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Net Carb Vs Total Carb: Differences & Why It Matters?

Net Carb Vs Total Carb

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. The diet involves taking an extremely low amount of carbohydrates and substituting them with fat to stimulate the body's fat-burning processes. If you're starting on the ketogenic diet, you may be hearing terms like "carb count," "macros," and "net carbs" quite a bit.

Net carbs are all the carbohydrates in food that can be absorbed and used by the body for energy. In contrast, total carbs include all types of carbohydrates, including fiber and sugar alcohols, which are not fully absorbed by the body.

Here is a quick definition od the difference between Keto Net Carb and Total Carb:

The keto net carb diet is a low-carb with a high-fat diet with an aim to bring the body into a state of ketosis. However, the total carb diet allows for a higher amount of carbohydrates and may include more whole grains and fruits.

This post discusses net carbs vs. total carb. Keep reading to learn more!

Key Takeaways

  • Net carbs are determined by removing fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates count.
  • Total carbs include all carbohydrates present in food.
  • Both keto net carb and total carb diets may help with weight loss and blood sugar management.

Curious about which keto-friendly meals match your preferences? Take our Keto Quiz to find out! to answer a few questions and receive personalized meal recommendations tailored to your keto diet

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Keto Net Carb Diet

On the ketogenic diet, the "net carb" is the amount of carbs in a food minus the fiber and sugar alcohol. Fiber and sugar alcohol are subtracted because the body does not fully absorb them.

The keto net carb diet limits daily carbohydrate consumption to 20-50 grams to induce ketosis. Ketosis is a state where the body changes from using glucose as its primary energy source to using ketones created from fat metabolism.

One of the most important takeaways about the ketogenic diet is that only net carbs are counted when calculating your daily consumption.

Related: Whole30 Diet vs Keto Diet - The Key Differences

Health Benefits of the Keto Net Carb Diet

The keto net carb diet has several potential health benefits, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Reduced risk of heart diseases

Foods to Eat and Avoid

When following the keto net carb diet, it is important to consume foods that are low in carbs and high in healthy fats. Here are some foods to eat and avoid:

Foods to Eat

  • Low-carb vegetables such as leafy greens and broccoli
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, etc.
  • Protein sources should include meat, poultry, fish, and eggs
  • Low-carb fruits such as berries, tomatoes, etc.
  • Dairy products like cheese, heavy cream, and sour cream

Foods Not to Eat

  • High-carb vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas
  • Grains like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, etc.
  • Sugary foods like candy, soda, baked goods, etc.
  • Fruits such as bananas, apples, oranges, etc.
  • Processed foods like chips, crackers, cookies, etc.

Potential challenges

Here are some challenges you may face when on keto net carb diet:

  • Once the body enters a condition of ketosis, certain individuals may experience flu-like symptoms such as lethargy, headaches, and nausea
  • The keto net carb diet can be challenging to sustain long-term, especially for those who are used to consuming high-carb foods
  • Sometimes, the keto net carb diet's high protein intake may raise the risk of kidney stones
  • Some studies suggest that the high fat intake of the keto net carb diet has a negative effect on the cholesterol levels of some individuals

Total Carb Diet

The total carb diet focuses on the total carbohydrates consumed rather than just the net carbs. The total carb diet does not restrict carbohydrate intake but emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes - while limiting added sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Health Benefits of Total Carb Diet

Some of the benefits of following a total carb diet include the following:

  • Eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates, along with balanced amounts of protein and fat, can assist in regulating blood sugar levels
  • Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are key components of the total carb diet, which can increase fiber intake and promote digestive health
  • A balanced diet with complex carbs can give continuous energy throughout the day, increasing energy levels

Foods to Eat and Avoid

Here are some examples of foods to eat and avoid on a total carb diet:

Foods to Eat

  • Whole grains, such as brown rice and whole wheat bread
  • Fruits and vegetables of all kinds
  • Lean protein sources, such as chicken, fish, beans, and tofu
  • Healthy fats, such as avocado, nuts, and seeds

#### Foods to Avoid

  • Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, pasta, and sugary cereals
  • Processed snacks and sweets, such as chips, cookies, and candy
  • Sugary beverages, including soda, juice, and sports drinks

Potential Challenges

The total carb diet can be good for your health in many ways, but when following it, you may face a few challenges. Some of the possible challenges are:

  • Many refined and processed carbohydrates are highly palatable, making limiting their consumption when on a total carb diet difficult
  • Some individuals may have trouble consuming enough protein on a total-carbohydrate diet, particularly if they restrict high-fat animal products such as cheese and red meat
  • Sugary beverages, processed snacks, and sweets are common sources of added sugars, which might be difficult to control on a diet high in total carbohydrates

Related: What Fruits Are Keto-Friendly? 8 Healthy Options

Comparison of Keto Net Carb Diet vs Total Carb Diet

Diet Keto Net Carb Total Carbs
Formula Digestible carbs - indigestible carbs Digestible carbs + indigestible carbs
Nutrition Starches, sugar, fiber, sugar alcohols Starches and sugar
Benefits Weight loss, Improved blood sugar control, Reduces inflammation, Reduced risk of heart diseases Assists in regulating blood sugar levels, Promotes digestive health, Increases energy levels
Challenges Flu-like symptoms such as lethargy, headaches, and nausea, Challenging to sustain long-term, Raises the risk of kidney stones, Has a negative effect on the cholesterol levels of some individuals Limiting refined and processed carbs on a total carb diet is challenging, Some people on a total-carbohydrate diet may not get enough protein, On a high-carb diet, sugary drinks, snacks, and sweets can be hard to manage.

Which One Is Better?

Most dietitians advise focusing on total carbohydrate consumption instead of net carbohydrates as the accurate measurement. The best diet involves consuming low-carb whole meals such as non-starchy vegetables, fruits with high fiber content, leafy greens, healthy fats such as olive oil, and high-quality meats and fish. This is the most effective method for losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

Related: What Is Keto Flu and How to Reduce Its Symptoms?

Keto Net Carb vs Total Carb: FAQs

Q: Should I Count Net Carbs or Total Carbs for Weight Loss?

A: If you are following a ketogenic diet, which typically restricts carbohydrates to a very low level, you should count net carbs rather than total carbs. This is because the ketogenic diet puts the body into ketosis, in which it uses fat for energy instead of carbs. Counting net carbs allows for the subtraction of fiber, which is a non-digestible carbohydrate, from the total carb count. That gives you a better idea of how many digestible carbs you are consuming and whether you are staying within your carbohydrate target.

Q: How Many Net Carbs a Day on Keto?

A: The amount of net carbs you should take on a keto diet will depend on your age, weight, gender, and physical activity. However, a general guideline for most keto diets limits daily net carb intake to 20-50 grams.

Q: How to Calculate Net Carbs?

A: To calculate net carbs, follow these steps:

  • Determine the total amount of carbohydrates in a food or meal by checking the nutrition label or using a food tracking app.
  • Determine the amount of fiber in the food or meal.
  • Subtract the amount of fiber from the total amount of carbohydrates. The result is the net carb count.

For example:

If a certain type of food has 20 grams of total carbohydrates and 8 grams of fiber, the net carb count would be 12 grams (20 grams of total carbs - 8 grams of fiber = 12 grams of net carbs).

Q: Do You Count Net Carbs or Total Carbs for Diabetes?

A: For people with diabetes, that depends on the individual's treatment plan, goals, and blood sugar management needs. Carbohydrates significantly affect blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes must generally be mindful of their carbohydrate consumption. Both net carbs and total carbs can alter blood sugar levels, but for people counting carbs to control diabetes, net carbs may be a more relevant measure.

Curious about which keto-friendly meals match your preferences? Take our Keto Quiz to find out! to answer a few questions and receive personalized meal recommendations tailored to your keto diet


Understanding the difference between net carbs and total carbs is important to attaining your health and diet objectives. The keto net carb diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that puts the body into ketosis, whereas the total carb diet allows a higher amount of carbohydrates and may include more whole grains and fruits. It's important to make informed dietary choices, especially when it comes to carbohydrate intake, as carbohydrates can have a significant impact on health, including blood sugar management, weight loss, and overall wellness.


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