolerate more net carbs each day yet still stay inketosis.
So that you don’t kick yourself out of ketosis or, if you do, you can recover quickly, it’s important to test your carb limit methodically. The best way to do this is to gradually increase your net carbs, test your ketones and glucose with your Keto-Mojo blood-glucose testing meter along the way, and stop when your test results come too close to pushing you outside of your optimal ketosis range.