Step 3: Carbs per day for weight loss

Step 3: Work out your gradient for trading carbohydrates for proteins and fats.

Why it works: When carbohydrate foods are digested, they are broken down into blood sugar (glucose) in the body. The more carbs we eat, the more glucose is created.  If we reduce carb intake and instead eat more fat and protein, it causes our internal metabolic pathways to switch from burning sugar to burning fat.

This metabolic state is known as ketosis. While in ketosis, your body effectively uses fat for fuel—that’s right, you shed the pounds and inches by shifting what your body uses from sugars and carbs to fats.

And don’t worry about your brain’s “need” for blood glucose. That is old data. Your brain burns so-called ketone bodies for fuel and new research indicates that may be the food your brain most likes and wants. In fact, brain signals during ketosis kill your appetite and cravings. Much easier to lose weight!

In general, the daily intake of net carbs required to enter ketosis could vary from 20 to 100 grams per day (and very rarely over 100 grams per day). Most people reach fat burning ketosis at about 20-50 grams of net carbs per day. AND most people succeed when they do it on a gradient, not all at once!

Key fat burning points:

1. Research shows you shed pounds and keep them off when you change your routine eating habits from lots of starchy grains, legumes, and sugars (carbs) to more calories from fat.

2. If enough carbohydrates are removed, then the body shifts from using carbs for fuel to burning fat—a healthy state called ketosis.

Important: The optimal carb range varies between individuals, depending on activity levels, current metabolic health and a bunch of other factors.

Equally Important: The optimal weight loss rate should not exceed 2-3 pounds per week on average (it will vary some). Please set your expectations for health, not crash diets, and give yourself time, discipline and love. If you want to lose 10 pounds, follow this plan for 5 weeks adjusting it as needed. More like 50 pounds? It is very doable and time is your friend.

If you have diabetes: Reducing your daily carbs is a proven way to improve sugar balance and health. Many type 2 diabetics have, in time and careful monitoring, been able to greatly reduce or even eliminate their use of insulin with medical supervision. That said, it is absolutely vital to follow the gradient suggested below as well as inform your doctor. The next paragraph applies especially to you even if you are calculating your insulin based on carb intake. There can be a sort-of “rebound” affect. Also, because of the metabolic changes that occured during the progression of diabetes, you are more likely to have difficulty. Go slowly; you’ll make it.

And Also Very Important: Most people who follow the recommendations for 200-300 carbohydrates per day have adapted to using carbs as their main source of energy. When blood sugar drops, sugar/carb cravings set in with a vengeance. Suddenly, you will do anything for a piece of chocolate—even if you have not had chocolate for years—or a slice of bread, or… If you currently eat a lot of daily carbs, and then suddenly shift to a low-carb diet, you very likely will go hypoglycemic.

Pick the correct carb-reduction gradient for your current health situation and based on your goals.

First Look back at your net daily carbs in Step 2.

Second: choose your goal

We are all different! What is low carb for one is not low carb for another… your optimal carbohydrate intake depends on age, gender, body composition, activity levels, personal preference, food culture and current metabolic health.

Fat Burning Steps:

1. Taper down your daily carbs starting with the “Kick Start” level for a week (unless already close to 100 grams net carbs). At the end of this first week, calculate your body fat using the tool in Step One

2. Move into the “Fat Burner” for 1-2 weeks or as long as you are losing 2-3 pounds per week. At the end of each week, calculate your body fat using the tool in Step One

3. Move into the “Elite Performance” level when you feel good on the “Fat Burner” or if fat loss has plateaued. That may indicate that your body now needs even fewer carbs. At the end of each week, calculate your body fat using the tool in Step One

Kick Start: 100-150 daily carbs: Radically reducing daily carb intake is not a good idea for most people. If you currently are at the 200-300 gram range, best to start here—even this change can start you on your losing weight and feeling great journey.

The Fat Burner: 50-100 grams daily carbs: Most people begin to lose weight in this range. While allowing for a bit of carbs in the diet, this range is also appropriate if you have a vigorous and regular exercise routine. It is also a great maintenance range for many people, especially those who are at their ideal weight but are still working on their sugar handling / carb sensitivities.

Elite Performance: 20-50 grams daily carbs: This is the metabolic equivalent of being an elite athlete. If you want to lose weight fast or aggressively handle other metabolic problems like obesity or diabetes, this is a great target range. By carefully staying under 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, your body will get into ketosis.

Obese men following a ketogenic diet for 4 weeks lost an average of 12 lbs. These men were able to consume fewer calories without feeling hungry while following the diet.

Trim For Life: 80-150 grams daily carbs: You want a sustainable practice of living a healthy lifestyle from here on out; one that isn’t too strict or where you feel guilty. You understand it may take more time to rebalance and restore ideal weight and health and that’s OK—or perhaps you accomplished your goals by doing the Fat Burner or Elite Performance. Given the confusing marketing messages and social standards, there will still be challenging moments but this long-term way of eating allows you some wiggle room. If you start gaining weight, go back to fewer carbs.

The final word on low-carb diets—they are only “low carb” relative to our current scene:

One hundred years ago and for eons before that, everyone ate low-carb. And there weren’t chemicals, irradiation, hormones, microwaves, and genetic alterations being made to our food supply. Our food animals and plants were nourished in family farm settings that preserved their health and nutrient content. Lowering your carbohydrate intake is the first step. But for many it is not the only step back to health.

There is much research showing how a low-carb or ketogenic diet helps rebalance many health situations including:

  • Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome and Pre Diabetes: Related to the effects of chronically high blood sugar followed by chronically high insulin resulting in insulin resistance (IR).  IR also causes related conditions such as Fatty liver disease and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  Low carb, high fat diets have been shown in studies to treat and reverse all of these IR conditions.
  • Heart disease:  Cardiac risk factors improve when blood sugar and insulin levels are lowered via dietary changes.  HDL cholesterol goes up on a low carb, high fat diet and triglycerides fall dramatically in contrast with high carb diets causing the liver to package any consumed fats or converted carbs and send them as blood fats (high triglycerides) for storage in fat cells.
  • Acid Reflux/GERD (heartburn): people who suffer from acid reflux or chronic heartburn often find relief because a low-carb diet removes grain and fermentable carb sources (FODMAPS) from the diet.
  • Autism:  New research is showing that keto diets are helpful in the treatment of autism, also very likely due to the removal of common inflammatory foods and gastrointestinal imbalancing starches especially the fermentable FODMAPS.
  • Neurological disorders: Ketone bodies may exert a protective affect on the nervous system and slow the progression of nerve related diseases. Low-carb diets also tend to be low inflammatory and as such are beneficial to autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons Disease.
  • Slow down aging is slowed: Inflammation is the cause of the aging process.

In other words, a low-carb ketogenic diet is not a “fad.” It is a potent way to rebalance metabolic problems. When designed and implemented correctly, Eating “low-carb” is only low carb relative to mass-promoted gimics, junk food, and nutrition fiction. It is really “correct carb” and a more appropriate and healthful way of eating.

What do you replace those carb calories with? Move on to Step 4


Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS and Grimaldi KA. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Aug; 67(8): 789–796.

Veech RL. The therapeutic implications of ketone bodies: the effects of ketone bodies in pathological conditions: ketosis, ketogenic diet, redox states, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial metabolism. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2004 Mar;70(3):309-19.

Ketogenic Diet Resource Solve your health issues with a ketogenic diet.

Effects of a high-protein ketogenic diet on hunger, appetite, and weight loss in obese men feeding ad libitum, Johnstone AM, et al,Am J Clin Nutr., 2008, abstract.

Mayo Clinic Weight loss results.

Mayo Clinic Diabetic ketoacidosis – symptoms.

Mayo Clinic Diabetic ketoacidosis – causes.

Mayo Clinic Diabetic ketoacidosis – risk factors.

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