☰ Menu

How Many Carbs per Day on a Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet?

21. November 2013|Martina|6

Although my initial plan was to include this post in All You Need to Know About Carbs on Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet, I decided it deserves to be discussed separately.

How Many Carbs per day to stay in ketosis?

As described in my post How Does the Ketogenic Diet Work? Weight Loss and 3 Main Effects of Ketosis, weight loss on a ketogenic diet is achieved by limiting the daily intake of net carbs and getting your body in a metabolic state known as ketosis.

While in ketosis, your body effectively uses fat for fuel. In general, the daily intake of net carbs required to enter ketosis could vary from 20 to 100 grams per day (and very rarely over 100 grams per day). Most people, who have experienced ketosis, claim to have reached that state at about 20-50 grams of net carbs per day. I'd suggest you start at 20-30 grams and see how you can adjust it for your needs.

There are two ways to find your ideal net carbs intake:

  • Low to high method
    Start from a low level of net carbs to ensure you quickly enter ketosis (~ 20 grams of net carbs per day). When you detect ketosis after about 2-3 days, start adding net carbs (about 5 grams each week) until yout detect a very low-level or no ketones (using Ketostix or blood ketone meter). This is usually the most reliable and quickest way to discover your net carbs limit. It could be a bit hard the first couple of days, as you have to give up almost all carbs from one day to another but it will be worth it. This method is highly recommended.

  • High to low method
    Assuming you're not in ketosis, start from a relatively high level of net carbs (~ 50 grams) and keep reducing (about 5 grams each week) until you detect presence of ketones. This is a less difficult approach but not recommended, as you may spend a long time out of ketosis before you find you net carbs limit.

If you can't see any ketones, be patient. It typically takes 2-3 days for your body to deplete glycogen stores, so don't expect to be in ketosis after just a day of low-carb. Remember, ketosis is a favourable condition and an indication that your body uses fat for fuel but you can lose weight even without being in ketosis. Diet high in fat, adequate in protein and low in carbohydrates is naturally sating, making you less hungry and, therefore, help you lose weight.

Why you should think twice before going "zero-carb"

There is no need to go "zero-carb" eating unless you are doing Restricted Ketogenic Diet for therapeutic reasons. Most people experience all the great fat loss and health benefits of the Ketogenic diet at 20-30 grams of net carbs per day. Remember, more ketones won't help you burn significantly more calories. You simply need to find your optimal carbs level to sate your appetitte and feel good.

Also, as I explained in one of my previous posts, in cases of autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto's), a very low-carb diet is not recommended. Dr. Broda Barnes, who spent over 50 years on thyroid research, suggested in his book “Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness” that the minimum amount of carbohydrate intake for patients with hypothyroidism should at least 30 grams of net carbs.

My personal experience with carbs is that if I eat less than 20-30 grams of net carbs, I feel less sated and tend to eat more. I can't explain why that happens and it doesn't make sense to me, but it may be down to my thyroid issues (Hashimoto's). I'm quite lucky because I can eat up to about 50 grams of net carbs and still detect ketones. You can find out more about measuring ketones in my post here: Ketosis & Measuring Ketones.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post. To find out more about the ketogenic diet and keto-friendly recipes, check out my apps KetoDiet, KetoDiet Basic and my Kindle book!

Comments (6) -

=Randal L. Schwartz 11/22/2013 12:20:31 AM #
=Randal L. Schwartz

Please don't put "ketostix" as a possible way to detect ketosis.  Read this for details:


Martina @ KetoDiet 11/22/2013 3:39:41 PM #
Martina @ KetoDiet

Thank you for your comment. I know what you are saying and I'm fully aware of this issue - I've also read "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Volek and Phinney. However, I've been on a low-carb, ketogenic diet for 2 years, use ketostix every now and then and can't complain about them Smile

I've read the post you linked to and I know ketostix detection strips are not accurate but they are not useless. The only other options you have is to use blood ketone meter (quite expensive and not everybody likes to use it) or nothing. Also, it's not really important how strong the readings on ketostix are (darker colour does not indicate more fat loss). I'm working on a post devoted to measuring ketones and I'll include all the relevant information.


ZebaT 11/30/2013 9:58:36 PM #

I started at 50 grams of net carbs and it took ages before I got to ketosis. I finally found that the "limit" for me is at 25-30 grams, so I try to keep it at that level. If I knew how difficult it would be, I'd probably start at 20 and slowly go up. It's hard, I won't lie but you get used to it after a week. Thanks for this post!


Martina @ KetoDiet 12/1/2013 5:18:30 PM #
Martina @ KetoDiet

You're welcome Smile It is better to start low, I'd say at 20-25 grams of net carbs and add them slowly until you find your ideal intake.


Pinkie 3/25/2014 9:08:27 AM #

i have been reading a lot about keto diet..even tried it on and off for a few days; my main issue is reaaly the carb do i keep it around 20-25g? is there a menu you can suggest me for 1 week lets say? especially cause in my coutry i can't fine these ketostix.. Thank you!


Martina @ KetoDiet 3/25/2014 12:36:58 PM #
Martina @ KetoDiet

Hi Pinkie, have a look at my diet plan here (7-Day Grab & Go Keto/Paleo Diet Plan): You can include dairy (full-fat yogurt, cheese, cream) - this depends on how you tolerate it but I didn't include it. Only count net carbs and eat meat, eggs, avocados, non-starchy vegetables, some nuts, raw dairy and low-carb fruit like berries.


Add comment

  • Comment
  • Preview