Net Carbs. What Are they and How Do You Calculate Them?

There’s no arguing net carbs are a hot topic. Some say the most accurate way to calculate your carb load is to consider your “net carbs” only. Although your body naturally loves them. Some say eat them. Some say avoid them. So what are you to do? If you want a slim waistline and would prefer living a long life free from disease, refined carbohydrates must go...or at least be reduced significantly. To get a more accurate representation of how the carbs you eat are affecting your weight, you should know the types of carbs to avoid, the number of carbs you should eat and when, and how to calculate net carbs.

What are Refined Carbohydrates?

Refined carbohydrates are typically grains and sugars that undergo extreme processing to remove almost all traces of nutrients. This includes vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and fiber. Essentially, mostly what you’re left with is carbohydrates or “empty calories” as many call it. These foods quickly spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. And this is bad. Because chronic high blood sugar and insulin is what leads to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and so on. So when it comes to carbs, I recommend getting them from whole food sources. And by this, I’m talking about colorful fruits and vegetables.

How Many Carbs Should You Eat?

The grams of carbs you eat per day also depends on your goals as well as your activity level and if you’re following a specific diet or way of eating. In my personal and professional experience, a low carb paleo inspired or ketogenic diet is the best way to slim down and feel your best. Essentially, you want to condition your body to efficiently burn stored fat as fuel as opposed to carbs. And in order to do this, you need to feed your body more fat and fewer carbs. Thus, in these cases, determining the optimal grams of carbs that should be consumed daily is essential. Very generally speaking, ketogenic dieters typically consume no more than 35 - 50 grams of carbohydrates a day or 25 - 30 grams of “net carbs.”

What are Net Carbs?

The total amount of carbohydrates for any given food or product are broken down into several categories, which include:

  • Fiber
  • Starch
  • Sugars
  • Sugar alcohols

You’ll see some, if not all, of these on nutrition labels as well as in nutrient databases and apps, such as MyFitnessPal. However, not all categories of carbohydrates affect your blood sugar the same way. For instance, starches and sugars are rapidly absorbed and converted to glucose, which generally causes sharp spikes in your blood sugar and insulin. And as I previously mentioned, this is what you want to avoid.

On the other hand, fiber and sugar alcohols are slowly absorbed, if at all. Plus, they’re metabolized differently, if at all. Thus, they don’t cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise. Which is a good thing! Thus, the most accurate way to calculate your carb load is to consider only “net carbs” or the actual amount of carbs that will affect your blood sugar. Knowing the net carbs of specific foods will allow you to determine appropriate serving sizes in order to stay within your limit. Let’s look at a few examples:

Raspberries: raspberries are an excellent source of antioxidants as well as fiber. A half-cup serving contains approximately 7 grams of carbohydrates. However, 4 grams of this total comes from dietary fiber. Thus, the calculation for net carbs would be as follows: 7 grams (total carbs) - 4 grams (dietary fiber) = 3 grams (net carbs)

Spinach: spinach is packed with vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant nutrients to keep you healthy and slim. I love adding a handful in my collagen shakes. And fortunately, most of the carbs (64%) come from fiber. Thus, low carb dieters can get away with eating lots of spinach as well as most other leafy greens. The exact net carb count for one cup of spinach is as follows: 6.75 grams (total carbs) - 4.32 grams (dietary fiber) = 2.43 grams (net carbs)

Avocado: avocado is one of my favorite superfoods. It’s got it all. Healthy fat, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and good a dose of fiber. It’s the perfect food for low carb and keto diets. Plus, it’s creamy and delicious! Let’s take a look at the math for a half-cup serving: 6.4 grams (total carbs) - 5 grams (dietary fiber) = 1.4 grams (net carbs)


collagen fiber bar


Spacing Out Your Carbs

If you’re following a low carb diet, I also recommend spacing out your carbs. For instance, if your daily limit is 30 grams of net carbs, then you probably shouldn’t have them all in one meal. Maybe loosely target 10 grams per meal if you eat 3 meals a day and 15 grams per meal if you are an intermittent faster and only eat 2 meals a day. This will ensure your carb load during any given meal stays low as well as avoid a blood sugar spike.

In Conclusion

Calculating net carbs is a more accurate representation of carbohydrate intake when it comes to how carbs affect your blood sugar and insulin levels. Because fiber, a component of carbohydrates, is not your enemy. Thus, if you’re battling with a blood sugar disorder, it’s always a good idea to calculate your net carbs. Plus, if you’re on a low carb diet hoping to turn your body into a fat-burning machine, calculating your net carb intake is essential.

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!