Timing my carb intake


Hi all. I’m interested in hearing thoughts about when to eat my carb allowance. I sometimes want to eat my entire allotment in a single meal. If I do this, is it better to do it before exercise? After exercise? Earlier in the day? Later? And why? Thanks in advance!


Around exercise definitely sounds good as you use it up…
But if it’s just the typically very low keto carbs and not some extra, I wouldn’t care much, I would eat it whenever it suits me best. It’s possible that it’s not so simple for you but I never noticed it’s a problem when and what kind of carbs I eat ketosis wise as long as I keep them properly low. Not like I know if I go out but if it causes no noticeable changes, I don’t care about that. And if eating certain carbs in a certain way feels bad, I avoid that even if ketosis isn’t affected (my body tends to dislike too dense sugar all alone. like sweet fruits. I may feel something off at even very small amounts so I don’t eat such things alone. I am not the snacking type anyway).

I personally prefer to keep my first meal extremely low (net non-animal) carb as even carbs that doesn’t bother my ketosis tend to change me and the less time I spend in a changed state, the better. Non-animal net carbs mess with me on keto too so I try to avoid them but if I can’t resist, it should be later. But not too late as that is another can of worms… BUT this is me, it’s very individual just like the timing of our protein and fat. I tried this and that and figured out how and what and when I should eat. Not completely, various possibly important factors change day to day but I have an educated guess.

So it’s not easy to tell. How many carbs we are talking about and which kind?

(Joey) #3

These are all good questions. But I’m afraid you may be missing the larger point.

When trying to obtain the long term benefits of keto, it might be helpful to think of carbs as akin to air pollution…

There’s only so much polluted air one can breathe before it takes its toll on the lungs.

Similarly, there’s only so much carbohydrate in one’s diet that can be eaten before it takes its toll on your metabolism (and, indirectly, everything inside your body affected by your metabolism - i.e., mostly everything eventually :wink: ).

Okay, so now let’s start at the top again…

How much air pollution can be inhaled in a single outing? Can I get my full allotment of air pollution all at once? Should I get my air pollution before I exercise? Is it better to get my air pollution earlier in the day?

Hope I’m not making this too nasty sounding. But I’m trying to convey a perspective and a point about what you’re trying to accomplish through carb restriction … and why a different thought process might serve you well. :vulcan_salute:

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #4

My impression is that it doesn’t matter all that much. One thought is that, since dietary carbohydrate stimulates insulin, it’s better to have it all in one go, so that insulin can be lower during the rest of the day. Another thought is that since dietary carbohydrate stimulates insulin, it’s better to consume it in smaller amounts throughout the day.

As for the role of exercise, your endurance performance is fueled by fatty acids. Your explosive performance is what requires glycogen/glucose. If you’re not doing explosive exercise, any excess glucose above what the liver has already made for those cells that require it is likely to be stored as fat, though as insulin is likely to be low most of the time on a ketogenic diet, that storage is likely to be temporary. (When the body is in ketosis, the liver keeps a store of glycogen available that can be quickly mobilised in the event of a need for explosive power.)


Hmm, not to me. I rely on certain fruits and vegetables to meet vitamin and mineral requirements that I’m not getting through the animal foods I choose to eat. I’ve been feeling a lot better since paying attention to meeting all nutrient requirements, so I consider my carbs to be a valuable part of my diet.

@Shinita I’m eating between 20 and 80 g net carbs per day. I test my blood and usually fall somewhere between 0.3 and 0.8 ketones, so I’m not concerned about being thrown out of ketosis.

This is my concern. I know my body is trying very hard to stay at my current weight – which is a healthy weight – but I’m still hoping at some point to be able to drop the 10-15 pounds of menopausal gain I’ve seen slowly creep up over the last 10 years. I recall reading somewhere that glucagon is stimulated by exercise so I thought maybe timing the carbs I eat after a workout would at least encourage my body to use them for energy rather than storing them as fat. Or, if I exercise while they are in my bloodstream, would that make it more likely I will use them to generate extra energy?

(Megan) #6

Hi Joey, I’m interested in your response. What long term benefits of keto would a small intake of carbs prevent, or interfere with?

(May the blessing of bacon be always with you) #7

Glucagon is what encourages ketosis. If you want to get energy out of glucose, you either need to do exercises that require explosive power, or you need to eat enough glucose (carbohydrates) to inhibit glucagon and stimulate insulin. Even if some excess glucose gets converted into fat and stored, keeping insulin low should allow fatty acids to be released from storage between meals so that they can be metabolised.

Fat, on the other hand, has a minimal effect on insulin secretion, just enough to allow us to use its energy. (Without any insulin at all, we starve to death, which was the inevitable result of Type I diabetes up until the discovery of insulin in 1923.) This, and the fact that it does not cause the oxidative damage that glucose causes, is what makes it such a good fuel for the body.

A word of caution: if you are exercising a lot, you might add some muscle mass or end up strengthening your bones, which will add weight to your body, even if you are losing fat at the same time. Be sure not to use the scale number as your only guide.

I had a period where my weight was stable, but my waist size dropped by two inches (about 5 cm). This means that I was both shedding fat and adding lean mass simultaneously. Had I been overly focussed on the scale number, I might have despaired at that point. So be sure to keep track of the fit of your clothing, as well as the scale number. Trousers I could not get over my butt at the beginning of that recomposition period fit me quite comfortably at the end of it, which is how I know I lost fat, even though my weight on the scale did not change. As a friend of mine likes to ask, do I want to look thirty pounds thinner and stay the same weight, or do I want to lose those pounds and still look just as fat? An easy choice, in my book!

(Michael) #8

Avoid spiking insulin before the workout, yes spike insulin after the workout.

(Joey) #9

Small is a matter of degree. The human body requires zero dietary carbohydrate to function properly. This is in sharp contrast to dietary protein and (healthy) fat sources - which are essential for our nutritional well-being.

We can utilize and/or tolerate some level of carbs without adverse effects … the degree to which this is the case is highly individualized (both genetic and epigenetic factors play into this) and also depends on how much damage one has already done to one’s metabolism.

I offered the “air pollution metaphor” as just that - an analogy. If it doesn’t speak to you, fell free to toss it aside as @Wendy198 has done. No worries.

(Edith) #10

From what I read, our muscles are most receptive to glucose and don’t even need insulin to uptake the glucose right after exercising. My advice would be carbs after exercise to replenish your glycogen stores a bit to aid with muscle recovery.

I have been adding in more carbs on days that I have more intense workouts and I feel like my recovery is better.

(Michael) #11

This as well, I had meant to mention the same thing.


If your carb allowance is the typically keto range of carbs, then it makes no difference at all, as it’s never enough to matter. If you were eating more carbs, like how we do with TKD, then you’d want them before workouts, but that’s very rarely done with food carbs, and typically done with Dextrose, food carbs don’t burn fast enough to fuel you through a workout. Eat them whenever you like. If you were doing something like CKD where you do glycogen reloads, than after is preferable, but only in that situation as unless it was a true reload then you wouldn’t be eating enough of them to ever make it to muscle to begin with.


I would always do it after exercise and this would not adversely affect me.