Carbs versus net carbs


I do, to be on the safe side, count total carbohydrates. But my understanding of net carbs is that the reason people do this is because the fibre they subtract from the carbohydrates can’t be absorbed by our bodies. And I obviously realise that when going on net carbs the keto diet could be a lot more varied. Do any of you count net carbs? My thought was perhaps once my body is fat-adapted it is possible to move onto net carbs which could also allow for more metabolic flexibility. What is your experience and how do you count your carbs? Also, which carbs are the most precious to you?

(Robin) #2

I counted them all, just to be on the safe side.


But do you still count the total carbohydrates? Is this something you might alter in time? At the moment I am also counting the total carbs just to ensure I’ll reach fat adaptation, but do you think perhaps, once the body reaches fat-adaptation it is possible then to count net carbs and achieve metabolic flexibility?

(Robin) #4

After a year, I needed up going carnivore, so no more carbs to count now. But if I were to go back to keto, I would still count them all, because labeling isn’t always truthful And honestly mostly because cravings would return.

Besides, After you’ve stayed under 20 for long enough, you’ll likely not miss those carbs you now believe you’d like to eventually add back in.


Ah, I’m not thinking of adding in bread, or the sweeter of the fruits, but just a few more vegetables in time. I find my body does well with them. So today for example, I used up my carb allowance (20g) on 10 almonds, 5 walnut halves, 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, 1 half of a tbsp shredded coconut, 1 square of dark chocolate and then in the vegetable department 5 cherry tomatoes and half of an avocado. Tomorrow I’ll switch it up and have more vegetables and less seeds and nuts, as it’s difficult to get enough of both when counting total carbohydrates, but would of course be a breeze with net carbs. I suppose it’s all very individual the degree of success counting total carbohydrates versus net carbs. But my aim anyway is more variation, I have in fact noticed a reduction in my cravings since adding a greater variety of keto-friendly foods, so am no more tempted by bread or any of the high carb foods I used to eat.

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #6

You are, of course, free to do as you wish.

Many people are successful on keto by counting net carbs. However, Dr. Eric Westman says that he tells the patients at his obesity clinic to count total carbs, because that’s what he calls the “prescription-strength” version of the diet.

As I understand it, the real issue is how to keep insulin low enough to permit the body to remain in ketosis, and that has to be done by controlling our carb intake. You may be insulin-sensitive enough to be able to eat more carbohydrate and remain in ketosis, or you may be so insulin-resistant that even 20 g/day of carbohydrate is still too much. It depends greatly on the individual. The story going around the forums five years ago when I joined was that Richard and Carl really wanted to tell people to eat no carbohydrate at all, but were afraid that would scare people off. So they set the recommended limit at 20 g/day, so that almost everyone would be successful, except for a few really insulin-resistant people, who’d have to limit their intake even further.

Another issue is that carbohydrate has an addictive effect on quite a few people, so the more they can restrict their intake, the better off they are.

What we generally advise is for newcomers to the diet to wait until they are fat-adapted (which normally takes six to eight weeks) before even thinking of experimenting with a higher carb limit. And most people find that, by that point, they no longer crave the carbs and it has become a non-issue. And everyone has to admit that the body’s daily requirement for carbs is 0 (zero) grams. This is not true of protein and fat, which are essential to the human diet.

(Allie) #7

I used to count net carbs but stopped counting anything a few years ago.


I understand everyone’s different and do realise the problem with many people not knowing whether they are insulin resistant or insulin sensitive enough that they could count net carbs, myself included. But wouldn’t one be able to sufficiency lower one’s insulin if one teamed keto up with intermittent fasting? Which I tend to do. I have regular meals, 2-3, it varies and typically don’t eat past 4 or 5pm. Wouldn’t that help with keeping insulin low? I don’t actually crave the vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds or berries I eat, but I do find my body does better with them, and I have righted my digestive system, I also experienced fewer leg cramps last night, possibly because I ate foods rich in magnesium. So to me anyway, and I realise we’re all different, inclusion of certain foods beyond protein and fat in my diet appears beneficial.

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #9

It entirely depends. I suppose it might be possible for some people, but I wouldn’t want to say it would work for everyone.

The insulin threshold is just under 25 μU/mL, so to stay in ketosis, you would want your insulin to remain below that level for as much of the day as possible. Eating too much carbohydrate at any point would take insulin above that threshold and halt ketosis and begin the process of storing fat again. Again, how much carbohydrate you could get away with would depend on your degree of insulin-sensitivity or -resistance.

The Dudes’ two dogmata (Richard loves this form of the plural) are (1) show us the science; and (2) find out what works for you.


Well I very much agree with the last one. As to science, there is so much bias there, so many ways to prove and disprove something, it is of course something I pay attention to, I have read countless articles and after a while they do your head in, but then my head was never built for science. I believe much more in intuitive eating, what makes the body feel good and does the body good in the long term. And that’s different for everyone. As to the possibility of insulin resistance, I thought that meant you struggled to lose weight? Forgive me if I sound like a fool as I don’t yet understand the science behind it. I am 5.2, have gone from 117 pounds to 114 pounds over the last weeks, and have lost half an inch on my calves where I do have lipoedema. I also find it very easy, apart from my lipoedema, to lose weight or maintain it, as even when I was eating a very high carb, low fat diet I was slim and weighed only a couple more kilos than I do now. What I put my recent weightloss and inch loss down to is reduction in swelling and inflammation, which shows me this WOE is working.


Hi, was this because you simply didn’t want them anymore? I do get that’s how it works for some, and if that’s what the body wants, I don’t see anything wrong with it. It is whatever works for each individual. What I don’t believe in is letting science dictate one’s WOE more than one’s own body. If you’re feeling good then that’s all that matters in the end of the day.

(Allie) #12

I just got fed up with the weighing and measuring tbh, been doing this so long that I know what works for me without needing to track.

(Robin) #13

I’m with @Shortstuff now too. Every so often if I have to go to the doctors, I get weighed. Otherwise… (for once!) I have my groove.


I always track net carbs as that is way easier for me. And never thought total matters to me and indeed, it seems it doesn’t.
It was super lucky as my total was often 80-100g I guess (I can’t know but I guess so, I had very much fiber and half-lived on sweets). 40-45g net was hard enough even for just 7 weeks… Oh I was so tiny, now I so easily fits into 10g most of the time if I want to…

BUT tracking net and keeping them low enough for me to be ketosis isn’t noticeably beneficial for me (except fat adaptation, I got that as my only benefit I think). I had to go WAY lower. Now if I would care much about my carb count, it would be non-animal net carbs and I would keep them as low as comfortably possible (in a very hedonistic way. sometimes I could keep it lower but it wouldn’t worth it, all considered). Animal carbs doesn’t seem to matter at all (but I don’t normally eat tons of animal sugar, that probably matters something), at least it’s not noticeable and I trust my body to tell me if something is wrong.

By the way I count erythritol zero carbs and xylitol 40% carbs :slight_smile: It works well enough for me but nowadays it’s a moot point as I usually don’t have either or just a tiny bit (like, 2g erythritol, I had such a day lately. I had 8-9g total carbs on that day, great for me).

One point for being very close to carnivore: net and total is almost (or truly) exactly the same.

And I don’t believe I need a different tracking or limit or whatever after fat-adaptation or after years but I never believed I need much healing anyway… Surely some but my metabolism seemed pretty okay (not like I can tell, probably…)


Egg and meat carbs. Then dairy carbs.
Then some of my condiments.

My fruits are very precious to me but I don’t like their (usually excessive) sugar so much. My body prefers starches (but if you ask it, it says it prefers no plant carbs at all, ever. we don’t perfectly agree on it. I don’t like the carbs itself, I would think but some super delicious carby items. or crunchy ones where I would be happy to get rid of some carbs but I can’t but I go for the crunchiness).

You are a skillful one who is fine with very tiny vegs.
I NEEDED 25g net carbs for my vegs alone and I soooo find that amount lacking that I immediately quit keto when I got my fat adaptation…
Now I spend below 1g carbs on vegs almost all the time including my carbiest off days. I am still amazed.
You do it right, raw vegs. You can squeeze more veggie joy into your day indeed. Whenever I fried them, carbs piled up like crazy and my fat intake shot up too…

Variety is important for most of us :wink: Though it’s interesting that as soon as I took away vegs, I found my woe way less boring (and I didn’t even add meat yet… wow). IDK about others but my desired level of variety drastically dropped when I cut out vegs. It seems (plant) carbs messed with that too. And I wanted sweet dessert in the end of every meal. I thought it’s just decades long habit and will stay with me for long but nope, as soon as I tried carnivore, the desire went away. Maybe not 100% success but at least 99. I was impressed and relieved.

But it’s just my story, everyone is different and I am sure I actually needed my vegs back then. I wasn’t ready to stop eating them. Some people never will be and it’s fine. They don’t mess with everyone. Some people even do better with them. I don’t.


Hi, we’re all different and our bodies want different things. As to vegs I don’t actually eat them raw, I either fry them in olive oil or steam them. I take, say, 10 slices of courgette and fry them to go with a burger. Or I steam about 3 broccoli florets or 6 spears of asparagus, with salmon, sometimes I do 3 florets of cauliflower instead, mushrooms or brussel sprouts, the latter goes far better with meat than fish. I find I don’t need much, and a little goes a long way, to provide more texture to the meal as well as fibre. I also have fruit with my eggs, fish and meat such as avocado, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes.

The carbs that are most precious to me at the moment are nuts, seeds and berries.
As to tracking I don’t weigh anything, I just look it up on google, the total carbohydrates in say an avocado. And I realize that’s not fool proof, but it’s been working none the less, and isn’t too much work. I write down the total carb count each day and don’t bother to track anything else. I’ve lost 2kg the last three weeks and gone from 54kg to 52kg. I am 159cm. And seem to have lost half an inch on my calves, my boots fit looser. So I know it’s working. I don’t eat anything processed anymore, not even processed meat, I gave up that. So I only really cook with wholefoods and minimally processed meats. My shop bought burgers (because I’m lazy) have only salt and pepper added, and they’re so fab. I don’t really do dessert, and if I’d like something sweet after a meal I usually eat a bit of unsweetened shredded coconut or some berries. If I want a snack I eat some nuts and seeds. I’m really not adventurous and I like to keep food simple. Also because I’m a rubbish cook lol.

(B Creighton) #17

I ate some fruit and vegetables on keto. My Orgain protein powder also had some plant carbs. From the beginning I only paid attention to net carbs and it worked fine for me. I went right into ketosis. It is my understanding that we do not absorb carbs from fiber. It is essentially indigestible to us. It ends up feeding certain probiotics, which in turn “poop” out short chain fatty acids. These SCFAs, like butyrate, feed our colonocytes energy, and are pro-ketogenic. So fiber ends up being a pro-ketogenic food. I don’t believe you need to worry about the total carb number at all, other than to calculate the net carb number. That is my experience anyway. In fact this is one of the reasons I adopted keto. It is very flexible, and would allow me to continue eating some fruits and vegetables for fiber, which I have found over the years seems to be very essential for my own gut health. However, I have to say that on keto my own movements were the most normal I have had since my youth - very easy and quick. After an appendectomy, I’ve had what I consider to be two periods of digestive crises, and my movements just never went back to what I consider to be totally normal until keto.


Good for you that you now know what works for you :slight_smile: I figure a lot of us who start on this road to better health through a change of diet have had to tweak it along the way. I don’t weigh stuff, I just look it up on google and then write up an estimate daily of the carb count. It may not be fool proof but it seems to be working.

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #19

Well, it can indeed mean that you struggle, but the technical definition is that cells down-regulate their insulin receptors, so that it takes more insulin to have the same lowering effect on blood sugar. Insulin above a certain level prevents fat cells (adipocytes) from releasing fat from storage, and compels them to take on more fat to store. So you’re not wrong, just operating from an incomplete definition.

And this is why a keto diet works, because it lowers insulin to the point where fat can come out of the adipocytes and be metabolised, so that we shed excess fat.


Hi, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I’m glad counting net carbs worked for you, and perhaps it would work for me too, though it’s all so individual. It is my plan to experiment a bit more with this myself once my body finally reaches fat-adaptation, I believe it should then be easier to achieve metabolic flexibility. For me, personally, a diet that is not varied is not going to be sustainable in the long run. As human beings I believe we thrive on variety, but a lot of people have damaged immune systems and are lacking in enzymes which enable them to digest certain foods. There are food intolerances aplenty and rising scores of inflammation. And I believe that’s a lot due to nutrition deficiencies in food and of course the processing of food has a great role to play there, with things being tampered with or taken out. Like for example refined breads. But I am never going to make a villain of plants, as for me they deserve a place, however, not all foods in nature are things we can eat, some are more inflammatory, some are downright lethal. We evolved to eat chocolate yet dogs can’t eat it. It’s all down to envolution and what we’ve evolved to eat over time. Plant-based foods have been around for a lot longer than grains. And so I do believe that most of us can digest them, but that an unlucky few aren’t able to do so. And we’ve got to work with the cards we’re given, and find our own path. Life is but the wind pushing our backs to try and encourage us to take that step forward.