Net Carbs vs. Total Carbs


Do you all count net carbs (i.e. carbs less any fiber and most sugar alcohols) or total carbs (including fiber and sugar alcohols) when staying on Keto? I’d say about 90% of research and articles I’ve read all reference net carbs, but there are some articles I’ve seen that state total carbs are important too.

If fiber and (most) sugar alcohol is basically indigestible, do they have any sort of impact on ketosis, weight gain or loss, general health, etc.? Just curious to see what others’ thoughts are on this. Since I’ve started watching and lowering my carbohydrate intake, my fiber intake has skyrocketed!


some of the above when ya google the chat from the past might help ya.
tons of info in that reading.


Thank you! Sorry - I should’ve checked that first.


no it is cool. you could get new info from new users on the board.

but what I mean is checking the ‘past’ threads can show you a ton more info on the diff. in net carbs and total carbs and how people need to roll etc.

so ya got more posts to come from others and their experiences and more info from the past threads :slight_smile: All good at all times!!!

for me personally…a carb is a carb, I do only total carbs. But many love
‘netting’ so…just gonna be an answer of who does what and why.
For me the ‘net’ never computed thru real science of non-digestible fiber etc taking those ‘carbs’ out of the guts and more to me so, for me, count total carbs and one is way up on the food chain about handling carbs :slight_smile: Now that is my personal opinion on it all, lol

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #5

I have the impression that many forum members count net carbs, and that it works for them. But there is also a contingent of members who either started by counting total carbohydrate intake or switched to total when using the net count didn’t work for them.

Dr. Stephen Phinney, one of the pioneers of keto research, says he tells patients of Virta Health to stick to a limit of 50 g total, in the hopes that they will end up under 20 g net. But his advice on the practicalities of a keto diet is that, if people feel stuck on keto, the first thing to try is to limit carb intake even further. The second thing to try, he says, is to eat more fat. And he says that on no account should the person eat more carbohydrate.

Dr. Eric Westman, another pioneer, and director of a well-known obesity clinic at Duke University, tells his patients that, while they can count net carbs, limiting themselves to a total of 20 g/day is the “prescription strength” version of the diet. He finds that to be easier and simpler for the patients. Dr. Westman also, in a lecture at Ketofest a few years ago, said there was starting to be evidence showing that fibre might not be as indigestible as as hitherto been believed. (But I don’t recall that he cited any particular study that we could follow up on.)

The reality is, of course, that everyone’s carb threshold is different, depending on their degree of sensitivity or resistance to insulin. The story going around the forums when I joined in 2017 was that @carl and @richard really wanted to tell people to eat no carbohydrate at all, but were afraid it would scare off people who could really benefit from a ketogenic diet. So they picked a limit of 20 g/day, which should be low enough to work for everyone but the most insulin-resistant. They leave the choice of net or total up to the individual.

(Marianne) #6

Everyone’s plans are individual, and you will find responses that run the gamut. Since I started, I have always counted total carbs and kept that well under 20g/day. Other than the times when I was doing zero carb, I did that by confining my vegetable intake to lunch and/or dinner, and in modest quantities. Usually all I consume is romaine for salad and then either green beans or brussels sprouts with dinner. I am happy with those choices and feel better that I can keep my total carbs under 20/day.


Total. I’m not carnivore nor zero carb but my current macro is 12 grams per day and I usually eat sub-10 grams and frequently sub-5 grams. Entirely from dairy, I don’t eat grains, fruits or vegetables. Although I love macadamia nuts and eat 50 to 100 grams occasionally (maybe half a dozen times per year - their high cost helps my resolve!). When I do so, I compensate for the carbs to stay below my daily max.

I’m a ‘gung ho’ sort of guy. I think if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing with total commitment. Our ancestors evolved eating predominantly animal fat and meat. We call them ‘hunter gatherers’ but they didn’t gather much simply because there was little to gather and what there was so dilute in actual nutrients that it was a waste of effort to gather. Carbs serve no useful purpose and cause problems when consumed in anything more than incidental amounts, so why bother.

Apparently, there's no "physiological insulin resistance" in the context of a keto diet according to Dr. Bikman

I have been 20g net carbs from the start - no issues at all.

Fiber has no noticeable impact on blood glucose levels so it’s never been an issue. Did not affect my results at all.

Plus, I love many fibre rich foods & eat at least 400g of low carb vegetables (cauliflower, brocolli, zucchini, aubergines, green beans, lupini beans, radishes, cabbage etc) daily. Occasionally nuts. Regularly baked stuff made with ground flaxseed & psyllium husks which have lots of fiber too.

(KM) #9

Hybrid here. Net for natural whole foods where the fiber is actually bound part and parcel with the food from the start, total for any processed food where the magic of I don’t really know what is invoked to artificially drop the count.

(Bacon is a many-splendoured thing) #10

My understanding is that fibre slows down the absorption of any carbohydrate it’s eaten with. However, you are right that added fibre doesn’t counteract the digestible carb count. If the product contains 12 g of digestible carbs, plus an added 30 g of fibre, the total carb count is 42 g, and the net carb count is still 12 g. In other words, 12 + 30 = 42, and 42 - 30 = 12.

(Pete A) #11

Me too.

(Chuck) #12

Total carbs for me but I do check net carbs and fiber and sugar. I have read research that expresses each way of thinking and the total carbs seems to work for me. I am not diabetic, but was obese when I started the low carb lifestyle. I am still overweight but instead of having a BMI of 31 am now down to 27.7, not sure what my goal is.

(KCKO, KCFO) #13

I started out doing total 20g of carbs, once I became fat adapted, I gradually added in 5g per day, stopping the foods that didn’t give me the results I wanted, I can easily eat 50g per day and on special occasions go up to 75ish.,

I don’t count that strictly now, without any issues. I went keto for weight loss, my DH now does keto for T2D, he can actually eat more carbs than I can now.

Everyone is different, some must do 20g or fail, others must do more. You have to do you, play around with it and see what works for you.

(Megan) #14

Some fiber is water soluble, and you absorb some of its carb content. Go to the latest video on the Zero carb Information Videos thread (Dr Ken Berry talking with Mikaela Peterson) and watch the section starting at 45:55 mins in. Some interesting info in it.

(Kirk Wolak) #15

First, I’ve seen many people (myself included) end up binging because of NET carbs.
Especially if you buy a “product” that advertises NET carbs…

But YMMV… Also, the entire point about watching carbs, is that it’s NOT the calories.
it’s the “impact”. And for me, even artificial sweeteners have an impact on my glucose/ketone levels. HWC will prevent me from getting deep into ketosis (it’s inflammatory for me).

So, everything you consume has some kind of impact. Choose wisely. Let your food be your medicine. And if there is no reason to be taking 30g of Xylitol or some other “substance” because it has ZERO calories… My warning is simply… That doesn’t mean it has ZERO IMPACT. Water is probably the one thing that “might” have no impact. But even too much water can cause electrolyte issues.

again, find a pattern you can work with, that helps make your life, and the process easier.
I find it much easier to say “I don’t eat crap that requires a box”, and also “If the package says it’s KETO, then it’s NOT for me!”

Am I perfectly clean? Nope. But I am 99% cleaner than I used to be! That’s for sure. I am healthier, and have a much better quality of life. (So much so, my financial planner suggested I start smoking, drinking, and participating in drug trials so I don’t run out of retirement money… LOL)


Thanks for all the responses! Very interesting to see everyone’s thoughts. In summary, it sounds like in the end you need to find what works for you and helps you achieve your goals. For me, tracking net carbs seems to help vs. strictly monitoring total carbs. On days that I’ve had a ton of fiber (i.e. extra total carbs) compared to an average day, I really haven’t noticed any major fluctuations in how I feel or my weight. And I know that having food with more fiber is better than something with high fructose corn syrup.

(Robin) #17

I have always counted ALL the carbs and I rounded up… taking no chances with those sneaky labels.


It’s individual,. I ALWAYS did net as that worked for me and I needed a lot of carbs in the beginning. I did 40-45g net and unlimited total (surely often 80-100g and sometimes more, almost never calculated that as it’s way more work than using net, for me). It was enough for ketosis and fat adaptation but it was too much to get almost any benefit. I am pretty sure because my net was high, total is irrelevant for me… Except that I do find it better to eat proper food and not sweeteners (no matter how much I love sweets and I totally needed them on my original keto, before I dropped plants and added meat).
So, for me, having a low total and low net seems the best. I could add a ton of fiber and it probably wouldn’t do anything to me but it’s pointless, why would I need that? But while I had vegs and oily seeds, total would have been awfully and pointlessly restrictive and I would have quit in no time.
And while I aim to live with little sweetener, some here and there is useful and nice. Maybe I lose that one day. We are different, even our tastes, circumstances and it matters where we are on our personal journey.

Now I don’t even care about my net, only my net non-animal carbs. If that’s low, it feels the same, no matter if I get a few or many carbs from animals (of course, I rarely have many from them, I am usually below 20g carbs on carnivore. but 3 or 20? feels the same. even the occasional 40+ feels fine and I feel no urge to do that often let alone every day).


The majority track net, because as you’ve said, they don’t matter. Very few seem to have a problem with them, some claim they do.

(Kathy) #20

I have always counted Net, even years ago with the Atkins plan.
However I do see many Dr."s on YouTube, saying total carbs should be counted not net.

It works for me sticking to it.