How many carbs should you eat?

December 14, 2011 in Categories: , , , by

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Could there possibly be a more controversial topic than how many carbs we should be eating?! One of the perks of following a Paleo framework is that when we maximize nutrient density (see The Importance of Nutrient Density) and eat high-quality foods from both the plant and animal kingdom, other elements of diet, like macronutrient ratios, tend to fall into place without us needing to obsessively count fat or carb grams. Still, considering how much bad press carbohydrates tend to get (as well as the tendency for the media—and even some leaders within the Paleo movement itself—to mis-portray Paleo as being low carb), a great deal of confusion exists surrounding optimal carb intake. What’s the scoop?

The short answer is… it depends! It depends on what our goals are, how far away we are from those goals, how active our lifestyles are, how well we sleep, how well-managed our stress is, and what health issues we might be dealing with. All of these factors can influence the healthiest level of carbs for our specific situation.

But, while there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation we can all safely shoot for, we can definitely pull together some guidelines based on available evidence.

Hunter-Gatherer Intakes

bushmensanLet’s start with hunter-gatherers! According to Loren Cordain’s 2000 publication, “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets” (which analyzed ethnographic data for 229 hunter-gatherer societies), the majority of hunter-gatherer populations ate between 22 and 40% of their diets as carbohydrates. That translates to 110 to 200 grams of carbohydrates per day on a 2000-calorie diet. There were a handful of societies falling outside that range, such as the lower-carb Inuit (3% calories as carbs) and some groups eating as high as 50% carbohydrates, but those were by far the exception rather than the rule. In general, hunter-gatherers living close to the equator had higher carbohydrate (and total plant food) intakes than populations living closer to polar regions, and virtually every group residing between 11 and 40 degrees north or south of the equator (equivalent to the range between the northern part of Colombia and New York City) ate between 30 to 35% carbohydrates as a percent of total calories. On a 2000-calorie diet, that comes out to 150 to 175 grams per day. (See “Carbs Vs. Protein Vs. Fat: Insight from Hunter-Gatherers” for more on macronutrient ratios in hunter-gatherer societies.) Some critics of the data (such as Katharine Milton) have pointed out that these carb levels could also be underestimated, due to a tendency for ethnographers to interact more with male hunters than female gatherers and consequently under-document the contribution of gathered plant foods. But, we can say with confidence that most hunter-gatherer groups eat about a third of their diet as carbohydrates, give or take!

Adequate Fiber

Another way to frame the carbohydrate issue is to look at the bare minimum intake we’d need to get adequate daily fiber. (For a way more detailed rundown on why fiber is awesome, and why we need plenty of it in our diet, check out The Fiber Manifesto Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, as well as Resistant Starch: It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses.) In short, fiber (especially antioxidant rich vegetable fiber) is critical for supporting gut health, promoting normal bowel movements, creating a healthy and diverse gut microbiome, protecting against many gut pathologies, regulating blood sugar, reducing inflammation, reducing the risk of certain cancers, and potentially even reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It’s definitely not a nutrient we want to skimp on!

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Image credit:

Current mainstream fiber recommendations are 25 grams per day for women and 30 to 38 grams per day for men. This is definitely less than what most Paleolithic and modern hunter-gatherers consumed (Boyd Eaton and Melvin Konner estimate 45.7 grams per day for a typical hunter-gatherer diet of 65% plant foods and Dr. Jeff Leach estimates that some hunter-gatherers eat as much as 200g of fiber per day), but we’ll use these numbers for the sake of illustration. If we look at non-starchy vegetables with the highest ratio of fiber to non-fiber carbohydrates, we see that spinach comes out near the top, with roughly half of its carbohydrates coming from fiber. In order to get 25 grams of fiber per day from spinach, our minimum carbohydrate intake would be 50 grams. (And for the record, using spinach, we’d need to eat about 45 cups of it (almost 3 pounds) to reach that level. That’s pretty ambitious, even for those of us who love veggies!)

Using this logic, carbohydrate intakes of less than 50 grams per day are almost guaranteed to shortchange us on fiber. And that’s assuming we eat nothing but the highest-fiber carbohydrate sources out there! When our diet includes starchier or more sugary carbohydrate sources like tubers and fruit, which have a lower ratio of fiber to non-fiber carbs (while also being denser fiber sources), the minimum total carbohydrates we need to eat to meet our fiber needs rises even higher. For example, you’d only need about 3.5 cups of baked sweet potato to get your 25 grams of fiber, but then of course, you’re looking at nearly 150g of total carbs.

Provided that your carbohydrates are coming from whole fruits and vegetables, the 100-200g range is probably adequate from a fiber consumption standpoint.  Of course, if we’re keen to emulate hunter-gatherer fiber intake, it would be incredibly challenging to do so without total carbohydrate intake creeping up towards 300g or more!

Balancing Macronutrients

Another consideration with optimizing carbohydrate intake is ensuring we avoid the effects of eating too much or too little of each macronutrient (not just carbohydrates, but also fat and protein). On one hand, an extremely high carbohydrate intake (more than 70% of calories) leaves less room for fat and protein in our diet, which creates its own set of problems. Inadequate fat can decrease our absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K (which ultimately affect every system in our bodies), as well as deprive us of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). Inadequate protein can reduce the preservation of lean muscle tissue, reduce our immune function, negatively affect our bone mineral density, and cause a host of other problems related to insufficient intakes of essential amino acids.

On the other hand, too little carbohydrate (with lots of protein and fat) could mean an insufficiency of not only fiber, but also of certain nutrients and phytochemicals found most abundantly in carbohydrate-rich foods (including vitamin C, polyphenols, chlorophyll, carotenoids, isothiocyanates, and organosulfur compounds, all of which play various roles in disease prevention). (See “The Amazing World of Plant Phytochemicals” for more on why plant foods rock!)dreamstime_m_17907458The solution? We can balance our macronutrients by eating moderate amounts of carbohydrate, fat, and protein, rather than excessive or extremely limited levels of any single one. Returning to hunter-gatherers for a minute, Cordain’s analysis found that most populations consumed between 19 and 35% protein and 28 and 58% fat. Eating about a third of our diet as carbohydrates (about a third as protein and about a third as fat) fits in nicely with the patterns we’ve observed among healthy hunter-gatherers, and seems to be the sweet spot for optimizing vitamin, mineral, phytonutrient, fiber, essential amino acid, and essential fatty acid intake!

What About Ketogenic Diets?

Extremely low-carb ketogenic diets have gained quite a bit of popularity lately. This type of diet has long been used to manage epilepsy (and to a lesser extent, other neurological pathologies, though the research is more limited), and there’s some evidence that ketogenic diets could improve the outcome of certain cancers (although, importantly, not as a treatment for cancer categorically: some tumors become more aggressive when starved of glucose!). It’s definitely true that restricting carbohydrate intake to very low levels could have therapeutic benefits in some situations.

For most of us, though, extremely low-carb diets are neither necessary nor beneficial. Previously, I’ve written about the documented adverse effects of ketosis (see “Adverse Reactions to Ketogenic Diets: Caution Advised”). Along with reported gastrointestinal disturbances, impaired mood, hypoglycemia, kidney stones, increased susceptibility to infection, long QT intervals, hair loss, muscle cramps or weakness, impaired concentration, disordered mineral metabolism, increased fracture risk, and a shift towards atherogenic lipid profiles in some people, some potential issues require much more research than we currently have available before we fully understand the long-term effects of ketogenic diets. In particular, the impact on the gut microbiome (our gut health is strongly supported by fiber intake from carbohydrate-containing foods) and fertility in women without PCOS (the hormonal shifts seen in very low-carb diets can be beneficial for women with PCOS but problematic for those whose hormone levels are normal or low to begin with) are potential red flags.

Quantity vs. Quality

One of the biggest changes to Western diets over the last 50 years is the replacement of whole foods sources of carbohydrates with refined carbohydrates.

Change in total carbohydrate consumption (•) and the percentage of carbohydrate from fiber (vertical bars) in the United States between 1909 and 1997.” Graph from Gross LS, et al, Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):774-9.


When you compare average carbohydrate consumption in the United States now to 100 years ago (when chronic disease rates were only a fraction of what they are now), it’s not that different, averaging about 500g per day. What is different is the percentage of those carbohydrates that come from fiber, an indicator of how refined these carbohydrate sources are: the more refined a food is, the more carbohydrate grams per fiber grams it typically has.  And, right when the percentage of carbohydrate coming from fiber starts to dip is right when we start seeing exponential increases in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

When foods are refined, it’s not just the fiber that’s stripped out.  Vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals are also lost in the refinement process, and nutrient deficiencies themselves increase risk of disease.  Combined with a large body of scientific evidence showing that low-carb high-fat diets do not provide a metabolic advantage, and in fact, low-fat high-carb diets perform equally as well from a weight loss standpoint (see Portion Control: The Weight Loss Magic Bullet and New Scientific Study: Calories Matter), we’re seeing a picture where quality of carbohydrate, meaning that we’re getting them from whole-food sources like root vegetables and fruit, if far more important than total intake.

So, How Many Carbs Should We Eat?

So, what’s the take-home message as far as carbohydrate recommendations go? For most people, going below 50 grams of carbohydrate per day for extended periods isn’t a good idea (unless a ketogenic diet is being used therapeutically for a specific condition and while under close medical supervision). A range of 100 to 200 grams per day is generally the most sustainable, but people can thrive on intakes up to even 300 grams (especially individuals with high calorie needs or very active lifestyles). These ranges are supported by evidence from healthy hunter-gatherer societies and help ensure our diets are nutrient-dense and have a diverse mix of plant and animal foods!


Cordain L, et al. “Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):682-92.

Eaton SB & Konner M. “Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications.” N Engl J Med. 1985 Jan 31;312(5):283-9.

Gross LS, et al, Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):774-9.

Hylla S, et al. “Effects of resistant starch on the colon in healthy volunteers: possible implications for cancer prevention.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Jan;67(1):136-42.

Johnston KL, et al. “Resistant starch improves insulin sensitivity in metabolic syndrome.” Diabet Med. 2010;27:391-397.

Nilsson AC, et al. “Including indigestible carbohydrates in the evening meal of healthy subjects improves glucose tolerance, lowers inflammatory markers, and increases satiety after a subsequent standardized breakfast.” J Nutr. 2008;138:732-739.

Ströhle A & Hahn A. “Diets of modern hunter-gatherers vary substantially in their carbohydrate content depending on ecoenvironments: results from an ethnographic analysis.” Nutr Res. 2011 Jun;31(6):429-35.





If you want to drop weight, eat LOTS of WHOLEFOOD carbs and keep your diet under 10% of total calories from fat.

I eat high carb on my days off too. I work 10-12 hours a day on the computer 7 days a week. I eat over 700g of carbs each day. Single digit body fat for the last 10 years.

Vegan is easy as fuck. 🙂

That’s great for you! 700 carbs may not work very well for most diabetics and those with insulin resistance; unless of course, one wants to continue insulin. Everyone is different. As a diabetic not on insulin or meds I do well keeping carbs between 50-75, that is keeping blood sugar low and feeling human all day. Occasionally I’ll have a day over 100 and I’ll notice it on my meter and will feel sluggish and hung over on through the next day. If I ate like that everyday I would have to be reliant on medication.

Do you know of any reason to eat more carbs while nursing (other than a higher caloric need)? I’m nursing a 7 month old, and have been “paleo” since about 6 months pregnant. (And gluten/ dairy free for most of my pregnancy). I’m currently 17 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight, and would like to lose a little more (10-20 lbs?). I think I eat 60 or 70 grams of carbs a day usually. (though I don’t measure portions so not totally sure). I’d say I’m definitely between 50-100 g/day, usually on the higher side. Just curious, as I usually see “higher” carb being “allowed” for heavy exercisers, but haven’t seen anything specific to nursing. Thanks!

Sorry I didn’t reply to this comment earlier (got stuck in the spam folder). You can definitely eat more while nursing, which should be a bit more of everything, including carbs. It can be very strenuous on the body to drop your carb intake (and food intake in general) too low while nursing (you’ll notice your milk supply decreasing) and those last 10-20 pounds can be quite challenging to lose as long as you are lactating (your hormones protect that weight to support lactation). You can slowly cut your carbs down to help support weight loss, but watch for signs of your milk supply going down (or other signs of cortisol going up like not sleeping well, feeling moody, getting headaches) and just be patient with the last 10 pounds. I hope this helps!

Hi. I am at 105lbs and find that I am the exception to “general” numbers. These are often designed for people larger than me. Do you have a “grams per pound of lean weight” or “grams per pound of weight” recommendation? For carbs, I mean. Thanks!

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I am new to the Paleo life-style and have a significant amount of weight to loose (~100lbs). So far I am having success, feeling great and am optimistic that I will be able to adopt changes for a life time of “healthier me”

I have a question regarding carb restriction. When we count carbs are we looking at total carbs consumed or, “net” carbs for the day?

Your blog and social media posts are so inspiring and I really enjoy following them; Thank You!!!

I actually have a post coming about carb levels for kids. I would say anywhere between a 30% and 50% of their caloric intake should come from carbs, the rest divided between protein and fat.

Thanks for your great posts. Could you give concrete examples of what low and medium carb intake would look like, like you did for “very low.” It may seem silly, but it would really help. Those concrete examples would be great for fat intake, as well, which you may have done somewhere!

Thanks very much.

Thank you Polly. You are absolutely right that this post needs to be updated. Actually, several other of my very old posts do too. I have been working on a series describing what very low carbohydrate diets do to leptin sensitivity and cortisol expression (by way of cautioning against them) and if you’ve read anything more recent, you’ll know that I now typically recommend 75-150g of carbs for most people, more for athletes. I would like to point out that Robb Wolf’s outstanding 3-part series on paleo and low-carb was hardly a denouncement. He did retract his previous support for ketogenic diets (which I have never backed) and I believe this is an important distinction. He was more careful about how low low-carb should be for most people and for whom exactly low versus moderate carb intake is appropriate. But point taken. This post is definitely out of date.

Hit “send” to soon. I’ve also been trying to google Wolf’s retraction re. his support for ketogenic diets, and can’t find it. If anybody has a link to that, it would be much appreciated. Or, if you summarize it here somewhere on this blog, that’d work, as well. Thanks so much. I appreciate all your efforts

Hello Paleo Mom, I’m on my fourth day of eating Paleo and have found your site very helpful. Before starting I may have been eating around 300g of carbs per day. I aim to maintain my weight and have therefore been eating 100-150 grams from paleo friendly sources (sweet potato, vegetables, squash). Still, I am experiencing symptoms of the adjustment period you describe. Mainly lethargy and difficulty concentrating..generally feel a bit weird. Is this usual after this type of reduction?
Thanks very much

Thanks very much for the prompt response. I’m in day 12 and I certainly feel much better than I did during the worst of the adjustment. I have another brief question. I’ve decided to eliminate eggs, dairy and nightshades from my paleo diet, where previously I’d been eating kerrygold butter and lots of aubergine. This is in order to determine their effect when I introduce them at the end of thirty days paleo, and what effect it has on my mild acne. What foods would be appropriate nutritional replacements?

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Probably somewhere in the 100-200g range, trying to make sure that the majority of those carbs come from non-starchy vegetables, with a couple of servings a day of starchy vegetables and/or fruit.

I am still researching on this. I am malay n my staple food is white rice. how can I go on low carb coz I need to reduce weight for my hormone imbalance. what sources of carb that is good for my health n for my teeth too?

Hi Paleo Mom!

My son is having autoimmune issues. I aim for him to get around 60-80g of carbohydrates a day, In terms of healing AI / gut / inflammation issues would there be any difference in him getting all of those carbohydrates from blueberries vs. all of those carbohydrates from, say, kale/carrots/turnips? I feel like the fiber in the vegetables might be too hard on his digestion. Does starch process that much differently than glucose/fructose in the body?

Thank you very much you have been a great help!

So, let’s divide this into three categories: fruit, starchy vegetables, non-starchy vegetables. The carbs in non-starchy vegetables almost don’t count because they are so slowly absorbed. Although, the vitamins, minerals and even fiber are important (getting vegetable fiber can help restore good levels of bacteria in the but, but you can stick with eating these cooked to make them easier to digest). Starchy vegetable carbs enter the blood stream more slowly and are predominantly glucose. Fruit enters the blood stream more quickly and is typically about half glucose and half fructose. I would suggest a mix of fruit and starchy vegetables with some non starchy vegetables (especially green ones!) thrown in just for the nutrient value.

Okay thank you for the thorough response. He complains often that starchy vegetables make him gassy, do you think it would be bad for him to get most of his carbs from fruit? He only eats FODMAP safe fruits but would the fructose still potentially cause problems that could lead to more inflammation?

I’d like to know what amount 90% dark chocolate and coconut milk fall into the
50g carb load. I’m confused. Do only starchy vegetables and fruit count?

This post needs to be updated, but net carbs, means total carbs less fiber. You’ll have to calculate it yourself based on how much you’re eating (you can look up the information you need on a nutrition database like Nutrition Self or look at the label).

I am 22 and was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I started the AIP a few weeks ago and am slightly confused about carbs. I was listening to a podcast on everyday paleo and they were responding to a question written by a woman who had fibromyalgia. Jason said that because the woman had fibromyalgia she shouldn’t let carbs get low and that she should “just eat carbs”. I guess I was wondering what that meant and if you see any validation in that statement?
I’m finding myself pretty hungry throughout the day and am wondering if I just need to eat more calories (carbs?fat?) during the day to sustain myself or if my body is just adjusting to the three meal thing and no snacking. I’m pretty tall and thin/muscular and have always needed to eat quite a bit…. While on the AIP I’ve had a hard time sustaining myself and have lost weight that I’m not sure I needed to lose. I guess I just don’t know how to even eat more (or what to eat) if that’s what I need to do.
Sorry for the long winded/not entirely coherent question!
Also any other tips for fibromyalgia would be helpful!

It’s definitely more complicated than “just eat carbs”, but it’s true that going low carb isn’t good for fibro. The reason is that there’s a very strong interplay between thyroid, sex hormones and gonadotrophins, and cortisol. Being very low carb can increase cortisol, but more importantly it can be very hard on the thyroid because insulin facilitates T4 to T3 conversion. But too high of insulin and blood sugars also has a negative effect. So, it’s more about getting carbs into the happy medium range. For most people that will be somewhere between say 100 and 200g per day (maybe more since you’re lean and especially if you’re very active). Starchy carbs tend to be more of a slow burn in terms of blood sugar regulation, but fruit in moderation works well too. On top of increasing carbs, increasing calorie-dense foods (mainly fat sources like avocado, olives, healthy fats). Also, it might be better to add a snack in for now, and then work on removing it later. If you’re feeling really hungry, you should eat (you can also work on increasing the size of your meals so you can go longer before snacking). This can be a very tough transition, but you can make it easier on your body by doing it gradually.

I hope this helps!

Yes, thank you! It is so nice that you actually explain things scientifically instead of just…well, saying them 🙂
I have another question (that doesn’t relate to carbs) about the interplay of magnesium, vit D, and vit K (mk4). Many people find that fibro can really be helped by supplementing with magnesium and also with vit D/vit K. I guess I was just wondering if supplementing with these three kind of over runs calcium/potassium (or any other things)? I was also wondering if timing is important when taking them and if you had any dosage recommendations. I saw that you do take magnesium (and I know you take vit D) on your FB so I was excited that you probably knew more about this!
Thanks for all your work, it really is a TREMENDOUS help!!

Magnesium is depleted by stress and is a little tough to get from the modern food supply. It’s pretty hard to overdo too. I recommend magnesium glycinate or magnesium taurate, spread out over the day and with meals (fiber and B-vitamins improve digestion). Too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, so start with maybe 100-200mg with meals, and then go up or down from there.

I don’t take vitamin D anymore, in part because I eat so many foods naturally rich in it. I generally recommend having levels tested and only supplementing if you’re low or low-normal. There’s a lot of synergy between vitamins A & D (and the higher your A&D, the more K2 you need), which is why food supplements like fermented cod liver oil are so great (you get all three so you don’t have to worry about toxicity). You can also get these by eating organ meat and seafood.

Having adequate A, D, K2, and magnesium actually helps absorption and use of calcium/potassium (although overdoing one, say vitamin D, can cause changes in calcium use, again why whole foods or food-based supplements are so great). Collagen supplements are also synergistic with all of these (one of the reasons why bone broth is so great).

I do enjoy your blog as you have a very intricate understanding of food and biological sciences. I was hoping you’d be able to help me adjust my carbohydrate intake appropriately.
About me:
I am a 25 year old male who is naturally fairly thin and has an active job. I work 6 hour shifts as a waiter around four days a week in addition to a full time academic load. Until recently I had been eating a SAD diet (my calorie counts were always slightly under because I had succumb to my busy schedule and would regularly under eat). I wouldn’t say I gorged on bread products, but they were definitely a daily component of my meals.

My problem:
Notably, I have been a little sleep deprived, again, due a hectic schedule and have recently gone primal- day 4. Despite spending the past few days catching up on sleep, the past 4 days I have become completely overwhelmed with fatigue and brain fog. The fog has kind of rolled in gradually since this quarter began, but has definitely taken a nasty turn since I went primal. It has a tendency to affect most aspects of my life, and understandably makes me very unhappy. My calorie counts have been higher due to eating more meals throughout the day and incorporating lots of healthy fats from avocados (and avo oil), olive oil, and coconut oil. I’ve completely eliminated grains with exception of white rice and have been using squashes and starchy tubers to accumulate my carbohydrates for the day. My guestimation would be that I’m consuming around 150g /day +/-. I do still consume dairy, but I am trying to gradually wean off of it to mitigate a massive detox reaction which would presumably make my symptoms drastically worse. My question is, am I consuming an adequate amount of carbs, or is this unlikely the issue and my body is either adjusting or still recovering from sleep deprivation?

A sample meal day (non working):
5 eggs, sauteed cabbage and broccoli cooked in coconut oil and topped with 3 tbsp olive oil. One orange as a side option

Primal lasagna consisting of tomato sauce, onions, butternut squash, ground turkey, avocado and some avocado oil incorporated to up the lipid content.

Banana with sunbutter

Primal pulled pork chili served over rice noodles consisting of tomato sauce, onions, bell peppers, and various GF seasonings.

I didn’t do a total marco breakdown, but I was around 150g cho, and roughly 2300kcal.

(I was kind of on a tomato kick as crock potting is such a time saver!)

Any commentary is greatly appreciated!

If you’re active, I think you might be a bit low on the carb side, and trouble sleeping is a classic sign of being too low carb (which is especially hard on the body when stressed and/or not getting enough sleep). I think a good experiment would be to increase (even up to 300g per day) and see if you’re sleep improves as well as your energy and brain fog.

I’ve actually begun to notice that high carbohydrate meals seem to create the energy crashes and not abate them. ie, I work up this morning feel refreshed, and ended up feeling awful after breakfast. Breakfast this morning consisted of a scramble encompassing two cups steamed sweet potatoes, spinach, coconut oil, 5 eggs, and olive oil. Is it possible that I am carbohydrate intolerant? I’ve noticed energy crashes after eating for a majority of my life- this was actually the catalyst for my current dietary endeavor, My biggest bouts of brain fog set in after eating; which I find to be a bit odd and unsettling. I know that being thin and having a ecto body type doesn’t make impervious to carbohydrate sensitivity. It’s just kind of an odd notion because I don’t fit the typical description?

Last night I seemed to get a significant energy boost and mental clarity when I had a snack that consisted of tuna and homemade paleonnaise (thank you, btw. Delicious).

If I were to moderate my carb intake by limiting it to carbs from vegetables, is their a possibility things will get worse before getting better as I may slide into ketogenesis? From my understanding keto usually only occurs when keeping carbs below 30-ish g/day ( I know this varies by person) and I can likely stay above that just eating non tuber vegetables. Also, does that I mean I should only incorporate starch dense carbohydrate foods into my diet when doing glycogen re-feeds ( I am going to eventually try going back to the gym)?

I feel like my once considerable brain power (excuse the modesty) is being severely handicapped and I’m struggling to find a resolution. It’s beginning to take a toll on me emotionally, and is creating disturbances in other aspects of my life. ugh!

Thanks again!

Also, are their long term consequences for keeping carb intake really low? I know carbohydrates are the only non-essential macro-nutrient, but I also seem to find a lot of conflicting information online.

Again, I really appreciate your advice.

I think getting a glucometer and testing your blood sugar will help answer your questions. There’s lots of other possibilities like food intolerances as well. Yes, reducing your carbs can make it feel worse, but that should last longer than 2-4 weeks.

I’ve concluded that keeping my carbohydrate intake below 30g/meal prevents energy crashes associated with eating. This morning I had 5 eggs, 250g of red cabbage, half an avocado, cooked in 2 tbsp coconut oil (roughly 22g net carbs). Despite having only slept for three hours, I had better mental clarity than previous days with more rest, and suffered from no post consumption energy crash. I will try and keep my daily carbohydrate intake between 75-100g/ day for the next two weeks, then postulate from there.

Investing in a glucometer would definitely be valuable in reinforcing my observations.

Thank you again for your time. It has been invaluable.

I have started a weight loss diet that is very low carb-30-50g of carbs a day. I have been finding it surprisingly easy, as I feel full longer, and healthy because I have been eating so many vegetables. I have struggled for years with weight loss-the weight not budging, wonky blood sugar levels, etc, and have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to stick with this so far. Now you are saying that very low carb is not good after all? I would hate to do more damage to myself if this is the case, so how many carbs should I be eating?

Just my 2 cents worth cos I’m not an expert, but my experience with very low carb wasn’t too crash hot, bad moods etc. I’m carb cycling now , some days high some low etc , it seems to keep my body on its toes but my default is around 100g per day. I just keep experimenting. Also my carb cycling is random, not structured at all. It may be worth a try.

At the top of this post Sarah mentions that it needs to be updated. She also states that she does not recommend going below 50g per day for an extended period of time for most people. — Tamar, Sarah’s assistant

I’ve been AIP paleo for almost a month now and almost all of my psoriasis is gone. I still have constipation, histamine intolerance, fodmap intolerance, citrus intolerance, vit c intolerance, and candida symptoms – so I’ve been eating a very restrictive diet in light of that. I’m basically eating meat, fat, herbs and several vegetables because that’s all I tolerate.

I’m eating well under 50g of carbs a day, because I seem to have no tolerance for starch. I get intense hunger 30 minutes after eating them, white tongue and jock itch. Sounds like a candida issue, although I know that’s usually over diagnosed. I see your update says 100-200g is sustainable, and I’ve read on your site and elsewhere that going too low in carbs can mess with your adrenals and cortisol. I’ve been eating low carb paleo for years and I’m thinking it may have already done some damage, as I’m a bit of an insomniac and have chronic fatigue. I’m grappling with knowing whether to continue eating under 50g or to increase my carbs. It seems that either decision will cost me. Any thoughts?

You will have to experiment to find what works for you. If eating more carbs makes you feel worse, then don’t do it. I would consider checking my thyroid and cortisol levels and getting tested for SIBO. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

K that’s what I thought, good to have confirmation. Thanks for the quick response =) I wonder if you could pass on a request to Sarah to list general ideal portion sizes (food plate example, not gram counts) for those with autoimmune disease. I know it’s somewhat individual, but I’m finding it hard to believe I could reach 100-200g a day without including WAY more starch, so much that I wouldn’t have room for greens. Will be purchasing the book when it’s available in my area but wouldn’t mind getting the info before then. Thanks!

I am doing the paelo diet, but I cant sleep. I fall asleep for about 3-4 hours, and I cant get back to sleep. I am draggin azz from lack of sleep, but I am not hungry. I am eating between 50 carbs a day, some days 100. I am not losing weight, but would like to loose 4lbs. My job requires energy, I am a massage therapist, I do about ten massages a week and I work out 4-5 days a week. Is insomnia common when starting this way of eating?. I have been eating this way for about two weeks. I really like the diet, but I like sleeping as well.

Hi there,

I am nursing my 2 month old wondering what is a TOTAL carb intake should be.

I use to count net but have been reading with Paleo and Primal you count total, is this correct t?

Do you have any knowledge regarding fertility issues and nutrition?
i know ther is a theory connecting low carb diet and fertility and i was wondering if following AIP mabe helpful for me in both my UC and fertility problems (om doing IVF:(

when someone give up bread, pasta and sugar – can it be enough or should i also limit t fruit and starch to go “low carb”?

i will appreciate any info you have on the subject

Thank you

Your nutrition and hormones can certainly affect fertility. With UC, I would definitely consider the AIP, which should help both maximize your nutrition and bring your hormones into balance. Sarah does not recommend a very low-carb approach for most autoimmune patients. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Hi Paleo Mom,

I find your posts very useful, however, I am confused when it comes to some things concerning carbohydrates. I was doing paleo for a month, but it was extremely low-carb (out of fruits, I only ate barely ripe nectarines and cherries) and then it started to feel “not right”, too stressing and I wanted to experiment with reintroducing some carbs. Now, carbs get me really bloated. Even my face becomes round right after eating any bread or starch. I have Hashimoto’s (but still perfect levels of thyroid hormones), “mild” PCOS (I have a slight inversion of LH and FSH and do have regular periods, but my problems are oily skin, acne and hirsutism) and a chronic lung bacterial infection. As you can see, my body is messed up. My question is: which carbs should I eat: classic grains get me bloated. Potatoes got me bloated. Rice cakes too, only slightly less. Corn meal got me bloated. Are fruits supposed to be my only source of carbs?

Is the answer to try experimenting myself? I don’t even know what is left… Buckwheat? Quinoa…?

I don’t want to have a permanently low-carb diet, as I think it simply isn’t healthy and I don’t want to mess up my thyroid hormones, as they are perfect right now, despite the Hashimoto’s-

Hello. I am a recovering keto gal….I was eat mega fat and under 20 net carbs daily for over two years….all autoimmune clean too fory severe leaky gut. I was at an all time low of 105/6 lbs at 5’3″. Fast forward to me now…I have in the past six months gained over 15 pounds mostly on my belly and thighs….with tons of cellulite..which I never had…and all my hormones have lowered which has caused such frustration. I did move and get a new high high stress job during this weight gain time but didn’t eat over it per say. I also am suspected to have sibo and a gallbladder issue. I am so depressed and bloated all the time. I have recently….this week upped my carbs by 20-30 net ..and dropped 3+ tbsp fats. My carbs are cooked carrots and cooked sweet potato and feel mentally better but I’m terrified to get even heavier. I feel what to do as most not n starchy veggies bloate along w fruit. I feel.desperate to drop this weight and overall heavy bulky feeling. I am open to anyone’s suggestions. I also am starting bone broth this week… Just FYI.

While I’ve never been keto, I was low carb for about 12 months. It didn’t work. I think it creates a stress within the body. After reading The Perfect Health Diet I increased my srarch to one fist size serving, 3 times a day. This is moderate carb. The first thing that happened was I put on a couple of % points of body fat but it’s coming back off now once my metabolism settles down. I also have digestive issues & I’m currently reading The 30 day heartburn challenge by Craig Fear, so far it’s a good read. I’m not far into it but he’s using a lot of fermented foods to restore digestive health. I strongly recommend both these books. My daily carb intake is now around 150g per day. My body is loving it.

Stress can absolutely throw everything for a loop. If you suspect SIBO or other issues, you will need to confirm those with your doctor and follow their treatment plan. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

I’m perplexed. My diet is restricted far beyond even AIP and FODMAP combined, so I don’t have many sources of cabs I can tolerate. The one I have found is plantains. I’ve found that if I need at least 2 medium plantains a day, and often 3, in order to feel all right. Without them I get dizzy and lightheaded, emotionally out of whack and just feeling plain wrong. I just looked it up, and that means I’m getting about 210 carbs a day from the plantains alone! Now, i can only have about 2 servings of fruit a day, and my other sources of calories consist of fish, liver, olive and palm oils, zucchini, carrots, broccoli cucumber, and greens, with occasional olives, cauliflower, celery, or a few others in small amounts. This means I must be getting as much as 250 carbs a day! Now, I’m pretty active, doing kung fu a couple hours a week, but isn’t this a lot? I’m pretty desperate to heal at this point. Something’s not working. But I feel so bad if I let my carbs get much lower.

I am the same way. I cannot digest veggies well at all yet mentally feel better when I eat them. I feel bloated all the time even w digestive enzymes.

No, that’s not really a lot of carbs, and there’s nothing wrong with higher amounts if that’s what makes you feel good. Practical Paleo recommends about 300 per day for active people. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

This conversation and Sarah’s input has been incredibly helpful to read. I’ve been on AIP for about 8 weeks now and since about 2 weeks in to it I’ve felt deeply exhausted, often very low and tearful. Friends have recommended I stop as they think I look more tired and a little thinner so are worried about me getting really sick again. I was going to give it up as I couldn’t explain why i feel so deeply tired all the time (even though i’ve been sleeping very deep long sleeps), but I think it’s doing me good in ways that can’t be seen yet and Im desperate to give anything a go to slow down the development of disease.

So having read this thread I now think I need to just adjust the way im doing the AIP.

Ive been making sure I plenty of bone broth, nutrient rich meats, greens and starchy veges (I seem to spend al my spare time cooking now!) – though I used to eat huge amounts of bread, pasta, rice etc etera so I guess its a lot of carb and sugar to replace. Any advice on how to get through this low period or any other information about it and why its happening would be greatly appreciated!


Actually the truth is – I’ve really been failing at AIP lately because I was feeling so low and sad all the time I started eating eggs and chocolate for a couple weeks – because i was scared that I wasn’t getting enough for my body and because I felt so low.

I feel upset now that I partly blew all my good work by doing this, though im also very unsure of what I should do now as I am going in to cold season when I usually get flare ups and im scared of going down that spiral of sickness again so don’t want to risk not giving my body everything it needs, but would also love to find a way to improve my health. I realise this sounds warbled, any advice would be welcome.

First I have to say I love your articles, a good friend posted one on FB, and I can’t stop reading.

Dealing with autoimmune issues, what does a low carb diet look like in regards to food items?


Is this a good paleo shake if someone wants to lose weight?

Dr. Hyman’s 10-Day Detox Diet Whole Food Protein Shake
1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/2 frozen cranberries
1/4 lemon with rind (optional)
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp chia seeds
2 walnuts
1/4 avocado
1/2 tbsp coconut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup water

Hi! I was just wondering if carb recommendations are total carb or net carb. I have been low carb for a couple of years and am trying to make the switch to paleo. What worked for me in the beginning of low carb does not seem to work as well now… I am still stuggling with emotional health, thyroid issues, skin issues, food allergies. I have lost a significant amount of weight, and while I am am thin now I still have a problem controlling abdominal fat. I have tried lowering carbs to a ketogenic range but still not getting the results I was hoping for… But I am scared of adding too many carbs because low carb has helped PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and pre-diabetes. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or thoughts. Thank you!!

I take Topamax, (topiramate) an anti-convulsant for vestibular migraine. It expressly states on the fact sheet that a “ketogenic” diet is contraindicated because of the risk of kidney stones. I can’t get anyone to tell me how many carbs to shoot for to stay out of danger of this. I need the drug, I have violent vertigo attacks almost daily without it, but it isn’t enough, AIP/Paleo help control what the Topamax can’t, but I don’t want to complicate my situation. Do you have any words of wisdom?

[…] The real signal to your body to store fat is in the carbohydrate. “Total Carbohydrate” tells you, again, how much carbohydrate per serving. To calculate the “effective” carbohydrate, you subtract the Dietary Fiber from total carbohydrate. Keep in mind that the carbohydrate count includes natural sources, such as the natural sugars in milk or fruit, so the line labeled “Sugars” doesn’t say where the sugar is coming from without looking at the ingredients list. A very low carbohydrate intake is appropriate for people trying to lose weight quickly and for those that are dealing with stress management issues, sleep problems, or unresolved inflammation. Most people just generally feel better eating fewer carbohydrates, but you can take this quiz to see if you have a carb intolerance. What your magic carbohydrate number is will depend on you. If you’d like to see numbers, I like this guide from The Paleo Mom. […]

Hello. I really appreciate all your research. I’m wondering whether you can help me understand whether it is normal when you transition to a fairly low carb diet 50-75g a day for your body to become much more sensitive to carbs. I feel like any minor deviations where I eat a few more carbs than usual at a meal will shoot my glucometer numbers up and then down with reactive hypoglycemia. It seems like I’ve made my body less able to handle carbs by eating fewer of them. Is there a way to safely increase the number of carbs your body can handle without raising your blood sugar? I’ve been reading Jenny Ruhl’s Blood Sugar 101 and the A1C numbers she recommends aiming for to avoid health problems from high blood sugar are quite low like under 5.4 ideally, maybe even lower is better. If you try something like plantains or sweet potatoes with dinner and it seems to make your blood sugar rise more than normal, does it make any sense to keep trying? Is there a way to train your body to handle high carb foods better? If you want to experiment on yourself to decide on your ideal carb intake, how do you do this?

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