How few carbs are there in a low-carb diet? It depends on what you’re trying to achieve and who you are.
Generally speaking, the fewer carbs the more effective it will be. Faster weight loss without hunger. More rapid and powerful reversal of type 2 diabetes. But also more restrictive and possibly more challenging.
Here’s the way we define different levels of low carb:
Ketogenic low carb:
You can have <20 gram carbs per day. This is a ketogenic diet (if protein intake is moderate). This level is defined as below 4 energy percent carbs in our recipes, where we also keep the protein level low or moderate (excess protein is converted to carbohydrates in the body). Previously we often called this “strict low carb”, but as the word “keto” or “ketogenic” became commonly used we switched to only use this term, for simplicity.
Moderate low carb:
You can have 20-50 grams per day. This level is defined as between 4-10% carbs in our recipes.
Liberal low carb:
You can have 50-100 grams per day.
The above numbers refer to digestible carbs, and discount the fibre. You can deduct them from your carb counts, i.e.: eat all the natural fibre you want from vegetables, for example.
Another word for digestible carbs, with the fiber deducted, is “net carbs”. However, don’t be fooled by the label “net carbs” on processed products, like chocolate bars. That’s usually just a way to trick you, and these products are often full of sugar alcohols with negative effects on your weight and blood sugar. I suggest not eating anything with the words “net carbs” printed on it.
An effective low-carb diet should be based on real food.
How to choose:
Some people need to keep the carbs very low for maximum effect – a strict low-carb diet. This includes many people with significant weight issues, diabetes (mainly type 2) and food or sugar addiction, for example.
Others – less carb-intolerant people – do great on a more liberal low-carb diet. This also minimizes the risk of any side effects.
A third group of healthy, lean, active people may not even need to eat very low carb, as long as they mainly eat unprocessed slow carbs.
If you want to start doing low carb, I suggest starting out on a strict version, just to experience the power of it. Later, as you hopefully approach your weight and health goals, you can try adding more natural carbs to see how much you will be able to tolerate.