If you've made the health decision to start living low-carb, you might be curious just exactly what "low carb" means. How many carbs can you consume per day, and will an extra slice of bread truly destroy your diet? While the basics remain the same, carb limit completely depends on the person. A 6'5'', 225 lb male athlete, for instance, requires a higher carb intake than a 5' 2'' woman working a desk job, as he's naturally burning more fat, carbs, and calories. There's no go-to "carb limit" to go by, so you have to find your own. While size and exercise level are two major factors, it can also change by the day. Since getting into ketosis doesn't require the same carb intake for everyone, here's how to find yours:
Finding Your Unique Limit
To find your ideal dietary carb limit, use a keto calculator that takes your gender, height, weight, level of body fat, and goals into consideration. If you want to lose weight, you should eat less carbs than if you're trying to maintain it. A keto calculator is an excellent way to find your ideal limit, and as your goals, weight, or exercise level changes, you can always use it to calculate your new limit quickly and easily. For the majority of dieters, this helpful calculator is a go-to tool.
If you're curious about average numbers or want to add a few more carbs to your diet, keep these basic counts in mind: 35 grams of total carbs and 25 grams of net carbs is the ideal place to start a low-carb diet, as it helps nearly anyone achieve results. Limit this number further, and you'll get into ketosis more quickly. If you want to attempt a higher level of carb consumption and maintain a ketogenic state, always track your ketones, and try adding 5 grams to your daily limit. If your ketone reading is still steady, you can stay in ketosis with a higher level of carb consumption. If the numbers drop, however, you're coming out of ketosis, and a higher carb limit isn't going to work for you. Keeping track using Ketostix is an excellent way to monitor ketones, and to find out if adding more to your diet keeps you within a ketogenic state or not. When you're just starting out, using these basic numbers can be a helpful tool so see what works for your body best.
Factors That Affect Your Dietary Carb Limit
Multiple factors affect your dietary carb limit, and size is just one of them. Here are a few more, and what you can do to keep ketosis under control:
The type and level of exercise you choose determines just how well you achieve and stay in ketosis. If you're sedentary, you'll naturally require a lower carb limit because you'll be burning away less throughout the day. To achieve ketosis quickly, high-intensity exercise is the best, so try activities such as weight-lifting or cross-fit. These will deplete your body's glycogen stores quickly, burning fat for fuel and boosting ketone levels so that you can burn more during each workout. When you're just starting out, getting into ketosis with high-intensity exercise is easier to accomplish. Once you become fat-adapted, your body will start burning more calories, even while resting, which changes the amount of carbs required to stay in a ketogenic state. Once you've adjusted to high-intensity exercise, you can get by on lower-intensity workouts, such as cycling or taking a brisk walk. Since you'll be more fat-adapted at this point, your body will naturally burn more fat during these light, easy activities than it did when you first started out.
Stress impacts both body and mind, so it will impact your ketone levels and carb limit, too. Whether stress stems from work, family, or maintaining your diet, it increases cortisol levels, which, in turn, increases blood sugar levels, and decreases insulin sensitivity. If you're a diabetic, stress can be downright dangerous, but either way, high cortisol levels will eventually cease your body's need to produce ketones, quickly kicking you out of ketosis. When stress levels are at an all-time high, you won't even be able to produce ketones, much less lose fat or maintain muscle mass. Since stress has a significant impact on your low-carb lifestyle, make it a priority to reduce levels as much as you can. Try improving your sleep quality by sticking to a schedule, listening to your favorite music, watching a funny movie, or practicing meditation. Different stress-relief techniques work for different people; find what's most effective for you.
3. Protein Intake
While many high-protein foods also contain healthy fats, that doesn't mean you should be downing steak dinners every night. If your protein intake is too high, amino acids begin flooding the bloodstream, and insulin is released. This tells the body that it can burn energy from the amino acids, not fat, so it will stop producing ketones, and kick you out of ketosis. This is another reason why a keto calculator is so helpful; you won't just find your ideal dietary carb limit, but your fat and protein limits as well. A well-balanced meal plan helps you even out your intake of fat, protein, and carbs so that you can maintain a healthy ketogenic state. If you're struggling to maintain ketosis, use this calculator to find your precise intake levels, create a meal plan in advance to simplify dieting, and monitor your ketones regularly using ketostix. If your goals change, you've lost weight, your stress has decreased, or you simply want to consume more carbs, follow the "increasing it by 5 grams" trick above to discover if a higher level works for you, and recalculate your limit to see how that number has changed. As you ease into low-carb living, your body will adjust, and you'll be able to tell by feeling (and by measuring your ketones) whether you're in ketosis or not. When you know which factors affect ketosis, you can start changing your habits to achieve a happier, healthier low-carb lifestyle.