Net Carbs - is it a real thing?


Hi all!
I have question about NET CARBS. I have read across this forum on NET CARBS if they really are a thing or not. There are plenty of comments but nothing to specific (lots of opinions).
I am 2 months into the Keto and loving it all. I have been on track to meet goals established for myself and tracking everything I eat, Macros, weight loss, exercise etc. - I downloaded an APP (Carb Manager) to help in this endeavor and pretty happy with it. It tracks things well enough so I can see the progress and do some comparisons to see when I loose the weight what other factors during the week makes a difference.
As I now have turned into somewhat of a gym rat also now to help in overall health I log the exercise or weight training I do daily. The APP calculates (I Guess) how much energy I have used up during those sessions and subtracts it from my daily intake in the form of carbs, fats, calories & proteins. I have become very deliberate of keeping my intake of carbs below 15 per day. But in the case when I happen to go over CONSUMED carbs over 15 the NET is always below the 15 carbs target. So I am averaging about 5 carbs per day NET.
So my question is - Are NET CARBS really legit in counting carbs for the day? I will be honest and tell you that I like the IDEA of net carbs as it allows a little more flexibility in my eating. I I happen to consume 20 or more carbs per day I could end up around 5 NET just because of the training program I am doing.
Just looking for some feedback of what works for everyone else on this debate on NET CARBS


I counted only total carbs. Net is a joke in my absolute personal opinion on it but like the article says, you ask 10 people this question, you will get 10n diff. answers LOL


Net Carbs are a real thing and what most people use for Ketosis, and what the best doctors and researchers recommend, but what you are talking about is NOT the same idea of Net Carbs as most of us are talking about.

Net carbs we typically talk about in Ketogenic Diet terms is entirely based on what you eat, not exercise.

The simplest form is Net Carbs = Total Carbs - Fiber.

Often, “sugar alcohols” is also subtracted to get Net Carbs. That one is sometimes a bit more controversial, but regardless, again, it’s about what you are eating and the idea is things your body does not store, that just goes right through you and does not create a significant insulin response, are not counted in Net Carbs even if they are technically a carbohydrate.

I’ve never myself heard of trying to subtract energy expenditure to get net carbs, but sounds like just a kind of gimmick or “thought framing” for whatever app you are using, with some idea of telling you how much of the food you ate you worked off, based on calories. Excercise does have some effect on Ketosis, but I’ve not seen much to indicate it is so direct like that, and it’s not like you could easily know which energy source your body was taking from for any individual exercise (not without some pretty advanced monitoring, as far as I’ve ever heard).

But, lets put it this way, when Drs. Phinney and Volek (and several others) did a lot of their Nutritional Ketosis studies and experiments a decade ago, they were primarily working with athletes doing super marathons who were just running and biking for hours a day. They still came up with recommending Net Carbs in terms of what you eat exclusively as far as I’ve ever heard.


Is there anything out there on burning off the carbs you intake during the day through exercise?

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #5

Yes, ‘net carbs’ are a real thing. Also, yes, there’s lots of gimmickry. So buyer beware and informed. Base your overall diet around real food that contains real protein, real fat and whatever carbs that did not originate in a lab. The easiest way, of course, is carnivory: eat only what came from an animal with minimal processing, which would be limited to butchering and cooking. If you go beyond that things can get complicated fast. Our ancestors spent 3 1/2 million plus years doing it successfully. Dairy is also OK until you get to stuff more complicated than cheese as long as you keep overall lactose intake low by consuming high fat dairy.

PS: “Is there anything out there on burning off the carbs you intake during the day through exercise?” Lots - the whole ‘exercise industry’ orbits carbs and ‘energy in/out’. The problem is individual variability. You and I, for example, could eat two identical meals containing exactly the same amount of protein, fat, carbs and total calculated energy. You might utilize the energy and nutrients of the meal to an efficiency of 90% and I might utilize it to only 75%. We both read the same exercise book that presumes 100%. You think the book is OK and I toss it in the trash as useless.


Maybe somewhere. I remember years back seeing people talking about “exercises to do after a high carb day to get back into ketosis” (the next day), but it was basically just random people showing exercises based on nothing as far as I could tell beyond wishful thinking (you can also just simply get back into ketosis the next day if you just had one high carb meal, whether you get all the benefits or not).

Could be something has come up more recently, but I haven’t seen any significant research on it myself.

Something to keep in mind. “burning off the carbs” throughout the day might not matter anyway. The thing we are typically trying to address with ketosis is the effects of insulin. Even if you ‘burned off’ the carbs, they still went into your system and probably created an insulin response. I suppose it may be possible to use them up before insulin was needed to push them from glucose in your blood to fat in your cells, but again, I haven’t seen much on that and would caution relying on that (unless you are an elite level athlete, perhaps, but then it’s probably not about ketosis anyway and you probably need advise from your elite sports trainer).


Appreciate the insight. Funny your referred to burning off the carbs before they create an insulin response. I was just thinking the other day “I wonder what the results would be if I started timing meals prior or post workouts on weight training days” - I still really want to start building muscle mass and have never been out of Ketosis since I started. I do notice some days my Ketones are high and concerned I might be starving myself without even realizing it however have since started taking additional protein and supplements to help support muscle growth. But the scale doesn’t lie. Averaging about 2-3 lbs per week in fat loss and I am ok with that. I know it is a race not a sprint on that front.
I will have to dig into some research on loading with certain types of energy for work outs and see if that makes a difference

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

@djindy Excellent point. The object of consuming reduced carbs is to keep insulin low enough not to interfere with ketosis and fat burn. Again, there’s lots of individual variability. Some folks need to keep carb consumption zero or close to it to accomplish this. Some don’t. My personal opinion is that most folks who start keto primarily to lose excess fat/weight are more likely to be the ones with the most problems with insulin and will need to keep carbs lower just to keep insulin low. They can exercise a bucket of sweat a day and not lose weight until they get their insulin down and for some this turns out to be a hugely difficult task unless they go zero carb. If insulin management is already haywire, eating glucose is only going to exacerbate it.

I should also mention that there are several members of this forum who advocate exactly what @djindy describes as ‘eating carbs around exercise’ to achieve various objectives. To build muscles you need to eat lots of protein, pump a lot of iron and provide ample energy. The idea seems to be that eating carbs will restore muscle glycogen more quickly providing the energy. I think this idea is misconstrued - but that’s my opinion. Maybe some of those folks who advocate eating carbs will add their’s.

(Allie) #10

For some yes, for others no.
Some need to count total carbs, but plenty get by working with net carbs…


Total carbs are pretty much just a USA thing, because the non-FDA nutritional labels already show net carbs. That’s why you can find products with more fiber than carbohydrates.

If those countries wanted to do total carbs, they’d have to add back in all the non-digestible carbs.

(Bacon is better) #12

What we do know is that that the less carbohydrate we eat, the better off most of us are. But a lot of newcomers to the keto diet find it difficult to restrict carbohydrate intake to the necessary level. It is also true that people’s carb tolerance varies, so it is hard to make general statements.

Many people on these forums count net carbs and do just fine. Many others, from personal experience, found that it was better for them to count total carbs.

Dr. Eric Westman, a past president of the Obesity Medicine Association, strongly recommends limiting yourself to 20 g of total carbs a day. Whereas Dr. Stephen Phinney, a researcher and friend of Dr. Westman’s, tells his patients at Virta Health to stay under 50 g/day total, in the hope, as he has admitted, that they’ll all end up under 20 g net.

The point of limiting carbohydrate is to lower insulin and permit the liver to produce ketones. The actual amount of carbohydrate that will permit this is going to be different for you, so the best we can advise is for you to experiment a bit and see what works best in your individual case.

(Joey) #13

I used Carb Manager daily for a year and found it extremely informative and helpful in understanding the macro nutrients in what I was eating. But I never bothered with inputting my exercise (cardio or strength training). I believe that looking to burn off calories through exercise is a dead end.

Eat healthfully (as you now are) and exercise for hormonal/muscle/metabolic benefits… not for weight loss… and certainly NOT to inform your eating habits.

Eat high fat/prudent protein to full satiety. Then stop. Exercise will produce whatever level of hunger your body needs. Listen to your body.

Yeah, sorry, but my advice is to not waste your time entering exercise - nor subtract anything exercise-related from what you’re otherwise tracking in terms of food intake.

Sorry again, but if what you’re trying to do is reduce body fat, improve health, feel better, build muscle tone/strength, and reduce inflammation, then yes, the scale DOES lie.

All a scale can tell you is how much the earth’s gravity is tugging on you. It says nothing about what’s inside your body that’s being tugged.

More muscle? That means more weight. An inch of muscle weighs more than an inch of fat. I’d rather weigh more with great muscle strength and tone than weigh less without it. Give up the scale - what it offers is a poor substitute for useful information.

Keto is primarily about your interior - not your exterior. But even if you’re only concerned about your exterior, you’re not really trying to lose weight, are you? Aren’t you primarily interested in trimming down your body shape, toning up your muscles, fitting more comfortably in those clothes that don’t fit any more?

The scale will be the last device in the house to tell you any of this. Try a tape measure and a mirror.

Sorry to pop the balloon, but early on, virtually ALL of the weight you are losing is H2O - not fat. If what you’re trying to do is dehydrate yourself, then the more water you lose the better, right? Not a good plan.

My best advice:

  • Keep tracking everything you eat in Carb Mgr as you learn more.
  • Don’t track your exercise in Carb Mgr - a confused waste of time.
  • Stay super well-hydrated, and don’t worry about weighing less.
  • Eat as much as your hunger desires while diligently limiting the carbs.
  • Don’t use the scale as an indicator of your success. It is not.

Best wishes for your continued success! You’re off to a marvelous start. :vulcan_salute:

(Allie) #14

Fab post @SomeGuy :grin:


Thanks @SomeGuy
Appreciate the insight. Couple of follow ups here. I know I drink so much water per day it would be hard to say I am dehydrating myself. As far as weight I am down 30 lbs since starting KETO in early December. Of course the first weight loss I achieved I know was water weight. I still feel the great feeling of riding myself of the inflammation and that has given so much energy to continue on this path. My original plan was to drop the weight I wanted to targeted weight and then start building muscle mass back in. I kind of pulled the trigger early and decided I could do both at the same time. Not sure if that was a good idea or not as doing KETO and weight training has been a bit confusing. Your absolutely correct on the scale, when I started this journey that all I was worried about but now I understand all the other factors going into it and the scale is just that …a scale. Because of the weight training I have changed up my diet a bit to include extra protein and other supplements. Still very low carbs and Ketones are still present in uranalysis. I also understand muscles weighs more than fat. Your correct in saying a tape measure and mirror will be my best tools. I will get there but I enjoy speaking with people about things I need clarity on. Especially now that I threw another variable into the mix (Weight training). Thanks again for the feedback

(Joey) #16

@Sivart1966 Thanks for the additional info. Again, it sure sounds like you’re on a wonderful path to better health!

The only reason I can imagine not to embark on a newly expanded exercise regime while also starting out on keto is if you don’t feel like it - and if doing so were to complicate or undermine one’s focus on what you’re trying to accomplish in terms of adopting new eating habits.

Otherwise, go for it! After all, what else are you going to do with all that newly found energy?! :slight_smile:

(FWIW, I completely changed my own exercise approach in conjunction with adopting keto, too, and it was an awesome combination. Went from decades of daily jogging 1-2 miles pre-keto to a carefully constructed HIIT body-weight strength training zone-oriented routine, coupled with more sporadic HIIT cardio 2-3x weekly. I’ve stuck to this new path for 2+ yrs and it’s still working out nicely for me.)

My advice here is always free and often over-priced. :vulcan_salute:

p.s. Urine sticks can be a helpful initial motivator for some, but don’t sweat it a bit if they start to suggest things aren’t going “well” in terms of ketone levels. Search around this forum for details, but spoiler alert: urine is where one finds the ketones that are NOT being used - i.e., wasted - and having those pee sticks show a decline in ketones is exactly what you would hope for. :wink:


Oh no … Now you just threw a wrench into my thinking. So if I have this correct Ketones in urine is a bad thing? Wouldn’t the presence of ketones in urine be a sign that they are being used somewhere? I mean what else would my body be burning for fuel if not that being on such low carbs? Are these KETONES I am measuring just be excess that is not being used and then discarded?
Crap ! - now I am a little twisted

(Joey) #18

Not sure if you’re being a bit playful. I’ll assume your concern is perfectly serious. In which case:

Oh gosh, no! You’re doing great :smile:

Your body is now producing a surfeit of ketones - hence all that energy and ease in managing hunger, etc.

A lack of carbs prompts your body to make the conversion in terms of its energy burning preference (from carb burning to fat burning). It takes time and everyone is uniquely different. It’s like your cells’ mitochondria are converting from gas to diesel. :nerd_face:

As your organs and muscles (brain?) adapt, your body will eventually “down-regulate” the production of ketones to meet the demand, instead of over-reaching with more than is sustainably necessary. That’s a good thing - and it’s all about homeostasis - which is the sign of a properly functioning healthy body.

Again, you’re doing great :+1:


WHEW ! you had me scared there for a moment - I was being serious actually. And thank you for the response as that makes better sense to me
Appreciate the feedback as always

(Joey) #20

You bet.

BTW, when I refer to ketones in urine as “waste,” please consider that everything you leave in the toilet is “waste” in this sense. This doesn’t mean your body is squandering precious resources … it means that your personal waste treatment facility is doing its job. :wink:


LOL - Got it