Are low, but not low enough, carbs even worse?

(Robert C) #12

Ketosis doesn’t work that way - simply by grams per day.

It is easy to be in ketosis if 80 grams of carbs went down 60 at breakfast, 20 and lunch and a steak for dinner.
You’d be in ketosis from late afternoon / evening until the next day’s breakfast (12 to 16 hours - and it would be beneficial).

The 40 grams you are talking about is ketosis 24 hours a day - but more than half the day of fat burning on 80 grams a day is good too.

Moving to SAD would be BAD - that includes snacking constantly until your head hits the pillow and keeping yourself out of ketosis 24 hours a day.

(Dirty Lazy Keto'er, Sucralose freak ;)) #13

Okay, thank you. It sounds like you have done this long enough to know what works best for you.
While I believe I can stay in ketosis at 40’ish gm’s per day, I also believe that I get big benefits, especially staying satiated, if eating low enough to stay in ketosis… Permanently :slightly_smiling_face:

(Dirty Lazy Keto'er, Sucralose freak ;)) #14

Well I was just generalizing to make a point…

(Robert C) #15

Right - but the real point is 80 is much better than SAD.

(squirrel-kissing paper tamer) #16

I think if someone is living off of fast food, chips, cola and microwave burritos then even keeping the carb count the same but switching to veg, meat and water would make a HUGE difference. I think some people need to do it in a few jumps, like Shinita said. If your diet is horrible and you are told you have to not only switch but also stay below 20 g a day or you aren’t doing it right, I can see how people may throw their hands up and quit.

(Susan) #17

I think the dangerous part of all this is once people have achieved their goal weight and are in Maintenance they can get a bit careless with keeping track or not really thinking that they are going over as much as they might be because they stop tracking so they end up not weighing as much or at all either. Before they know it, they notice their clothes are getting tight, and they are getting some of the SAD diet symptoms back (achy joints, headaches, hunger all the time, etc. that many of us had pre-keto) and so they weigh themselves and are like “eek I have gained X number of pounds! how did that happen?” -then they come back here and are like " have to get back on track" --in the time I have been here, I have seen this a number of times.

I am wayyyy far away from my goal and Maintenance, but I know for sure that I will be tracking/weighing all the time even when I am at Maintenance and forever and watching myself like a hawk always and only deviating from the strict plan on special occasions for that one meal,etc because I am working so hard and I am never going back to where I was before starting. I will continue as long as this takes then stay Keto for life, with keeping track =).

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #18

I think I should elaborate on my original response above as to why exactly I think keto is better than what I call ‘lower’ and ‘low’ carb. Even Amy Berger, who is one of my go-to references, does not talk about this in the linked article. That is: β-Hydroxybutyrate . The more scientists examine this ketone, which is simply the reduced form of acetoacetate, the more good things they discover about how it works and what it does that benefits our metabolism and overall health. You only get it in ketosis and you will benefit from being bathed in it internally rather than not. While it’s beneficial to reduce carbs you enter a new category of beneficial when β-Hydroxybutyrate is present in significant amounts. That is only possible in ketosis.

(Robert C) #19

and there is this (from today) - much more than fat loss…:

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #20

Here’s the link to the paper DeLauer mentions:

(Ken) #21

Low Carb is a subjective term. Someone eating say 200 g of carbs per Day is different than someone eating those same 1400 g of carbs spread over one or two days per week. They result in two drastically different hormonal secretion patterns within the context of the same time period.

(Jane) #22

If you want the benefits of ketosis then you need to go low carb enough to start producing ketones s as s then stick to it long enough to use them efficiently. Whether it is 20, 40 or 100 depends on the person but can be verified with a ketone meter.

I also agree with the others that lower carbs are better and it depends on your goals. I could never convince my 85-yo Dad to eat a keto diet but his doctor was concerned about his A1C creeping up even taking medication (not insulin) so he asked my Dad to keep his carbs under 100 and no sugar or refined carbs.

He is not in ketosis but it improved his health and his A1C dropped back into the normal range. So also depends on your goals with keto or lower carbs

(Jack Bennett) #23

I first lost weight in recent years (2016-2017) with a lower carb plan. I wasn’t counting macros but it was not explicitly ketogenic either. It was probably what you would call a conventional LCHF plan - 100-150g of carb. (I cut dairy but ate more starchy vegetables and roots.)

I used IF also but found it hard to fast more than 16-18 hours. I also found the promises of Bulletproof coffee not quite true - 4-5 hours of reduced appetite rather than 6+.

I have found it easier to fast longer and more regularly when I cut carbs lower, into more of the ketogenic range. These seem to be mutually sustaining practices:

  • less carb makes it easier to fast, and

  • developing the ability and habit of fasting makes it easier to steer away from carb-heavy foods and less likely that you’ll have uncontrolled carb cravings.


My thoughts are many people are satiated on around 100-150 g per day. Without a poll tho……lol…just a guess on it :slight_smile: But there are many who don’t go into overload on carbs per day. Do they get a ketogenic benefit, no but they are doing ok.

They don’t believe, they are getting true benefits in the different amt. eaten. It is true that 150g of carbs is definitely helping them instead of ingesting 400g.

I think many people need to walk down the carb ladder. It is their personal journey. In that many start to cut carbs slowly. Might have to just stay there a while then maybe one day tackle a bit lower carb. Some people need to do it this way til one day they land in very low carb keto land.

I think it is their understanding of what keto is also. I know people hear ‘Keto’ out there but do they truly know what the heck Keto really is and all the importance of it?

Worse is when people walk into a ‘plan’ like ketogenic and all they know is their carbs are cut so severely they go bonkers, lol, they don’t know why they feel certain ways, they just know they are being deprived, they don’t understand the physical body science of it and how carbs are not good for the body and more. I think that back story is very important for anyone going down the carb ladder…at least then they are informed of why they are heading in that direction with solid science behind it.

Everyone thinks so different, especially in the nutrition field, that I think some go radical quickly and learn all they can and find their spot faster than someone who just doesn’t put in the effort to understand why they are doing what they are doing and those might just put in a lower effort for a try at keto and just never ‘get it’. Just some thoughts on it.

I am carnivore. Give me back 150 carbs I would be satiated and have one hell of a great day each and every day. LOL But it won’t happen ever for me cause I know what those carbs do to ya and I don’t want them.

This is an interesting chat. Like it!


I’d probably go the opposite route, 150g for a “normal” person is pretty damn low. Most people with some level of activity could still see huge benefits to half their carb intake around half of the normal intake. Given that most of the carbs people binge one aren’t the good ones by default that’s a pretty drastic reduction in a lot of the damage they cause. With that said, where people are on the spectrum as far as not enough carbs to be powered by them, but not enough fat to run off that is a pretty wide net. I can swing around 100g/day and not have any real effect as far as average ketones or how I feel. I’m not THAT active but lift most days and do cardio a couple as well. Just the way I am. A couple years ago and once I started passing 30g mark I’d start to notice it now I can’t even notice a difference if I eat Pizza and fries. A year or so ago I hopped on the metabolic flexibility wagon and started working towards that, I feel that’s the true state of health for our metabolisms.

(Jack Bennett) #26

I agree with that - there is a big benefit from going from 300-400g down to 1/2 or 1/3 of that, and from cutting out sugar, wheat and other refined carbs.

Moving away from SAD to Paleo/Whole30 style of eating has helped a lot of people lose weight and heal metabolic disease.

(Bob M) #27

I find I crave a slightly higher amount of carbs sometimes. For instance, yesterday, I bought Giardiniera (hot, pickled cauliflower, olives, carrots, celery) and had some last night. I also bought red onion, jalapenos, and fresh salsa. I’ll eat these today for “lunch” (with eggs, cheese, ham) (where lunch = my first meal). These will up my carb count.

I have CGM data indicating this type of meal causes me zero blood sugar rise.

On the other hand, this also causes instant allergic symptoms (nose gets clogged/runny, etc.). So, I try to do this only when I feel I need a carb boost, and I’ll be back to mainly meat this weekend.

In my 6 year low carb/keto journey, I’ve tried paleo/primal. The issue I have with paleo is sweet potatoes and the like are rough both on blood sugar and on digestion. The more I go toward just eating animal products, the more I realize how affected I am by some (but not all) plants: anything spicy, zucchini, raw sauerkraut, bell peppers if not cooked enough, sweet potatoes, these all cause me issues. On the other hand, spaghetti squash, cooked sauerkraut, very well cooked bell peppers, and other plants don’t seem to cause any issues. It’s like dairy for me: for the dairy I eat, I cannot tell any issues.

So, I vacillate between higher carbs sometimes (particularly if I spend a ton of time working on house projects, running up and down three flights of stairs all day) and very low carb, nearly carnivore most other times.

(It's all about the bacon, baby!) #28

This is an interesting thread. I can’t resist adding some thoughts.

A ketogenic diet is by definition a low-insulin diet. Chronically elevated insulin levels damage the body in various ways. They also inhibit the hormones that lead to a sense of satiety from food, causing a state of continual hunger.

Elevated insulin levels result from eating too much carbohydrate. All carbohydrates are strings of glucose molecules in various configurations, and blood glucose levels above a certain very low amount not only lead to increased insulin secretion, but also damage the body directly in various ways (Google “advanced glycation end products,” for example). Hyperglycaemia is a metabolic emergency, so insulin mobilises to push the excess glucose out of the blood and into two locations: (1) the muscles, where it can be metabolised (or stored in the form of glycogen), or (2) adipose tissue, where it is stored as fat (triglycerides). A sufficiently high insulin level prevents triglycerides from being broken down into their constituent fatty acids (lipolysis) and metabolised. A sufficiently high glucose level leads to an elevated insulin level. Precisely how elevated depends on how insulin-resistant a given person is.

Cutting dietary carbohydrate to a level that allows the serum insulin to drop leads to a metabolic state called “nutritional ketosis.” Too much insulin inhibits the creation of ketones (which are nothing more than partially-metabolised fatty acids), a low-enough insulin level stimulates the creation of ketones.

Precisely how low carbohydrate intake needs to be in order to lower insulin sufficiently depends on a person’s degree of insulin-resistance. A highly resistant person produces far more insulin for the same level of serum glucose than a person with a normal metabolism produces. So someone with a normal metabolism might be able to remain in ketosis while consuming 100g/day of carbohydrate, whereas a type II diabetic might be so highly insulin-resistant as to require eating virtually no carbohydrate at all, in order to get into ketosis. (The good news is that our minimum daily required amount of carbohydrate is 0—zero—grams.)

So my answer to the question posed in the title of this thread is No. Not low-enough carbs are just as bad as any higher amount of carbs, because insulin still remains high, and you won’t get into ketosis. If you want to get into ketosis, there are really only two levels of carbohydrate intake to worry about: low enough, and not low-enough. Low enough means you are producing ketones and your fat tissue can release fatty acids to be metabolised. Not low enough means you are not producing ketones and your fat is trapped in your fat cells. It’s a pretty clear-cut distinction.


The question has a number of nuances depending on metabolic profile, degree of fat-adaptation, age, sex, medications, stress level, etc etc. Of course in the beginning weeks of keto - low enough/VLC carbs is a critical, foundational touchstone for switching the brain over to fat-burning. However for those who are 100% fat-adapted, there is certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to LCHF/keto - in fact, most all keto physicians aim for increasing metabolic flex with incremental increases in whole foods carbs, they don’t prescribe induction level carbs/medical keto for a lifetime except for certain medical conditions. Otherwise the longer term goal is to enhance metabolic flex as body recomposition continues until maintenance.

There are many ways to optimize and personalize it on behalf of one’s healing edge - frequently ‘changing it up’ as Dr. Fung and Megan Ramos often mention, so as to keep the body from getting habituated to a least-effort state and instead cultivating resilience and going beyond even that to antifragility (as Romanian keto researcher Christian Vlad so well discusess in his book about Stress & Adaptation).

Nor were our hunter-gatherer and indigenous ancestors monolithic, there were and are many regional variations related to eating roots, fruitis, milk carbs, etc etc. Hormonal & biological frameworks matter very much. There are a variety of ways to optimize LCHF/keto according to your own.

Post fat-adaptation, “low enough” becomes higher incrementally for the majority of follks, its limitations based on the particular health profile and overall goals. The Drs. Eades point out that after the initial weeks of the LCHF/keto program - what’s ideal is to be at the ‘keto cusp’ (which for most folks is 100-150g total carbs per day) in order to maximize metabolic agility (as well presented in the books Protein Power, New Atkins New You, etc etc) - that level of carbs also allows for plenty of veg micronutrients and fiber to feed the good bacteria in the large intestine - microbiome production of endogenous butyrate in huge amounts as well as vitamins.

For folks who are fully fat-adapted (most folks are at least 80% by around 3 weeks but 100% may take till 6 weeks or 6 months and rarely a year of keto) there are different techniques that all work in keeping insulin low, and can work synergistically. These are some of the force multipliers for leveraging the body’s innate functionalities for body recomp and vitality on the LCHF/keto journey of a lifetime:

  1. Assisting in lowering the insulin response at meals by eating to stimulate only upper GI tract incretins - by eating fatty protein first at most meals, followed by whatever carbs are on your plate, as presented by Dr. Michael Eades here:
  1. TRE - time restricted eating windows - 4-8 hours. And fasting intermittently. Dr. Fung emphasizes that at a certain point, hormonal healing is more about when we eat than what we eat - in terms of OMAD/TMAD, and getting to the point of eliminating grazing/snacking which naturally happens when one is a 100% adapted fat burner.

  2. Fasting for 24-48 hours a la Dr. Fung - followed by feasting days of higher intake of everything - great for metabolic agility. The 24 hour fasting also happens naturally for many fat-adapted folks at some point when we have a busy day.

  3. For the very stressed or for midlife female hormonal profiles: supplementing with cortisol-lowering approaches such as adaptogens like Ginger and/or increasing alkalinizing foods to reduce acid in the body and enhance hormonal healing (as well explained by keto physician Anna Cabeca MD pertaining to women’s health).

  4. High intensity strength training enhances mitochondrial biogenesis, and HGH - often creating an enhanced tolerance to carbs overall because of hormonal health. I personally love super slow master teacher Fred Hahn’s slow burn approach (I simplify it) and there is also Dr. McGuff’s super slow technique using only bodyweight and no dumbells.

  5. The quality of foods - processed/artificial foods vs. real foods - is another interesting area. Artificial ingredients and heavy metals can be a toxic load for the body that slows glandular restoration - nutrient density + antioxidants/phytonutrients heals. Phinney, Volek, Westman, the Drs. Eades, and Dr. Cabeca all emphasize a range of veg for that matter. :herb:

  6. Ensuring that your minerals are in good standing - magnesium is responsible for thousands of bodily processes every day. Trace minerals are often in need of support in the average person in industrial society due to longterm depletion of one kind or another (often magnesium).

  7. Glutathione is an antioxidant produced in cells. It’s a peptide comprised largely of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. And it lowers insulin, so it’s another leverager. IR folks tend to have high levels of oxidative stress, so they have glutathione deficiencies and trouble synthesizing it - and non-IR folks can still have deficiences depending on degree of processed vs. unprocessed foods. Glutathione is present and highly assimable in certain foods like relatively unprocessed raw dehydrated whey protein concentrate (not isolate or hydrolysate), milk thistle; and high sulfur foods including cruciferous vegetables and high folate foods like liver.


Direct from Professor Steven Phinney.

(Jane) #31

Unless you are DB Cooper! :smiley: