So as most of you know by now, I’ve gone low carb. I’m still eating clean, but I’ve reduced the number of carbs I eat significantly.
With this change, I’m getting a whole new set of questions coming to me on a daily basis. Questions such as, “how many carbs do you eat per day?” and “do you count net or total carbs?“.
Well, I’m not one to leave you guys hanging. So here’s exactly what I’m doing, as well as descriptions of the two different approaches to counting carbs.
WHAT I’M DOING
Please understand that this approach is one that I have chosen with my doctor. You should consult your doctor as well. But doctors aside, this is what I am personally doing. It may or may not be the correct approach for you. It is entirely possible that you may need more or fewer carbs than I do. The trick is to experiment with different levels of carbs until you find the level at which you thrive. Again, this is a good number to figure out with your health care provider.
That being said, there are many low carb programs out there that will give you a certain number. And since my number is basically the same, I don’t have any issues with sharing that number here.
My magic number is: 25 total carbs per day.
NET CARBS VS. TOTAL CARBS
You may have heard that some low carb eaters count total carbs while others count net carbs. What’s the difference?
Total carbs – The number of carbohydrates in any given food. It’s the first arrow shown here. (“Total Carbohydrates”) This is what I count when I count carbs.
Net carbs – The number of carbs left over after you subtract the fiber. So in our example here, you would subtract the 2 g of fiber from the total carbs for a net carb result of 3 g.
WHY DO PEOPLE COUNT NET CARBS?
People do this to ensure they get enough fiber while eating low carb and also because fiber, generally speaking, does not affect your blood sugar negatively. In fact, it often helps keep things stable.
HOW MANY CARBS SHOULD YOU EAT?
The number of carbs you eat per day will be purely a personal thing. Unless your doctor gives you a specific number like mine did, it’s probably a good idea to play around with this a little.
It’s possible to lose weight too quickly with low carb eating and it’s also possible to stall your progress. I’m sure there are even those who have gained a little weight with low carb eating. Rare, but it’s possible. The trick is to find YOUR magic number.
SO WHERE DO YOU START?
If you read the Atkins books, they will tell you to eat 20 net carbs per day. I’m not a medical professional of course, but this sounds like sound advice for somebody just getting started. Using net carbs will make the transition to lower carb eating much easier. But keep in mind that there are low carb eaters who enjoy 50-150g of carbs per day as well.
As for me, I jumped in, cold-turkey, with 20 total carbs per day, and then adjusted up to 25g of carbs because it’s what I needed to do to get my blood sugar back under control. But please, don’t do what I do just because it sounds good. Remember to question what you read on the internet. Do your research. Figure out what’s best for you and your body. Talk to your doctor. Do this safely.
(So in that case, definitely do what I did…. talk to your doctor!!!!)
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’LL MAKE?
For me, the biggest changes were giving up grains. Bread, pasta, rice…. even quinoa…. gone. Sugar also had to go. Even the clean stuff. I had to look around for a brand of stevia that I could actually tolerate, which was definitely not easy. But I did find that after a while, that aftertaste I had from it disappeared. Now I don’t taste it at all. As with most things, you have to give your palate some time to adjust. Thankfully, mine did. But I did find that the best way to do that was to use liquid stevia (not powdered) and add it to hot liquids at first. Then I moved on to colder stuff and even baked goods.
Now I’m not saying that stevia is the right sweetener for you. I’m saying it’s the right sweetener for me. So again, do some research and experimenting to find what works best for you and your body.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Was this switch easy? No. And the truth is, I slip sometimes. We all do when we start something new. It’s normal. But I find that my slips are becoming further and further apart, and I notice that when I do slip, most of the stuff I “cheat” with tastes like cardboard now. So it really does take some time to make a full switch. It’s not something you do overnight. You have to continue trying! You can’t throw in the towel every time you mess up. That mentality is the “diet mentality” and it never lasts. So if you go the low carb route, do it with your eyes wide open. Expect mistakes and plan for how you will deal with them. And most importantly, always come back to your eating plan. No matter how badly you think you messed up, and no matter how long you’ve been “off the wagon”. Come back. Again and again until you forget to fall off. It will eventually become just the way you live. And guess what? Even then you’ll mess up!! And that’s okay! What matters is coming back. And that’s as true for any type of healthy eating as it is for low carb and/or clean eating. It’s true for any lifestyle change you truly want to make. Nobody is perfect. So learn to navigate those imperfections and your success rate will significantly increase.
THE CARB FLU
If you’ve never heard the term before, I promise, it’s a thing. As real as detox is when you first get back to eating clean after a bender. It’s not fun and you do have to prepare yourself for it. But the good thing is, it doesn’t last long, and then suddenly you’re feeling great! It’s something many low carb eaters experience, and it really is a little like the flu. You feel lethargic, tired, have cravings, and feel generally yucky. But I promise, it doesn’t last.
If you read any low carb literature at all, you will undoubtedly come across the term, “ketosis”. It’s a huge topic in low carb eating. But it’s also very controversial. Most mainstream doctors will have a hissy fit if you tell them you are trying to reach ketosis. And this is usually because they associate it with ketoacidosis. An issue that can arise for diabetics. So if you talk to your doctor, brace yourself for that reaction. You will most likely get it.
Because I do not want to come across as advocating either for or against ketosis (do your research!!!), I will simply refer you to a fabulous book I read on the topic. It’s called Keto Clarity (amazon affiliate link). It’s absolutely fantastic and I fully intend on sending my previous doctor a copy.
GETTING ENOUGH WATER
I can’t stress enough how critical it is to drink water when you eat low carb. Your body will naturally get rid of more water as a result of this way of eating. So it’s essential to your health that you ensure you are getting enough water. Do whatever you have to do, but make sure you drink enough. As with any amount of dehydration, you can damage your health considerably if you don’t.
There is a lot to consider if you think low carb is right for you. There is also a certain amount of experimentation to figure out what will fit you best. And while I certainly do not believe that low carb eating is right for everyone (that’s just silly!), I do think that it’s great for a good number of people out there. So again, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian. Then go for it! The only way you’ll figure out what works for you is if you jump in and do it.