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Should I Count Total Carbs or Net Carbs on the Keto Diet?

The Big Mistake You Could Be Making When Counting Carbs on the Keto Diet

Photographer: Maria del RioEditorial and internal use approved. OK for Native and co-branded use.Photographer: Maria del RioInternal and Editorial use approved. OK for Native and Co-Branded use.

If you're familiar with the keto diet, then you know it's all about counting carbs. The diet, which burns fat by putting your body into a state of ketosis, works by increasing your fat intake and limiting your carb intake so your body moves from burning carbs for fuel to burning your fat stores.

The key to getting into ketosis is limiting the number of carbs you eat a day. Although this number varies from person to person, it's typically less than 50 grams of carbs a day. That may seem simple enough, but counting carbs can get confusing. The macronutrient group is comprised of sugars and fibres, both of which affect your blood sugar differently.

"The key to achieving and maintaining nutritional ketosis is to keep your blood insulin level low," Steve Phinney, MD, PhD, chief medical officer at Virta Health, told POPSUGAR. "Dietary carbohydrates, and to some degree protein, are the stimuli for insulin." That's why it's important to keep the macronutrient breakdown in favour of fats over protein and carbs: about 70 to 80 percent fat, 15 to 20 percent protein, and five to 10 percent carbs.

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But for your carb intake, should you calculate total carbs or net carbs, which is the number of total carbs minus fibre minus half the carbs from sugar alcohols (other than erythritol)?

Dr. Phinney explained that while some proponents of the keto diet argue not to count soluble fibre as part of your daily carb intake, which is one way to calculate net carbs, a well-formulated ketogenic diet doesn't have enough soluble fibre to make much of a difference.

"The only instance where net carbs substantially change one's range of dietary choices is with manufactured foods containing refined soluble fibre or sugar alcohols," he said. "And since these manufactured foods, eaten more often than occasionally ,can have significant intestinal side effects, this category should not be a significant contributor to one's total carbohydrate intake."

So when it comes to tallying up your carbs for the keto diet, you're better off sticking to total carbs to ensure your body is in ketosis — the fat-burning state that garners serious results.

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