Net Carbs Vs Total Carbs: What To Count On?
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Net carbs vs Total carbs: How to Calculate Carbs?

HealthyStripe's Editorial Team
16 February 2022

A balanced diet comprises a healthy mix of all types of nutrients like carbs, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, with adequate hydration to top it all.

The most important energy-generating nutrient in our diet is carbohydrates. Our body relies on carbs to generate energy for our systems although not all types of carbs can do so. Let’s understand how carbs work, their significance in our diet, and the difference between net carbs vs total carbs.

Understanding carbs:

Carbs make up about 45-65% of our total calorific intake since they are the primary source of energy for our bodies, especially simple carbs. Simple carbs like glucose and fructose are taken up by the body directly. In fact, glucose is the only source of energy for the brain.

Complex carbs like sucrose are first broken down into simple sugars like glucose and then digested and assimilated within the body. The underlying fact is that our body needs a healthy supply of carbs to function in the absence of which our organs look for alternate sources of energy like proteins and fats.

Fiber is also a unique form of carbohydrate that goes through the digestive process unchanged. It assists in healthy bowel movement, bulks up the fecal matter, and smoothens the passage of feces. Also, fiber is a complex carb that cannot be further broken down into simpler carbs like glucose.

Consuming more carbs than required is also not recommended since it gets stored in the body as fat. Keeping up this habit only causes fat accumulation thereby leading to unhealthy weight gain.

The ketogenic diet works on the principle of majorly eliminating carbs and only relying upon fat intake and existing fat reserves for survival. This high-fat low-carb diet makes it possible to shed weight since the body uses up the excess fat reserves for generating energy.

Net carbs vs total carbs: The difference and significance

The number of carbs that we need and should consume per day is highly dictated by our lifestyle, health issues, current medications, and dietary choices. The number of carbs that we take in every day from various sources, sans any exception, make up for the total carbs in our diet.

Net carbs are only those complex sugars that can be utilized by the body after being broken down into simple sugars. In other words, if your body cannot break down certain types of carbohydrates and fully digest them down to glucose molecules, they don’t count as net carbs. However, they will still be categorized as total carbs.

This is not a debate of net carbs vs total carbs since both types are crucial for our body. We need to keep a close tab on both our total and net carbs to determine our carb intake. Categorizing them into these broad types helps us understand them better for ease of dietary calculation.

Calculating total carbs:

Total carbs are quite simple to calculate since it is the cumulative content of all carb intake in the diet. Ideally, carbs must be consumed as per one’s need based on sex, lifestyle, body type, and fitness goals.

Cut down on carbs if you wish to shed weight so that your body is compelled to use the existing fat reserves for producing energy. Similarly, load up your diet on carbs if you expect to gain weight in the right, healthy manner.

Even fiber content must be included in the sum along with all types of simple and complex carbs so as to calculate the total carb intake.

Also Read: What are Keto Electrolytes?

Calculating net carbs:

Fiber is one of the rarest forms of carbs in the human diet that cannot be further broken down into simple sugars. Broadly speaking, fiber is classified into 2 categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are soluble in water and form a gel-like substance in the body. This property catalyzes smooth bowel movement.

Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, do not dissolve in water but help bulk up the fecal matter for ease of passage of feces. This is extremely important for addressing constipation healthily.

The most common home remedy for constipation is, therefore, including plenty of fiber in your diet. Green leafy veggies are rich sources for the same. Net carbs, therefore, can be calculated by determining the total intake of carbs and subtracting fiber content from it.

How to calculate carbs in the diet:

The only way to keep a tab on your nutrient intake is to stay aware of what you consume. Every consumable item like fruits, packaged foods, chapatis, bread, and all other food items has a set carb content that determines how much carbs you will ingest if you consume them in specific quantities.

You need to decide on a range of carb intake, with your nutritionist, that will help you meet your fitness goals. The next step is to break down this number into set quantities equivalently distributed in all your meals throughout the day.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends about 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men. Of these calories, about 45-65% should amount to carbs. Hence, one must consume anywhere between 1000-1500 grams of carbs each day. Other factors like health, medical history, current medications, food intolerances and allergies, lifestyle, and sex also play a role in determining the more important aspects in net carbs vs total carbs.

Summing it up:

Our diet is primarily made up of carbs since it is one of the most reliable sources of energy. Without carbs, our body turns to alternative means to generate energy but cannot keep up for long. You may be consuming a huge amount of total carbs, but if your net carb content is minimal, chances are that your body is not benefitting from your carb intake.

Hence, make sure that you consume a healthy amount of carbs which can be broken down into soluble sugars for generating energy. Consuming fiber doesn’t provide any energy to your systems although it does improve bowel movement and increases your total carb intake.

Paying attention to your diet is crucial, especially your carb content. Speaking of net carbs vs total carbs, it is always better to focus on your net carb intake along with including a healthy dose of soluble and insoluble fiber as well.

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