The ketogenic diet is all about maintaining a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle. But a simple low-carbohydrate diet isn't the same as true keto. For a keto diet to be successful, you have to first reach and then stay in ketosis, the optimal metabolic state for fat-burning and mental clarity. In order to reach ketosis, you need to deplete your glycogen stores and start burning ketones as fuel. Ketone production requires fat, which is why the high-fat element of this diet is so important to your success.
This type of metabolic transformation requires a pretty steep drop in carbohydrates for most — something more intentional than just cutting out bread and pasta — and the strategic addition of healthy fats in their place. Your keto carb limit will vary based on a number of factors, including your natural metabolism, your sex (yes, that's a factor in most weight loss plans due to the hormonal differences between men and women) and your lifestyle . Lifestyle factors include your stress levels and sleep quality, in addition to your activity level and exercise habits.
First, let's cover the basics of the keto lifestyle. Then, we'll get into the best way to find your keto carb limit and stay within it for optimal fat burn and weight loss.
The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein and high-fat diet. The recommended macronutrient ratios are approximately :
- 75% fat
- 20% protein
- 5% carbohydrates
These percentages refer to calories, so while counting calories isn't a typical strategy on the keto diet, calories do count in the end to help you determine your macro goals. In fact, we often forget that calories are the fourth macronutrient. In a way, they're the container or umbrella that the other three macros fit into in order to determine how much you should be eating to reach your fitness goal, even if we talk about them in grams.
For example, on a 2,000-calorie diet, 5-10% of those calories should be net carbs (net carbs equals total carbs minus fibre and sugar alcohols). Put in grams, that's a range of 20-50 grams of net carbs per day . A typical high-carb diet in the U.K. contains about 252 grams of carb intake for men and 198 grams for women (at between 1,800 and 2,000 daily calories), so by any measure, the keto diet is a pretty drastic change . For many sticking to <20g of carbs per day is recommended but once in ketosis you may be able to increase this (just keep tracking your ketone levels, we recommend a blood monitor to do so).
To stay within such a small window, the keto diet requires the elimination of virtually all starchy vegetables, sugars, roots, tubers, grains, legumes, alcohol and especially processed foods. Just by cutting out processed foods, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll begin feeling some of the health benefits of the keto diet. But the real magic begins when you reach a state of ketosis.
In a state of ketosis, you're achieving optimal metabolic function, burning ketone bodies as your energy source and achieving fat loss at a whole new level. Because your blood glucose doesn't spike and drop after a meal, you avoid energy crashes and stabilise your insulin levels. This helps curb any risk you might have for Type 2 diabetes and may even help reverse it if you do have it .
How To Find Your Keto Carb Limit
Now that you understand the basics of the keto diet and the potential health benefits, it's time to figure out how to determine what your own carbohydrate intake should look like. Since 20-50 grams is kind of a wide window, it's beneficial to drill down a bit further and take a somewhat scientific approach.
There are two main ways you can get closer to understanding your own personal keto carb limit. For both strategies, it's helpful to use at-home testing to determine when you reach ketosis. Testing can come in the form of keto strips that test ketone levels in your urine, a breath meter that measures your exhale for ketone byproducts or a blood ketone meter that pricks your finger to test your blood ketone levels. Our personal preference is a ketone blood meter.
The first and simplest way to find your daily carb limit is to use a keto calculator online. Ruled.me has created a keto calculator to help you figure out your ideal macros. By answering a few questions about your current physique (BMI), activity levels and ultimate body weight goal, the keto calculator will generate your total calories and then break them down into fats, proteins and carbs.
While a keto calculator is an excellent starting point, it's not the end of your journey. A tool like this can't drill down into your family history, your body composition, your own metabolic profile, your hormones or your lifestyle beyond exercise. If you start with the numbers that your keto calculator gives you and you find that you're feeling hungry all the time or that you aren't losing weight, you might need to do some tweaking.
For a more personalised macro calculation, check out Keto Kev, who is a certified Keto Coach. Kev will work out your personalised macros for a small fee. View this here.
It is always recommended to have your macros personalised to help you reach your goals. It will also take into account your exercise levels, body composition and goals.
The second way to determine your ideal carb limit is to start at 50 grams and work backward until you reach ketosis. Using this strategy might mean that your journey to ketosis takes a little longer, but the result is individual to you and takes all of your personal health and lifestyle factors into consideration, kind of by default. You are the only subject in your experiment, so the results will most certainly pertain to you as an individual.
This approach to a keto diet plan will give you a chance to really home in on what works for you. For this method, it's especially important to test regularly so that you know which foods and eating patterns are helping and which you should change up.
A Personal Approach To the Keto Lifestyle
We went over the basics of keto and the potential health benefits of the plan. We know that swapping out starchy and processed carbs and sugars for healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado oil, MCT oil and grass-fed animal fats is a great way to optimise your metabolism.
The keto lifestyle involves reaching and staying in ketosis so your body can burn fat and help you reach your fitness goals. But everyone has their own individual keto carb limit. Finding that limit can take a bit of time, and testing along the way is really important for success. Once you get there, you'll enjoy all the wonderful effects of this eating plan, including blood sugar regulation, sustained energy, mental clarity and fat loss. We can help you get started with some of the best keto breakfast recipes on the internet.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.