What’s Your Carb Tolerance? Low Carb or Keto? How Low Should You Go?

What’s Your Carb Tolerance? Low Carb or Keto? How Low Should You Go?

Video | How to Determine | Stepping Down Carbs | Carb Tolerance Changes

When you know your carb tolerance, you know how many carbohydrates you can eat for efficient weight loss and healthy blood sugar levels. Everyone is different. In this blog post, I show you how you can determine your carbohydrate tolerance.

Carbohydrate Tolerance – At-A-Glance


  • How many carbohydrates you can eat depends on many factors. However, you can determine your carb tolerance with insights and tools.
    • Evaluate how do you feel? Mental fog, fatigue, and cravings may indicate that you are eating too many or poor-quality carbs.
    • Use a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This monitor provides you with a clear visual map of how your body handles carbs throughout the day.
    • Use your bathroom scale. Compare your daily carb intake with the results on the scale.
  • Use a Step-Down Method to find your carbohydrate tolerance. i.e., record your daily carb intake and step down or reduce the amount to achieve your desired result.

What’s Your Carb Tolerance? [Video]

In this video, you’ll learn…

  • The factors that contribute to carbohydrate tolerance.
  • Methods to help you determine your carb tolerance.
  • How your carb tolerance may change over time.

What Determines Carbohydrate Tolerance

Carbohydrate tolerance is unique to every individual and depends on factors such as age, activity level, past diet, health history, and genetics. These factors impact how sensitive your cells are to insulin and, therefore, how many carbohydrates your body can tolerate.

If your energy-hungry cells, like those in your muscles and liver, are highly insulin sensitive, they will quickly take up the sugar and use it rather than storing it as future energy in the form of body fat. 

How to Determine Your Carb Tolerance

You cannot simply look at someone and say, “He will lose weight eating 125 carbs per day, but she will need to drop her intake below 50 grams to make progress.” 

And, you cannot plug figures into an online calculator and expect to come up with the exact accurate number of carbohydrate grams you can eat in your daily diet. But, you can find your tolerance level with some insights and a couple of tools.

How Do You Feel?

You can gain clues about your carbohydrate tolerance by monitoring how you feel. If you experience daily periods where you feel mentally and physically tired or have heightened cravings, you’ll want to look at the amount or quality of carbohydrates that you’re eating. 

EVALUATE HOW YOU FEEL

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)

A continual glucose monitor or CGM is an extremely useful tool to help with this evaluation and let you zero in on your carb tolerance level. It is a small monitor that painlessly attaches to your arm and continually records your blood sugar level. The app that comes with it provides you with a clear visual map of how your body handles carbohydrates throughout the day.  

With this device, you can watch in real-time how your body reacts to foods, eliminating gray areas, like keto snacks or dark chocolate. If you include these foods in your diet but do not lose weight, simply hold your phone app up to the monitor attached to your body and see what is happening inside you after eating them. 

It’s normal for your blood sugar to rise after eating any carbohydrate. But what you want is a gradual rise and return to normal over a couple of hours.  

If you find that your blood sugar level skyrockets after a meal or snack, the foods may contain hidden sugar or carbohydrates. If your blood sugar is high following a meal and remains elevated, it could indicate insulin resistance. In that case, you’ll get the best results by lowering your daily carb intake or cutting out low-quality, refined carbohydrates, including packaged snack foods, even if they are marked as keto-friendly.

You will need a prescription to get a CGM. However, don’t let that be a deterrent. Ask your doctor, and in many cases, you’ll find that they are happy that you are interested in monitoring your health in this way.

Use a Continuous Glucose Monitor

Your Bathroom Scale

Your bathroom scale is another tool for determining your tolerance level. The easiest way to let the scale guide you to your carb tolerance is to use a step-down method. 

Your Bathroom Scale

Stepping Down Your Carb Intake

I’ve found that stepping down or reducing your carb intake over time gives your body and brain time to adapt. You will get a clearer picture of whether your carb tolerance is in the low carb range, which would be about 50 to 125 total carbs per day or the keto range of less than 50 total grams. 

For instance, if you are new to low carb dieting, you may want to start near the upper range by eating 100 grams of carbs daily and see if that produces weight loss results by the end of the week.

If not, you can step your carbs down until you reach that point. If you are already following a low carb diet, but your weight loss has stalled, you can step down your carb intake to encourage continued weight loss. 

Stepping Down Your Carb Intake

Your Carb Tolerance Can Change

Keep in mind that your body is a dynamic machine. As you continue to follow your low carb or keto diet, you may notice that your carb tolerance goes up or down. 

For instance, when you first switch from a high carb to a low carb way of eating, it is a big change for your body, requiring a lot of energy. As you progress, your body becomes more efficient at burning fat for energy, relying less on carbohydrates. This is what you want, but you may find that your carb tolerance decreases until you hit your sweet spot.

That efficiency is not a bad thing. In fact, as you continue to feed your body an unrefined, low carb diet and include things like intermittent fasting and exercise, your cells become more insulin sensitive, allowing your carb tolerance to increase.

Takeaway

The takeaway is this: how many carbohydrates you can include in your diet depends on many factors that are unique to you. You can zero in on your carb tolerance by stepping down your daily carb intake. To do that, it helps to have a list of low-carb foods. You can download my list of 100 low carb foods here.

Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

About the Author

Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991. 

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