All about Keto Diet

Carbs on Keto: How to Time Your Carbs To Stay in Ketosis

On keto, you’re trying to transition to a fat-burning metabolic state where you burn ketones — rather than glucose — as your body’s primary energy source. To do this, you’ll need to eat large amounts of fat, switch to moderate protein intake, and keep your daily carb intake to an absolute minimum. 

But “cutting carbs” isn’t always as simple as skipping the bread with your salad or choosing a sugar-free sweetener. 

There are many factors that go into how many carbs you can consume daily, and most of them are individual to you and your specific dietary needs. Furthermore, not all carbs are created equal, and it can be tricky to know which ones are a one-way ticket out of ketosis and which ones impart crucial health benefits. 

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How many carbs you should have on keto
  • How to calculate your macros
  • Which Carbs are best
  • Why you still need some carbs on a low-carb diet
  • What 30 grams of carbs look like
  • The best time to consume carbs
  • The importance of testing ketones

How Many Carbs Should You Have On Keto?

To enter ketosis, you need the right ratio of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Which leads to a common question: Just how many carbs on keto should you eat? 

In a Standard American Diet (SAD), you might eat between 100-150 carbs per day and still be considered low-carb. Unfortunately, this won’t transition your body into a fat-burning state of ketosis. On the keto diet, your carb count will be far lower, often between 25-50 grams of carbs per day. 

How To Calculate Your Macros

When following a keto diet,  most people consume 70-75% of their daily calories from fat, 20-25% of calories from protein and just 5-10% of calories from net carbs. That’s a ballpark range — your individual macronutrient goals will vary depending upon your age, body composition, activity level, and any fat loss goals you may have. 

How to Calculate Your Carb Intake 

To understand your daily carb allotment, take the above percentages, and translate them into grams (something far more useful when scanning those nutrition labels). 

For example, if you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day and aim to get just 10% of your calories from carbs, you’ll multiply 2,000 by .10 to get 200 calories per day. Since one gram of carbs is equal to four calories, you’ll then take 200 divided by 4 to get 50 grams of net carbs per day[*].

How to Calculate Your Protein Intake

Protein is very beneficial to your body, providing amino acids to help gain muscle mass and burn body fat[*]. On keto, roughly 20-25% of your calories will come from protein. While you may need more protein if you’re an extremely active person, too much protein may cause gluconeogenesis (glucose formation), although you would really have to push it. 

Depending on activity level, most people consume between .6–1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. For example, a female may weigh 150 lbs but have just 112.5 pounds of lean body mass. For her, 90–112.5 grams of protein per day would be suitable. 

How to Calculate Your Fat Intake 

One of the main mistakes you can make on keto is not eating enough fat. For the longest time, nutritionists declared that fat, particularly saturated fat, was bad, which led to the low-fat craze of the 1980s and 1990s. 

LAST CHANCE DEAL

Pumpkin Spice Bars

Shop Now

However, this science has since been debunked, lacking any significant data showing a connection between a high-fat diet and an increased risk of heart disease[*].

After you calculate your protein and total carbs, your remaining calories of the day will come from fat sources. As stated earlier, this is typically 70-75% of your total calories of the day.

To give you an idea, 70% of 2,000 calories is 1,400 calories. If you divide 1,400 by 9 (since one gram of fat equals 9 calories), you get 155.56 grams of fat per day. 

Keto Macro Calculator: Know Exactly How Many Carbs on Keto You Should Eat 

Admittedly, these percentages alone aren’t the best guide. Your macro guidelines will vary depending on your body type and weight loss goals. 

To calculate your individual macro needs, use the Perfect Keto Calculator. This keto calculator takes a number of variables into account, including weight, gender, height, activity level, BMR, and body fat percentage. 

Your Keto Carb Limit: Which Carbs Are Best?

If you’re eating just 25-50 grams of carbs per day, you’ll want to make those carbs count.

Carbohydrates include sugar, starch, and dietary fiber[*]. Foods rich in carbs include dairy products, grains such as bread, white rice, quinoa, and starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes and green, leafy vegetables. 

When it comes to good carbs and bad carbs, keto takes a different approach than most nutritionists. The Standard American Diet (SAD) encourages people to eat complex carbohydrates, such as those found in lentils, beans, brown rice, whole grains, and starchy vegetables[*]. 

They tell people to veer away from simple sugars (or “bad carbs”) found in white rice, white bread, and processed snack foods, as most of the nutrition has been stripped away.

Most foods considered “healthy carbs” by USDA dietetics are eliminated on keto, as they spike your insulin levels (thereby kicking you out of a ketogenic state). 

A keto meal plan consists of carbs that rank low on the glycemic index — a tool measuring how much a particular food raises blood sugar levels[*]. 

On keto, you’ll consume whole foods that rank very low on the glycemic index (and have very low net carb counts), including green, leafy veggies, healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and MCT oil, and high-quality protein. 

Fiber: Why You Do Need Some Carbs On Keto

Most of the delicious food held in high regard on a keto diet — i.e., butter, cheese, animal meat, coconut oil, etc. — lacks any dietary fiber.

Fiber is a type of carb that your body doesn’t fully digest. It mainly comes from plant sources like veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds.

Unfortunately, most of the fiber in the typical Western diet comes from refined carbs like bread and pasta, which are off-limits on keto.

Women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine[*].

Yet the average American only consumes around 16 grams of fiber per day (18 and 15 grams per day for males and females, respectively[*]).

It’s not the most glamorous job, but fiber is amazing for your body because it:

  • Promotes a feeling of fullness, so you consume fewer calories during your meal or snacks. Soluble fiber turns into a gel-like consistency inside your body, which helps slow digestion. This long-lasting satiety makes it easier to go longer between meals without feeling ravenous.
  • It helps move your digestion along and relieves symptoms of IBS. Constipation is usually caused by a lack of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber moves along your digestive tract, grabs water from your intestines to add weight to your waste material, and helps it ease its way through your system.
  • It keeps your GI healthy. Adding more fiber to your diet reduces your risks of developing hemorrhoids, acid reflux, gallstones, and kidney stones[*].
  • Lowers your blood sugar and reduces the risks of developing type 2 diabetes. Eating fiber with your meals and snacks slows down the rate your body absorbs the sugars from your foods. Fewer spikes may translate into greater insulin sensitivity[*].
  • It decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Your risks of having high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, or a heart attack decrease the more dietary fiber is in your diet[*].
  • Lessen your risk of having a stroke. Scientists discovered that for every 7g of fiber, you add to your daily menu reduces your stroke risk by 7%[*].

So fiber’s a rock star to your body and generally can’t do anything wrong.

But how are you supposed to get fiber when you’re keto?

Doesn’t fiber usually come from high-carb foods like oatmeal, bread, and prepackaged bars full of sugar?

Yes and no.

Fiber is subtracted from your total daily carbs since your body cannot absorb or process it. This lessens the effect of high-carb foods, so they’re not a total shock to your system.

For example, a cup of broccoli may have around six total carbs. But half of those carbs may come strictly from fiber.

The net carb count is the difference between the total carbs and the fiber count.

So that broccoli carb impact goes from six grams to just three carbs when you subtract the fiber.

Most people experience all the benefits of a ketogenic diet (i.e., fat loss, greater energy, more focus, less hunger, etc.) by simply limiting their net carbs to 20–50g per day.

This carb spread varies widely depending on if you want to lose excess body fat, maintain your current weight, or build muscle.

Once you do some soul-searching to find your answer, you’ll need to determine your ideal carb intake range to accomplish your goal.

This act will then set you up perfectly so you’ll be able to time your carb intake with your activity levels and optimize your carbs like a pro.

What Does 30 Grams of Carbs Look Like?

As stated earlier, most keto dieters consume between 25-50 grams of carbs per day when following a 2,000-calorie diet. For most people, the average seems to be 30 grams of net carbs per day. But what do 30 grams of carbs actually look like?

Below, you’ll find examples of how to hit your 30-gram carb limit on keto — both in healthy and not-so-healthy ways.

Fruits 

On keto, always choose fruits that are low in sugar. This means selecting low-carb foods like berries and avocado (yes, it’s a fruit), and avoiding high-sugar fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas. 

If you’re wondering why you should do this, simply look at the serving size of the fruits below. You’ll get more bang for your buck by eating handfuls of berries than you would from eating a small banana.

Blueberries

Blueberries.jpg

Serving: 1.45 cups

Fiber: 5g

Net carbs: 25g

Strawberries

Strawberries.jpg

Serving: 2.75 cups

Fiber: 5g

Net carbs: 25g

Banana

Banana.jpg

Serving: 1 medium banana (5.5 oz.)

Fiber: 3g

Net carbs: 27g

Kiwi

Kiwi.jpg

Serving: 14 oz.

Fiber: 8g

Net carbs: 22g

Apple

Apple.jpg

Serving: 7.5 oz.

Fiber: 7g

Net carbs: 23g

Grapefruit

Grapefruit.jpg

Serving: 2 medium grapefruits (1 cup)

Fiber: 4g

Net carbs: 26g

Tomato

Tomato.jpg

Serving: 28 oz.

Fiber: 8g

Net carbs: 22g

Vegetables

Keto-friendly vegetables include leafy green vegetables such as kale, lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus. Meanwhile, you’ll want to avoid starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. 

Kale

Kale.jpg

Serving: 12 oz.

Fiber: 12g

Net carbs: 18g

Carrots

Carrots.jpg

Serving:  11 oz.

Fiber: 8g

Net carbs: 22g

Cucumbers

Cucumbers.jpg

Serving: 30 oz.

Fiber: 4g

Net carbs: 26g

Red onion

Red Onion.jpg

Serving: 8 oz.

Fiber: 4g

Net carbs: 26g

Red pepper

Red pepper.jpg

Serving: 33 oz.

Fiber: 11g

Net carbs: 19g

Zucchini

Zucchini.jpg

Serving: 35 oz.

Fiber: 10g

Net carbs: 20g

Cauliflower or broccoli

Cauliflower or broccoli.jpg

Serving: 5.75 cups (20.5 oz.)

Fiber: 14g

Net carbs: 16g

Sweet potato

Sweet potato.jpg

Serving: 120g (4.28 oz.)

Fiber: 4g

Net carbs: 26g

Fats 

Many times, a whole food will contain a mixture of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It’s important to take note of foods not classified as carbs that still contain traces of carbs in them. These foods include nuts, seeds, vegetables, and dairy products. And there’s a few pre-made keto snacks in here to give you some more options.

Perfect Keto Cookies

Perfect Keto Cookies.jpg

Perfect Keto Cookies come in multiple flavors and contain just 4 grams of net carbs per serving. Here’s a breakdown of the chocolate chip flavor:

Each two-cookie serving of Keto Cookies clocks in:

  • Calories: 200
  • Total Fat: 18 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 6 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Total Carbohydrates: 18 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 4 grams
  • Erythritol: 5 grams
  • Allulose: 5 grams
  • Net Carbs: 4 grams

Perfect Keto Cookies deliver 18 grams of healthy fats and more protein (6 grams) than many other pre-made cookies you’ll find in stores. Add a couple of these if your carb count can handle it and enjoy a sweet treat that won’t kick you out of ketosis.

Avocado

Avocado.jpg

Serving: 12.5 oz. (2 large avocados)

Fiber: 24g

Net carbs: 6g

Notes: Two of these have only 6 grams of non-fibrous carbs.

Walnuts

Walnuts.jpg

Serving:  8 oz.

Fiber: 16g

Net carbs: 14g

Pecans

Pecans.jpg

Serving: 7.5 oz.

Fiber: 14g

Net carbs: 16g

Notes: This serving also has 1500 calories – don’t ignore calories especially if your goal is weight loss.

Cashews

Cashews.jpg

Serving: 3.75 oz.

Fiber: 4g

Net carbs: 26g

Full-fat yogurt

Full-fat yogurt.jpg

Serving: 26 oz. (4 containers)

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

Grains and Sugars

You won’t find any grains or empty sugars on a keto diet plan, mainly because they rank so high on the glycemic index. Below, you’ll see that grains, candy, soda, and other high-sugar foods will quickly eat up your carb intake for the day.

Whole wheat bread

Whole wheat bread.jpg

Serving: 1.8 slices

Fiber: 6g

Net carbs: 24g

Starbucks coffee drink

Starbucks coffee drink.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

Odwalla juice smoothie

Odwalla juice smoothie.jpg

Fiber: 2g

Net carbs: 28g

Red Bull

Red Bull.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

Notes: Four sips and you’re at your 30 grams per day quota

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

Gluten-free tortilla chips

Gluten-free tortilla chips.jpg

Serving: 42g (1.5 oz)

Fiber: 1g

Net carbs: 29g

Harvest Snaps snack

Harvest Snaps snack.jpg

Serving: 42g (1.5 oz)

Fiber: 1g

Net carbs: 29g

Snickers candy bar

Snickers candy bar.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

M&M’s

M&M’s.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 30g

Cheerios

Cheerios.jpg

Fiber: 2g

Net carbs: 28g

Kind bar

Kind bar.jpg

Fiber: 2g

Net carbs: 28g

Gummy bears

Gummy bears.jpg

Fiber: 0g

Net carbs: 28g

When Is The Best Time To Consume Carbs On Keto?

Your type of keto diet determines both the amount of carbs you should eat, as well as when you should eat them.

Depending on your activity levels and body goals, you may need to skip the pre- and post-workout carbs.

While studies have always shown that skipping carbs before a workout leads to dire consequences like not having enough energy to make it through your run, remember that most of these trials have not been done on keto-adapted participants yet.

Sure, limiting your body’s usual source of energy will result in sluggish workouts. But if you’re in ketosis and you’ve replaced that sugary energy source with fat and ketones, you may be a step ahead of the yogis in your bikram class.

There are three main types of ketogenic diets you can follow:

  • Standard Keto Diet (SKD) is the easiest because you don’t have to time when you’re going to eat carbs. This works best for the majority of people because it’s closest to a “normal” diet.
  • Targeted Keto Diet (TKD) times eating carbs around your workouts so you get the best of both worlds to perform intense exercises on quick-burning carb energy in addition to your ketone fuel.
  • Cyclic Keto Diet (CKD) is the most drastic; used only by advanced, elite athletes, you’ll cycle through both high-carb and low-carb days in the same week depending on your workouts.

Let’s discuss each of these in detail so you have a better idea of how this carb timing really works.

When to Eat Carbs on a Standard Keto Diet

The most common and beneficial type of keto diet for most people, SKD has a dietary macro breakdown of:

  • Fats: 70–80% of your calories
  • Protein: 20–25%
  • Carbs: 5–10%

You’ll strive to keep your daily net carbs in the 20–50g range (depending on your specific needs).

Eat most of your carbs in the afternoon and evening. Contrary to what most people believe, there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea of carbing up heavy in the AM and working off these carbs throughout the day.

In fact, there are loads of studies to prove that eating carbs in the morning actually sets up your body for a neverending carb cycle of cravings and crashes. You can thank your body’s hormones for this.

See, sleeping puts your body into a fasted state overnight, which causes glucose and insulin to both rise in your system. As a result, your blood sugar and insulin levels are highest in the AM[*]. 

When your insulin levels are elevated, it’s almost impossible for your body to use the carbs you eat. Insulin, as its job as a storage hormone dictates, tucks away the energy from your breakfast and prevents you from burning these carbs for fuel.

When insulin levels normalize later in the day, blood sugar levels decrease and fat burning becomes possible again.

Your hormones also need to adjust according to the time of day.

Cortisol levels are highest in the morning too. Known as the cortisol awakening response, this stress hormone can increase as much as 38–75% as part of your body’s circadian rhythm, or your natural sleep/wake cycle[*].

Though cortisol helps your body get out of bed, it doesn’t play nice with insulin, which as we just discussed, is also super high in the AM.

Cortisol may not only enhance insulin’s ability to store fat, it may also create new fat cells in the process[*].

Like insulin, your cortisol levels will stabilize during the day and reach their lowest in the afternoon and evening as part of your body’s cycle to wind down.

TL;DR: Eat most of your carbs in the late afternoon or evening if you want to lose fat.

When 78 police officers followed a standard diet or one that required them to eat most of their carbs at dinnertime for six months, researchers noticed those saving their carbs for later had[*]:

  • Lower appetites
  • Greater weight loss
  • Better fasting glucose levels
  • Smaller abdominal circumference
  • Lower body fat mass
  • Improved leptin levels (which is the hormone that controls satiety)

Skip the pre- and post-workout carbs if you want to lose weight. Chances are you already have enough fat tissue to supply your body with energy for light physical exercise like yoga, walking, aerobics, dancing, swimming, gardening, etc. before and after your sweat sesh.

Add more carbs pre-or post-workout if you’re doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or similar high-energy activity more than three times per week. The SKD macro breakdown will leave you a little slower than you’d like and may affect your muscle recovery post-workout if you’re super active.

Listen to your body and add a few more carbs to the front or back end of your workout (depending on where you need them most).

But if you’re an endurance athlete or bodybuilder, this may still not be enough.

Time Your Carb Intakes Around Your Workouts with a Targeted Keto Diet

While a vast segment of the keto population won’t need pre-or post-workout carbs, if you’re an intense CrossFit devotee or take your lifting to 11, having a few extra carbs in your diet will help you become more explosive and give you sustained strength, energy and muscle recovery.

Meet the targeted ketogenic diet.

Here, your SKD macros won’t change; you’ll just eat most of your daily carbs around your workouts or between 30 and 60 minutes before your warm-up or after your routine.

Your pre-workout carb “boost” will give your muscles all the quick energy they need to slay leg day and your post-workout carbs will ensure full recovery when you’re done.

Since these carbs will get torched during your training and recovery, they’ll never have a chance to be stored. You also won’t be out of ketosis for too long (and you can get back in quicker).

Now, if building your physique one muscle group at a time is on your agenda, let’s talk advanced carb cycling next.

Cyclic Keto Diet for Bodybuilders and Pro Athletes

It’s a common myth that you must eat carbs to gain muscle. So if you’re looking to get ripped, you may be hesitant to start a keto diet and risk “losing” muscle in carb withdrawal.

But you can gain muscle on a keto diet — it may just happen slower than you’re used to.

On the bright side, you have less chance of gaining body fat and a higher likelihood of gaining pure muscle mass if you take the time and effort to follow the keto route.

CKD is the most advanced type of keto diet and delivers the highest muscle growth and long-lasting performance. It’s typically used by bodybuilders and elite athletes who pay meticulous attention to their diet and watch every aspect of their workouts.

Why so serious?

Because CKD alternates strict keto days with serious carb-loading days in the same week.

On a standard keto day, you’ll consume around 50g of carbs timed around your workouts. Pretty normal, right?

Yet when you’re on a high-carb day, which usually lasts anywhere from 24–48 hours, you’ll bump your daily intake to 450–600g of carbs (depending on your body type and goals).

Now things get complicated.

CKD will maximize your fat loss and lean muscle building, but it’s playing with fire if you’re not burning those carbs immediately via intense, grueling workouts.

Since it’s so easy to go overboard with your carbs on CKD, your body will need to actively use all of them if you don’t want to gain weight.

It should go without saying, but don’t try to use CKD as an excuse to “keto fast,” and then binge eat carbs for cheat days when you feel like it.

You shouldn’t attempt CKD if you’re new to keto. You should be lean without much fat mass to lose and unbelievably active. Think: high-performance individuals with teams of nutritionists, trainers, and coaches.

Testing Ketones: The Final Frontier 

With all the information provided, you still may not be able to hit the spot right on the mark with your individual carbohydrate needs — that’s where testing your ketones comes in. When you test your ketones, you can get real-time information about what types of carbs and how many you can consume to keep you in a ketogenic state. 

Check out this guide for testing ketone levels to learn more. 

While the Perfect Keto Macro Calculator is an incredibly accurate estimate, it’s still an estimate. Remember: The goal of the keto diet is to enter ketosis. 

Even if you’re losing bodyweight, feeling great, and seeing improvements in your body composition, there’s a chance you might not be in ketosis. The only way to know if your current diet is reaching your goals is to test your ketone levels.

323 Shares

323 Shares