June 05 2019

Why Does the Keto Reset Allow 50 Grams of Carbs?

By Mark Sisson
39 Comments

If you look around the online keto-sphere, you’ll notice that 20 or 30 grams is often the standard daily limit for carbohydrate intake. Any more than that, they say, and you’ll never get into ketosis, never become fat-adapted, and waste all your efforts at reducing carbohydrate intake. And then you come to Mark’s Daily Apple, sign up for the June Keto Reset, or buy a copy of The Keto Reset book and see that I allow 50 grams of carbs per day and don’t even consider non-starchy vegetables as counting against that total carb count.

What gives?

Why does the Keto Reset allow 50 grams of carbs per day? Why don’t I count non-starchy vegetables?

There are several main reasons.

I Allow 50 Grams of Carbs Because I Don’t Subtract Fiber from Total Carbs. I Don’t Do Net Carbs. I Count It All.

Most keto plans subtract fiber from total carbs to arrive at “net carbs.” They do this for a very good reason: Fiber is not digested, does not count as glucose, and does not impact ketosis. I get it. I’m not denying the fact that the body treats indigestible fiber differently than digestible glucose and fructose. The fiber you eat does not affect your ability to generate ketones. Sure, the body doesn’t treat indigestible fiber the same way as digestible glucose.

But I find it’s just way simpler to count total carbs rather than ask people to pore over the labels and do a bunch of subtraction. This has the effect of giving a “higher total” carb allowance, but the actual number of digestible carbs remains about on par with other keto plans.

Non-Starchy Vegetables Don’t Impact Ketosis in Most People.

For all intents and purposes, foods like spinach, chard, broccoli, and others do not impact ketosis one way or the other. The vast majority of them are so low in carbs that you burn more glucose digesting them than you’re able to extract from them. I’d rather your average 62-year-old retiree who’s trying to get healthier and lose the extra 30 pounds so he can take retirement by the horns not have to weigh and measure his romaine lettuce and spinach. I don’t even want him to have to think about his romaine lettuce. Just eat the stuff!

I’m sure there are extra-sensitive people out there for whom a spinach salad does impair ketosis, but I’m creating general guidelines that work for the largest number of people. Most people can eat one and remain ketotic. And the limit is an upper limit; it’s not a requirement that everyone has to reach.

Non-Starchy Vegetables Offer Many Unique Benefits to the Keto Eater.

Many of them, like spinach, have satiety-inducing effects that reduce cravings for high-carb junk food and make dietary adherence even easier. And they’re often the best sources of micronutrients that keto dieters otherwise have trouble obtaining, like potassium and magnesium.

We Want to Nourish the Gut Biome.

One of the potential downsides to conventional keto diets is the disruption of the microbiome. Several years ago, a study came out claiming to show that “chowing down” on meat and dairy had horrible impacts on the gut biome. Looking more closely, the “meat and dairy” diet was actually a processed meat diet completely bereft of non-starchy plant matter. It didn’t say anything about the type of diet that Primal eaters eat, but it did represent a strike against the conventional caricature of the “salami and cream cheese keto diet.” That’s the “salami and cream cheese” keto diet, the one I cannot support and definitely do not recommend. Having 50 grams of carbs available and not counting non-starchy vegetables makes it easier to eat the plants that contain the prebiotic fiber that nourishes and supports your gut bacteria.

Ultimately, the 50 grams limit with unlimited non-starchy vegetables gives you plenty of wiggle room.

I’ll admit that this has been confusing for some folks. There have been questions about “50 grams” and “not counting non-starchy vegetables.” But it also means that I’m not getting a deluge of questions about whether you should count the carbs in avocados and Brussels sprouts (no and no), whether the asparagus you had last night is going to send you back to square one (it won’t, unless it was breaded and fried and you ate a pound), whether you committed a grave sin by having three bites of roasted potatoes (you only committed a small transgression), and all the other minutiae that bog people down. To me, on net, that balances out in the Keto Reset’s favor. It shows me that people by and large aren’t overthinking the errata (worrying about their broccoli intake). They’re focusing on the big picture (getting fat-adapted while eating a nutrient-dense diet).

How do you folks approach carb counting on your diet? Do you worry about the spinach and broccoli? Do you use net carbs?

Thanks for reading, everyone!

References:

Stenblom EL, Egecioglu E, Landin-olsson M, Erlanson-albertsson C. Consumption of thylakoid-rich spinach extract reduces hunger, increases satiety and reduces cravings for palatable food in overweight women. Appetite. 2015;91:209-19.

TAGS:  Keto

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

39 thoughts on “Why Does the Keto Reset Allow 50 Grams of Carbs?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I have no trouble getting into ketosis with 50 grams of NET carbs, i am even maintain it with a 100g.

    1. Me too. If you’re not climbing out of an insulin resistant hole – meaning you had a healthy metabolism to begin with – your ketosis window is pretty wide compared to a T2D.

      And the longer you are fat adapted the less ketones you will generate because yo are so darn efficient at energy partitioning.

  2. I don’t worry about the carbs I consume from green above ground vegetables. I also don’t worry about the carbs I consume from smoked oysters. I figure the nutrients I get are more important than a few carbs. I counted my carbs for several months when first going on a keto diet but now I just focus on how I feel and making sure I get enough protein and veggies in my diet. Some days I eat too much protein, some days I barely eat any at all. If you have to continually count the carbs you are eating, then it isn’t going to be sustainable for most people. I figure if I feel good and am able to do the activities I enjoy, them I’m doing well. If I start to feel poorly or am too tired to be active, then I need to look at my diet, stress level and sleep. For me it is usually not just one of them that is off.

    1. Protein is very satiating so I don’t see how one can over eat it

      1. your body has to break down protein into amino acids before it can be utilized. if protein is too abundant it will not break down properly and can have pretty negative effects on the body. it can, among other things, poison some organs and lead to weight gain.

      2. I meant more than the recommended amount per the Keto Reset book. I don’t worry about my protein much at all.

  3. I don’t know. I enter my food into FitDay which does ask for fiber but I don’t know how it calculates carbs. I’m not going to start worrying about that now. I’m loosing weight and that’s my primary goal at this time.

  4. It may not affect ketosis, but I promise you, if you are diabetic, 50 grams of carbs WILL raise your blood sugar, no matter where those carbs come from. I cannot consume more than 6 or 7 TOTAL grams at a time or my blood sugar will spike.

    1. Hi Ruth,
      Here we are talking about 50 grams of carbs per day, not per meal.

      1. Yes, and 6 or 7 divided into 50 is far too many for 3 meals. Obviously 50 carbs across 3 meals would be 17 grams per meal, which is more than double what this person said they could have. So I agree that 50 would be way too high for someone getting a spike with 7 carbs in one sitting. Please don’t be glib and so lazy with your calculations when giving people advice or criticizing what they have found that they need, especially when they are managing a chronic, serious illness.

  5. Mark,

    I very much appreciate that you are shepherding me through the process of the keto reset diet. Your posts every day are very timely and seem to answer my questions as if you are reading my mind!

    Thank you so much for all that you do and for not being so extreme. It makes this transition more manageable and mentally less anxiety provoking. I have been reading many other pieces of information about the keto diet, but I always feel better when I come back to your site and trust what you have to say more than others as it just makes plain sense!

    All the best,
    Sabrina

  6. I have periods of time where I measure things to great detail, break down all the numbers, look into specific micronutrient levels, weigh myself! I learn a LOT from these periods of time. But they are limited periods of time! All January of this year I used Cronometer everyday. But in February, I stopped using it all together because by then I had a “feel” for what foods add up to whatever. Now I eat intuitively and I don’t measure anything. I’m sure by next winter, or if I struggle to achieve a specific goal (run an ultra in August), I’ll bust out the scale and cronometer app again to take a closer look at what could be happening, but unless my progress stalls then I’m just enjoying eating and feeling great! And honestly, unless I’m eating more than 1 sweet potato + 1 cup fruit + 2 cups goat milk daily, I never have any blood sugar issues

  7. If you use a decent nutritional tracking app (Loseit), you can scan the label, add the amount and you are done! (Carbs and fibre). I think knowing all the data is much more beneficial as I am moving to a lifestyle shift rather than short term ‘diet’.

    1. That won’t work if most of the food you eat doesn’t have labels. That’s always been my issue with those types of apps. Unless you are weighing your meat and veggies, most people can’t eyeball 2 cups or 4 ounces. I know I can’t and I end up eating too much of the healthy stuff sometimes.

  8. So should I worry if I eat an entire baked eggplant (which is about 1lb?). it’s not breaded or glazed..just had 2 tsp oil brushed to make it not sticky to the pan 🙂

    1. Baked eggplant can soak up tons of oil, like hummus, only with way less carb and more Paleo. A traditional Romanian spread can be made by baking them (best if you roast them on a grill though), then peel and mash with olive oil and lemon juice. If you’re going to fat content, and a specific fat (maybe avocado oil?) then just keep adding oil until it starts to weep oil. Whip it one last time, and the result is like mayo, only no risk of breaking it and making a mess. If you wanted to make baba ganoush, you’d also add sesame tahini, but that might be too much carb, or not Primal enough.. depends. Recipes abound online, but here’s one in an obvious place: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nadias-salata-de-vinete-eggplant-salad-spread-2329715

  9. I’m so glad to read your article. I try to stay under 17 net carbs per day and I do the net because I eat a lot of fiber and the more fiber I eat the more food I can eat, but your approach seems so much more logical. Thank you!

    1. Forgot to mention I use the app Carb Manager, but it does become cumbersome entering everything every day.

  10. Day 2, although a bit pricey, is good to figure what foods really impact your personal microbiome. Like said, broccoli is a super food, one which can sky rocket certain peoples insulin. If they don’t prick test after every food they would probably never ascertain this.

  11. I’m trying to get my blood sugars back down after a round of Prednisone last month has kept them about 110-126 all day (up from my regular 80s). Would you recommend shooting below 20g then increasing or just rolling with whatever amount up to 50g?

  12. I’m a science professor, so I have been weighting and measuring everything. I suppose I will relax a bit now.

    1. I’m a bioprocess scientist and I am compelled to track and measure everything too ?

  13. Of course. The harder you make it for some one who needs the change the less likely they can stick go it. Non starch vegetables and some meat. A lot of meat is not required but important from a.b12 and DHA/EPA perspective.

    1. Are sweet potatoes demonized in keto? If not, I’m trying to figure out the best time to eat them…At last meal on non workout days? And post workout meal on workout days? or does timing matter…. I’m thinking too much and that stinks.

      1. Nevermind. I am watching Dr. Stephen Phinney’s Keto videos on You Tube and sweet potatoes are not discussed. Since he stays at less than 50g’s of carbs I imagine he doesn’t eat any potatoes. But he says Keto isn’t for eveybody….But boy does that man tear up the fat!

  14. If I tried to be as loosey goosey as this, I’d be eating far too many carbs than is good for me. I deal with the low carb status by planning ahead. I don’t worry about a life event like a birthday (except for the Celiac part), but I keep the life events two months apart, or I just fast during them. My ghrelin (I assume) instantly pops into overdrive when I’m above 30-40g of total carbs. I’m not T2D, but I do have PCOS I have to watch out for. And I started doing a strict keto diet because I have migraines. Being that strict though, is very emotionally demanding, so if you’re generally healthy and not trying to fix an actual disease, then do what works for you. Being strict works for me. My goal is actually below 30 because I know how sneaky it is, and I don’t do net carbs either.

  15. Great article!

    How does alcohol count towards the 50g of carbs per day? Would that be measured proportionate to the caloric values (ratio 7 (a) : 4 (c) ) or is it easier to simply ignore alcohol alng with the fiber … ?

    1. My two cents on alcohol:

      If from authorized sources such as vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila and rum …

      Ignore them royally, they don’t count at all!

      If from beer …
      ok watch them a little

      If from wine
      Same as for beer !

    2. In chronometer.com (a food tracker with a lot of nutrition detail), alcohol counts as a different fuel, so instead of fat and carb as fuels, there’s fat, carb and alcohol. That way of tracking it seems to correspond to how my body behaves. My body responds to alcohol by messing up my water balance and stopping ketosis for a while so I keep it down to special occasions like birthdays, etc.

    3. Alcohol will knock you out of actual ketosis for 24 hours (but makes you throw more in urine so it doesn’t look like you’re out of ketosis). It’s best avoided or kept to less than 1 day per week.

  16. I agree with this article entirely! Before Keto I stayed away from dairy for the most part, aside from eggs. When I went Keto I could never get on board with the heavy cream, cream cheese and dairy. If I do make a great, i substitute all of those for something else. I continue to eat veggies but I am mindful of which and how much to an extent.

  17. I think 50g may be adequate for a “reset” (ie short term) diet but probably not for the long haul. Everyone is yakking about the effect of carbs on insulin, and burning carbs vs fat for energy, but nobody is addressing the role of glucose as a structural molecule. Glucose is an integral part of our connective tissue (hello GLUCOSEamine!) as well as mucous (lubrication = good), and vital for immune cells to protect us. Some people who don’t tap into their glycogen for intense workouts, and have very efficient gluconeogenesis, may stay healthy long term on a very low carb diet. My personal experience is that my workouts lagged, I got nagging colds frequently, and many of my tendons became irritated. Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone, but I think that we need to talk more about ways in which (the right amount of) carbs keep us healthy.

  18. Mark,
    Why is 50g of carbs set as the upper limit for everyone? Wouldn’t it make more sense to set the limit using macro percentage?

    My BMR is roughly 1300 kcal, so 50g of carbs corresponds to a macro ratio of 15% (a bit above the suggested 5-10%).
    Is it more important to follow the 50g upper limit or the macro percentage?

  19. Thanks Mark, no doubt many people found out about Ketogenic diet to lose weight, some of us, myself included, discovered eating low carb in a quest for even better health and nutrition. A year ago, when I discovered Keto/LCHF I had no more than 10 lbs I wanted to shed but more than that, was already well on the way to discovering that sugar and carbohydrates were non nutritious at best. I eat between 30 to 50 carbs a day, mostly from non starchy vegetables. I love good food and the pleasure of eating. I am fit and healthy at 65 — probably healthier than many people half my age — and want to stay that way as I age so having eating habits I can easily and happily sustain for life is more important than counting every carb I consume. I feel pretty sure I am fat adapted as I often go many hours without even thinking about food with no discomfort. Your approach is the most beneficial to me.

  20. For those in the UK / EU, carbs are already listed “net”, with fibre listed separately. So I’m afraid this doesn’t simplify for us. What would you recommend for carbs-already-minus-fibre?

    1. what app do you use?
      My fitness pal doesn’t show me fiber separately (I’m in Ireland)

  21. The main idea is to eliminate grains, starches and sugar from your diet. Most people tend to overcomplicate that. I generally stick with the 20-30g of carbs per day guidelines and subtract the fiber found in nuts which is where I’m getting most of my carbs. To me, the carbs found in fiberous vegetables are a “trace amount” and I never considered them towards my total.