This question seems to be a key for many who are new to a ketogenic lifestyle and diet. While it is at the same time one of the easiest questions to answer it is a very layered subject depending on your personal goals. This is why it is so frequently misspoken online as to why or why not you should eat a lower amount of carbohydrates.
How many carbs can you eat and stay in ketosis? The best number to stick at is 20 grams of net carbohydrates. This will allow your body to stay in continual ketosis and keep the fat burning in progress without slowing. If you exercise more you may be able to gradually increase this number over time to where you are maintaining weight and/or gaining muscle.
Now that you know the baseline, we will explore the reason for this level of carbohydrate intake. We will also talk about eating more and less carbohydrates as each body is different sometimes your number to continue to your goals means you must make some changes in the total carbohydrate intake.
Basics Of Carbohydrates On A Ketogenic Diet
Ketosis is a state of being based on a total carbohydrate intake that doesn’t support fully the energy needs of your body. Since your body doesn’t have enough intake of energy it starts a bodily process to start utilizing stored body fat to supplement the energy needs to ensure the proper function of your systems.
For a large percentage of the population this level of intake falls around 20 grams. This is a good starting line as it will induce ketosis in almost everyone who tries, typically with some time involved being short.
Your body does have glycogen stores available that it will bleed through over time and effort expended to reach the need for more fat fuel.
Once your body starts to burn your body fat and plate fat it starts adapting, see you have been eating a large amount of carbohydrates for most of your life.
Your body is having to start the engine of fat burning that it hasn’t had to use and this process can take some time. People have reported from 1-2 weeks to up to 2 months.
This is why I always want people to avoid any cheats for at least their first 2 months. You want to let this engine gear up and start working how it used to throughout our evolution.
This will help you to have less hunger pangs and energy issues down the road. If you never let it fully engage this system then you will always be in a process of adapting in-between cheat days or meals.
How Much Do You Actually Need?
Contrary to popular health and wellness information you have zero need for carbohydrate intake. There is no essential carbohydrate, that means your body can make anything necessary and doesn’t need to have it come from an outside source.
This means your actual need is 0, nada, zilch. If your body has a need of glucose it is able to convert amino acids and fatty acid parts into glucose by breaking it down with internal systems. When you consume carbohydrates you just allow it to not engage this system of energy utilization.
You should balance your intake of carbohydrates based on your own personal energy needs or goals. An NFL player and you will have very different energy needs and power output needs. There is no one size solution to this process, you may take a few weeks to months to figure out your best intake.
What Are Your Current Goals?
This is a primary question that everyone should ask themselves prior to figuring out their carbohydrate intake after they have made it through the first 2 months of adaptation. This will determine whether you can or should increase or decrease possibly the amount of carbohydrate intake.
If Your Goal Is Fat Loss
The more body fat you have on you the less carbohydrate intake you want to maintain. A person who is wanting fat loss should be also limiting their carbohydrate intake to green leafy vegetables and fiber dense vegetables. These carbs shouldn’t be spent on processed keto junk foods and on drinks.
Lower intake doesn’t guarantee more fat loss but it will help the systems which burn fat continue to run without slowing the process. The longer you can stay in ketosis is the longer your body has at burning body fat, it won’t increase the amount necessarily as that would be determined by fat intake from foods and exercises level.
Fat intake from foods will be used by the food or stored as fat on the body, it isn’t miraculous. The more exercise you do, whether walking, running, CrossFit, or other activity will make your body mobilize energy.
If Your Goal Is Muscle Gain
You may want to increase your carbohydrate slightly if you are looking to gain strength as you will get more explosiveness. While this isn’t needed many weight lifters will add up to 20-50 grams in a pre-workout before their gym sessions, please remember this is a 1-2 hours workout and not 30 minutes of cardio.
Increases in carbohydrate that you use will impact your ketosis but when you have a goal it may be a good thing. Ketosis itself isn’t catabolic or anabolic so please don’t think that keto is causing you to “lose your gains” as these are just phases your body will naturally go through.
What Are Benefits To Increased Carbohydrates?
The ability to use them for immediate fuel for high, quick energy expenditure. Typically this is more in the high top end pure output instead of long endurance based sports.
Everyone needs to realize there is “deadly” food for your body but each has their own potential for use by our body or becomes a byproduct of being used by our body.
As you get lean and have less body fat on you you will have 1 of 2 strategies available to power your body. Either increase your plate fat to support or you will need to increase your carbohydrates to fill the energy need or gap.
This is a rarely discussed topic as most people are in mid-weight loss or are on the physically lean and built side.
Increased High Output Energy – HIIT Style Exercise
If you are a frequent high output exercise individual then you may want to work in some carbohydrates. Though many elite athletes can get by with none to minimal additions it can help you for a performance boost.
While this isn’t going to be loved by “keto evangelicals” if you need a boost and don’t have BHB or Ketone Esters then this is a path you may travel on a very monitored manner.
Keto Products Which Can Provide An Energy Boost Similar To Carbs
This is where BHB and Ketone Esters come into play for assisting and boosting performance. I wanted to make sure that it was known that you can get a boost from keto friendly supplements to help boost the immediate ketone supplies in the body which is very similar to a carb load spree.
This all without the downside of being in a blood sugar spike and high which will come with the eventual crash or bonk at the end.
What Are Drawbacks To Increased Carbohydrates?
The issues mostly will center around blood sugar spikes, insulin spikes and the mid day exhaustion which you left behind by not consuming carbohydrates.
You will go back to being hungry, often every 2-3 hours, because your body while high on insulin has issues allowing access to body fat. So when hungry and unable to access the stored body fat then it will trigger you to intake food, and since it isn’t all used for energy it will convert the non-used to body fat.
Being “Kicked Out” Of Ketosis
This is typically listed as the “major” issue with eating increased carbohydrates. This is a straw man argument though as ketosis is just a normal “state” of the body and doesn’t need to be continuous to be healthy and useful. Instead you should focus on using ketosis for the tool it is, to make it through times of less food to allow us to lose body fat and get lean.
Final Thoughts on How Many Carbs Can You Eat and Stay in Ketosis
In the end this will be something each person will need to work out for themselves. It is something that the community is always split on as to the “best” way for results.
Unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” person in the world. Each of us are unique and hence we need things tailored more to us, our behaviors and what we like to do and eat.
Don’t let anyone tell you something “Isn’t keto” as ketosis is not any singular food it is a body system and you can still eat rice and be keto, eat crap and be keto, it is all shades of how much and what it does to you in the after effects.
Please share this if you liked it and if you know anyone who could gain some insight from reading I would love to help them out also. Please contact me if you learned anything from this or if I got anything wrong, I’m not an expert, I just want to spread what has worked for me and scores of other people!