Carbs vs Net Carbs: How to Count Them for Keto Success

Knowing the difference between carbs versus net carbs is essential for reaping the fat-burning, energy-boosting benefits of the keto diet. Tracking net carbs on keto is critical because net carbs are what impact blood sugar, which can kick you out of ketosis, the ultimate mechanism of the keto diet. Thankfully, calculating net carbs is a fairly simple task: just subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates (with a few exceptions, of course).

In this article, you will learn:

Do You Count Net Carbs or Total Carbs on Keto?

One key to succeeding with the keto diet is counting net carbs, not total carbs. For most keto dieters, the maximum number of net carbs that will result in ketosis is 30 net carbohydrates.

Total carbohydrates include insoluble fiber and sugar alcohols, but since these nutritional components do not impact blood sugar, and therefore can’t shift your body out of ketosis, they aren’t counted towards your daily keto carb limit.

On the other hand, knowing how many net carbs you’re consuming is critical, because once you remove carbs from fiber and sugar alcohol, what remains are the carbs from starches and sugars, which will elevate your blood sugar and could ultimately, kick you out of ketosis. 

Unlike fiber and sugar alcohols, which simply pass through your body and become waste, your body digests and uses starch and sugar for fuel. By strictly limiting your consumption of this type of fuel, aka glucose, your body is forced to produce an alternative fuel source, known as ketones.

How Do You Calculate Net Carbs?

Thankfully, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate net carbs.

To find net carbs, simply take a food’s total carbohydrates (listed on the nutrition label), and subtract the fiber and sugar alcohols (also listed a food’s nutrition label).

natural force vanilla keto coffee creamer nutrition panel

Here’s a closer look at why sugar alcohols and fiber aren’t factored into your carb count on keto:

Sugar Alcohols

Compared to regular sugar (aka glucose), sugar alcohols have a unique molecular structure that makes them indigestible. This means that even though they’re sweet, they have no effect on ketosis or fat burning and are therefore subtracted.

But keep in mind that this is not cut-and-dry rule for all sugar alcohols. Malitol is one sugar alcohol that does impact blood sugar levels and should be counted in your net carbs.

For a safe, low carb way to satisfy your sweet tooth, stick with common keto sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol, which will not count toward your net carb total.

creamy mct oil

Learn more!


Fiber is another type of carb that’s unable to be digested by the body. Since our guts don’t have the enzymes to break down fiber, it passes through the digestive system without impacting blood sugar. That’s why keto dieters consider fiber to have zero carbs.

To sum it up, you can calculate the net carbs in any given food by simply subtracting its total amount of carbs with its amount of fiber and sugar alcohols.

Let’s use the example of an avocado. Half of an avocado contains 9 grams of total carbs, 7 grams of fiber, and zero sugar alcohols. When you subtract the fiber (7 grams) from the Total Carbohydrates (9 grams), you’re left with 2 grams of net carbs.

In other words, 9 grams of carbs - 7 grams of fiber = 2 net carbs!

Pretty straightforward, right?

That said, if you are looking for an even easier way to crunch your carbs, the Biohackers Lab blog has a handy net carb calculator that allows you to determine net carbs with a click of the button!

fit man wearing a backward baseball cap smiling while holding and looking at a handcrafted natural force mug

How Many Carbs Can You Eat and Still Be in Ketosis?

Most keto dieters limit their net carbs to approximately 20-50 grams per day in order to get in and stay in ketosis, but the exact number can vary from person to person.

For that reason, it’s essential to test your ketones to know what your own unique net carb limit is.

Testing also ensures that your carb intake is low enough to deplete your body’s glycogen stores, which in turn allows your body to enter and maintain a state of nutritional ketosis, which is where all of the keto diet’s fat-burning and energy-boosting benefits come from.


UP NEXT: Eating Out On Keto: 9 Hacks for a Keto Meal Anywhere

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