A keto diet is a very strict low-carb diet, containing less than 20 grams of net carbs per day
ow many carbs can you have on keto? You may have heard 20 grams as the go-to number for achieving ketosis, but as it turns out the ideal carb intake can look different for everyone. Your exact need is more closely related to your overall calorie goal, body weight, metabolic efficiency, and activity level. Meaning, you may be able to eat more or less than you think!
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?
Your Keto Diet Calories
Knowing your daily calorie needs is not only crucial for your ability to lose weight on keto but can also help you quickly estimate your keto macro ratio.
Typically, the more calories you can eat, the more carbohydrates you can eat – and vice versa. And your calorie needs are most strongly tied to your body weight and activity level – the more you weigh and the more you move, the more energy you need to fuel your body.
For a standard ketogenic meal plan, carbs should make up less than 5% of your energy intake. From this, you can quickly estimate grams by dividing carb calories by 4 (since there are four calories in each gram of carbohydrate).
So if you need 1,200 calories a day, your carbohydrate threshold would be 60 calories from carbs or 15 grams of carbs a day. And for someone who eats 2,500 calories a day, that number would increase to 125 carb calories or 31 grams per day.
Supporting Your Fitness Needs
In addition to using your daily calorie goal, how active you are and the level of intensity you train at can impact your ability to utilize carbs efficiently.
Burning fat for fuel yields an increase in ketones – an efficient energy source that can replace sugars for nearly all of your daily needs. However, ketone bodies likely don’t support high-intensity training and explosive movements the same way glucose (primarily form carbs) does.
Thus, if you are working out at higher intensities, regularly, you may be able to increase your carb intake a bit around your workouts without messing with your keto diet.
Your Metabolic Efficiency
Most of us burn a combination of fat and sugar for energy on a regular basis – regardless of which diet plan we are following. Yes, going keto can help you prioritize fat for fuel over everything else, but it’s not the only way to become good at burning fat.
Your diet history is the largest factor in determining how well you can utilize different energy sources. If you lived on high carb foods for a while now, you might find it more of a dramatic shift to ketones – this is mainly because your body has been used to quick access to sugars for so long and you’ll need to cut back significantly.
While on the flip side, if you’ve traditionally eaten moderately to lower carb before going keto, you may find it easier to make the jump.
It is also crucial to mention this may look different for type 2 diabetics. While low carb diets and a ketogenic diet are thought to have favorable health benefits for those with diabetes, it is still highly recommended that you speak with your physician or a registered dietitian before trying keto.