The ketogenic diet has quite strict macro ratios.

Carbs on keto are no exception. If you’re using the approach right now or have done any research into it, you probably know that you need to eat:

  • 65% dietary fat
  • 30% protein
  • 5% carbohydrates

When it comes to carbs, it’s slim pickings. There aren’t many foods that are going to satisfy that 5% range.

Considering the average individual who is dieting only gets 1600 calories per day, that means 20 grams of carbs per day is the recommendation. You can see how hard it is to find foods that work within this budget!

If you were to eat an apple, you’d be allowed no other carbs during the day. Crazy, right?!

But is this actually the case?

Can you take your carbs higher on the ketogenic diet in any circumstances?

Let’s address this a bit further.

The Issue of Net Carbs On Keto

When you are figuring out your macro issues, you need to know that you are actually looking at net carbs here [1]. Some people forget this and figure it’s their total carbohydrate intake, which can make a dramatic difference.

For instance, one cup of broccoli contains 5.8 grams of carbohydrates but also 2.3 grams of dietary fiber [2]. This means the total net carb count is actually just 3.5 grams of carbs total.

If you were someone who had those same 20 grams of carbs per day, this would mean the difference between 3.4 cups of broccoli a day or 5.7 cups. When dieting, this is a big difference!

Likewise, it also means some foods are actually more possible than you may have thought.

Take raspberries, for instance. One cup of raw raspberries contains 14.7 grams of carbs, which certainly makes it seem like too much for the ketogenic diet plan.

But when you account for the 8 grams of fiber they provide, this means you’re actually only getting 7.7 grams. If you were to eat just half a cup, rather than a cup, that’s just 3.85 grams of carbs, so definitely a doable addition.

The thing you need to remember…

If you start to sleuth out every high fiber carb source you can find, despite the fact those fiber carbs don’t count towards your total carb limit for ketogenic diet purposes, they will count towards your calories.

While the normal carb contains four calories per gram, fiber does only contain two, so you are still reaping some benefit.

But if you manage to tally up 40 grams of fiber a day thanks to the fact you are eating such high fiber sources to keep your net carbs down, this could be another 80 calories you need to account in your total calorie intake.

So where does that come from?

It should be taken from your fat sources. Since protein recommendations do need to stay firm to help prevent lean muscle mass loss, this would mean you need to drop your fat intake by that same 80 calories per day – if you hope to see the same rate of fat loss that is.

It is a bit of math work you need to do to make use of it, but it’s something that can be worth it in the end.

The ketogenic diet is typically hard on your digestive track an can cause constipation because most people don’t get in enough fiber, so if you take that extra step and make an effort, you’ll find you feel much better overall.

Accounting for Exercise

It’s also worth noting that if you plan to do intense exercise, this can allow you to bump your daily carb intake up. Most people who exercise regularly will look at the targeted ketogenic diet rather than the standard ketogenic diet, which means you ‘target’ your workout period with carbohydrates.

This gives you the fuel you need to perform those intense sessions and see the gym results you’re going for.

How many carbs you get per exercise session depends on how long you go and how intense you’re exercising. Generally speaking, if you are doing interval cardio training, you can add about 20 grams of carbs per 15 minutes of exercise to the period before your session.

If you are doing weight lifting or bodybuilding, go by a general rule of about 5 grams of carbs per two working sets of exercise. So if you do 20 sets total for your workout session, this would mean you get to eat another 50 grams of carbohydrates before the workout begins.

Note that these carbs do need to be eaten all at once. They should be consumed within the hour or so before you begin exercising. They are not to be spread out over the day.

The idea is that you will use them while you exercise and then because they are all burned up, it becomes easy for you to move right back into ketosis after the workout session is completed.

Carbs and Keto: individual differences exist

Finally, it should also be noted that there are some individual differences as well.

Some people are very keto adaptive and can remain in ketosis despite eating a few extra carbohydrates.

They aren’t going to be able to do anything too crazy, but they may get away with adding another 5-10 grams of carbs to their diet plan without too much of a negative impact. This is something that you will just have to test out for yourself and see if desired, so you know how far you can push it.

So keep these points in mind.

Most people will find it easiest to just obey the 5% rule and call it a day, but if you really want to push as many carbs into your diet as possible, keeping these in mind can be helpful.


[1] Benalt, Wendi A. “” Net Carbs”: The Lowdown on Low-carb Labeling.” Nutrition Bytes 10.1 (2005)