In my last article on How to Sneak in More Carbs Without Cheating, I described the benefits of including high fiber foods in your low carb lifestyle and explained the basics of calculating net carbs. I realized this might raise a couple of questions. Now that you’ve decided to track your carbs, perhaps you’d like to know if there are diets that prefer one method over the other and whether counting Net Carbs or Total Carbs ultimately better.
What diets use Net Carbs vs Total Carbs?
Atkins focuses on Net Carbs. In the first phase of Atkins, called Induction, you can eat a total of 20 net carbs. After the first two weeks, you add back progressively more carbs. Some of the reasons Atkins advocates using net carbs instead of total carbs include:
- Staying in ketosis. – Burn fat for fuel instead of carbs.
- Maximizing weight loss. – Only net carbs impact your insulin levels.
- Bigger “bang for carbohydrate buck”. – High fiber foods
Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint” goes by Total Carbs. Mark favors the simplicity of looking at total carb intake and recommends a daily intake of 50-100 total grams of carbohydrates for discovering and maintaining your weight loss “sweet spot”. He also recommends 100 – 150 total grams of carbs a day for weight maintenance.
Which is better Net Carbs or Total Carbs?
While I favor and use Atkins’ method of Net Carbs, it might not be useful for everyone. It’s great if you who want a more accurate picture of which foods and carbs impact your insulin levels and don’t mind making the simple calculation. It also gives you a better understanding of why eating lots of greens is better for you than carrots.
However, some people struggle with having to calculate net carbs or find it confusing and ultimately may not stick with it if they have to take that extra step. For them, perhaps it’s easier and makes more sense to use Total Carbs. Keep in mind, however, the Primal Blueprint’s recommendation of 50-100 total carbs a day may too high for people who may have become insulin resistant. Weight loss may be slowed a bit if you use Total Carbs, but if you already follow low glycemic index foods, then using Total Carbs might be fine for you.
Find what works best for you. The first step is to actually track your carbs, total or net. If you’re disciplined enough to track them at all, it’s just a small step to figuring out net carbs if you want to. If it’s easier to do total carbs, then stick with that.
The great news is that once you’ve been doing low carb for a while, it becomes easier to eyeball portions and determine carb counts from memory.
Do you count your carbs? If so, do you go by net carbs or total carbs? What successes or failures have you had doing either? Share your thoughts and questions, and thanks for reading.
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