If you want to decrease your weight, protect your cardiovascular health, reduce your chances of diabetes, and improve your all-around health, one way to do so is to eat a ketogenic (keto) diet.
But if you are a beginner with keto, you might wonder just how low you will need to drop your carbohydrate consumption in order to actually be eating keto.
In this article, I will teach you about the keto carb limit.
But I will also put this in perspective of a looser limit which you can follow for a diet which is low-carb, but not ketogenic.
That way, you have some different options to consider. Let’s get started.
150 Grams of Carbs Per Day: Low-Carb, But Not Keto
First of all, it is important to note that there is a difference between a low-carb diet and a keto diet.
All keto diets are low-carb diets, but not all low-carb diets qualify as keto diets.
Whether a diet is keto or not depends on whether it allows you to reach and maintain the state of ketosis, which you can learn about in the next section.
This requires you to eat a very low-carb diet, rather than just a low-carb diet.
You may achieve additional benefits if you achieve ketosis, but even if you are just eating a low-carb diet, it can still have great benefits for your health.
All you need to do to be eating a low-carb diet is to ensure that you are eating no more than around 150 grams of carbs per day.
You will discover that this actually is not too difficult to accomplish with a bit of forward planning, and still gives you a fair amount of flexibility in your daily diet.
Again, if you are eating 100 or 150 grams of carbs per day, you will not reach ketosis, but you should see vast improvements over a high-carbohydrate diet.
Key Point: If you are eating 150 or fewer grams of carbohydrates per day, you are eating a low-carb diet. But you need to be eating a very low-carb diet to be eating keto.
What is Ketosis?
You probably grew up eating a large amount of carbohydrates everyday as per the “food pyramid.” That means that you are used to fueling your body primarily with glucose.
The reality is that this is not the ideal, healthy way for the human body to function. In actuality, we seem to do better when we are deriving the majority of our fuel from fat.
But our bodies burn carbohydrates first by default when we are eating a lot of them. The only way to switch over to burning fat primarily instead is to limit our carbohydrate intake significantly.
So, when you restrict your carbs sufficiently, your body enters a different metabolic state called “ketosis.”
When you are ketogenic, you are primarily burning fat for fuel instead of glucose.
If you are wondering what is going on inside your body when you enter a ketogenic state, it begins with your insulin levels declining.
This triggers the release of fatty acids, which are oxidized when they reach your liver, resulting in their conversion into ketones.
It is actually these ketones which you burn for fuel.
Key Point: Ketosis is a state where you burn primarily fat for energy rather than glucose. You can only reach it by severely limiting your carbs.
Keto Carb Limit: 50 Grams of Carbs
If you want to reach ketosis, how low do you need to drop your carbohydrate consumption?
150 grams of carbs per day won’t do it, nor will 100.
But around 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day should get you there.
Obviously, this will be more challenging to achieve than a drop to 150. But it something you should be able to ease into and adapt to.
Key Point: If you want to reach ketosis, you can eat no more than 50 grams of carbs on a keto diet.
Should You Aim for Low-Carb or Keto?
If you want to maximize your low-carb diet benefits, you should aim for ketosis.
But if that imposes particular challenges for you to the point where you believe that you will most likely give up, consider aiming for a low-carb diet instead of a keto diet. The best goal is one you can succeed at.
Plus, after you get used to eating a low-carb diet, the idea of transitioning to a fully keto diet may be easier.
Tips and Tricks for Success
- Plan ahead, and you can enjoy the occasional high-carb treat. Allowing yourself the occasional cheat food may help you maintain your discipline by giving you a break. You will just need to make sure everything else you eat on those days contains the absolute minimum of carbs.
- Consider focusing on net carbs. That is total carbs minus fiber. There are different views on which is more important when counting carbs for keto.
- Get lots of electrolytes and water when you start. This will ease your transition into ketosis, making “low-carb flu” less likely or at least less intense.
- Adapt your favorite recipes. Instead of giving up the recipes you love, consider simply adjusting your favorite dishes. Change the proportions of ingredients or replace ingredients which are high in carbs.
- Eat fat and lots of it. If you want to stay full and have lots of energy, eat a diet high in fat. No, this will not cause you to gain weight. Actually, with a high-fat, low-carb diet, you can lose weight more rapidly than you can on a fat-restricted diet.
- Ask for substitutions at restaurants. You can still eat out on a keto diet, but you may need to ask for substitutions for side dishes and skip bread on sandwiches.
50 Grams Per Day is the Keto Carb Limit
Now you know the difference between a low-carb diet and a very-low carb keto diet. If you can drop to 150 grams of carbs per day or lower, you will be on a low-carb diet. You will not be eating a keto diet until you drop to 50 grams of daily carbs or less. Whichever you pursue, you will be making a good decision for your health.