The Keto diet is widely known as a popular low-carb diet, but how low is low-carb exactly? How many carbs should you have on the Keto diet to ensure success? And why bother counting carbs anyway?
To help you fully understand if a ketogenic diet is right for you, we’ve produced the following comprehensive guide, answering all of the above questions and breaking down everything you need to know about carb consumption for Keto.
So how many carbs can you have on keto? Keep reading to find out.
Table of Contents
What Role do Carbs Play in a Keto Diet?
Carbohydrates are one of three essential macronutrients we need in our diet.
Along with helping us to feel fully satiated, maintain a healthy weight, and stay regular, carbs’ primary purpose is to provide our body with energy.
The sugars and starches in the carbs we eat get broken down and converted into another form of sugar known as glucose.
This glucose is circulated through the blood to give us the energy we need each day.
The problem with this approach to energy generation is that it may not do us any favors when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
Fat vs. Carbs
Although carbs are important, they’re not the only food source we consume.
Depending on our day-to-day diet, we likely consume fats, some of which are healthy for us and others, well, not so much.
The body is also capable of using fat for energy, but since we usually get enough carbs, it rarely -if ever- needs to.
As such, the fat we consume simply gets stored in our bodies as a kind of just-in-case reserve fuel supply.
The more fat stored in our bodies, the more this can negatively affect our weight and physical figure.
This is where Ketosis comes in.
When you go on the Keto diet, you restrict your intake of carbohydrates so that the body can no longer rely on them as an energy source and has to rely on that reserved store of fat.
Your liver converts fat into Ketones, chemicals sent into your bloodstream to be used for energy. When your body does this, we say that you’re in Ketosis.
By burning fat instead of carbs, you start to lose pounds and, providing you stick with it, begin marching towards your goal weight at a reasonably rapid rate.
How Many Carbs Can You Have on Keto?
So, we understand why we benefit from limiting our carbs, but we still need to figure out how many carbs you need on your Keto diet.
The golden rule is that, on a standard ketogenic diet (SKG), carbohydrates should make up no more than 10% of the food you consume daily, with the other 90% coming from healthy fats and protein.
Medical experts recommend that women consume between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day to maintain their current weight, while men should consume between 2,500 and 2,800 to achieve the same result.
Using those figures, you should limit your carbohydrates to 20 – 50 grams per day, depending on your actual calorie intake.
However, that’s quite a wide range and may not be helpful if you want to know the precise amount of carbs to include in your Keto diet.
Why Carb Intake Can Vary from Person to Person
The truth is that any number of factors, including your age, gender, weight loss goals, and even your average level of activity, can all play a part in figuring out your daily carbohydrate limits.
For example, if you work an active job such as a landscape gardener or retail store worker. Then you come home and hit the gym for a workout. You will need more carbohydrates than if you work at a desk all day and lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
Likewise, if your goal is to lose 50 lbs, then you might be much stricter with your carb intake than you would be if you only wanted to lose 10 lbs.
How to Calculate How Many Carbs You Need for Your Keto Diet
To determine your own carbohydrate intake, you can use a two-part formula.
To start, you need to calculate the daily calories you need based on your age, sex, height, weight, and activity level (active vs. sedentary).
Using this number, you can then work out how many carbs you need.
For example, let’s use a standard 2,000-calorie Keto diet limited to 20% carbs.
There are around four calories in a gram, so you need about 100 calories in your daily diet, which is 25 grams.
Carb Intake Guidelines for Keto
Using the same formula described above, we’ve noted all the most common calorie intake recommendations and how many grams of carbohydrates this translates to:
|Daily Calorie Intake||Carbs Required (or less)|
|Less than 2,000||20 grams|
|3,000+||35 grams – 50 grams*|
An Easier Way to Calculate Your Keto Carbs
If all that math was as much of a headache for you to read as it was for us to write, you might be relieved to hear that you can make things much easier by using a Keto calculator.
These popular and beginner-friendly tools take care of both parts of the formula, helping you to calculate your daily required calories and then using that number to determine precisely how many grams of carbohydrates you should eat.
Why Choose a Low-Carb Diet?
As much as we love the Keto diet, even we have to admit that calculating your carbs can seem like a hassle when you first get started.
So why go to all that trouble?
The simple answer is that a ketogenic diet consistently proves to be an effective way to lose weight and lower cholesterol.
Keto has also been beneficial for those living with diabetes, with one study showing that a three-week ketogenic diet could improve levels of HbA1c, which is a measure of the body’s long-term blood sugar control).
Finally, among the many benefits of Keto is that it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be particularly helpful in treating neurological disorders.
Keto Diet Carb Consumption: Key Takeaways and Summary
If you came to this guide with any of the questions we posed at the beginning, we hope you’ve found all the answers you’re looking for.
By now, you know that you need to reduce your carbs in the first place to create a state called ketosis, through which your body burns fat for fuel.
You know that the number of grams of carbohydrates you need to eat is determined by your recommended daily calorie intake, which is ultimately determined by your age, sex, body size, and lifestyle. You even know how to calculate all those factors to come up with your recommended carb intake for a keto diet.
However, you may not yet know the best sources to get those carbs from. If that’s the case, check out our guide on what to eat on a Keto diet to help you get started.