Carb Counting: Carbs vs. Net Carbs
If you are new to carbohydrate counting, it can seem confusing and overwhelming at first. I know it felt that way to me. So I am going to break it down as simply as I can for you. I will teach you the basics and what you need to know to be successful.
What is Carb Counting?
Carbohydrate counting is exactly what it sounds like; you are simply counting the grams or servings of carbs that you are ingesting. Most people that count carbs do so to help regulate blood sugars and to avoid spikes. Individuals also count carbs to help with weight loss. It is an excellent way to portion as well as know what you're eating. I’ve been a carb counter for about a year now and have been very successful with blood sugar management and weight loss.
What is a Serving?
So here is the most important and fundamental principle that you will need to know; one serving of carbs is 15 grams (I usually give myself a buffer of plus or minus 5 grams). To determine what a serving is you will have to look at the nutrition facts or if it is something without a label like fresh fruits or veggies, you’ll need an app (like MyFitnessPal) or a book that has the serving sizes listed.
How Do I Measure a Serving?
Once you know what a correct size serving is you will need to measure your food. Precision is critical. This is not something you should be estimating; that will not produce accurate results. You can use measuring cups, or my personal favorite is a food scale to get your portions and counts correct. Eventually, you will become an expert at seeing a portion and knowing if it is right.
How Many Carbs Should I be Eating?
Every person is different, and their tolerance to carbohydrates is different as well. There are several factors to consider such as your blood sugars, your metabolic rate, your activity level, and if you are trying to lose weight. I would recommend that you work with a nutritionist to help you determine an amount that is appropriate for your particular needs and situation. Depending on the type of meal, usually a snack is a single serving and a larger meal like dinner would be two servings of carbs.
What is the Difference Between Carbs vs. Net Carbs?
When you just start to learn or research carb counting you probably will see a lot of references to carbs vs. net carbs. The difference is the carbs is the actual number of carbs in that food. For example, an apple that is 109 grams would have 15 grams of carbs or one serving. Net carbs are when you take the carbohydrate amount minus the grams of fiber. If you take that same size apple and subtract the fiber which is 2.4 grams you would have a net carb amount of 12.6 grams. The thought behind net carbs is that the fiber in the food helps slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates. While this is true, small amounts of fiber won’t be enough to slow down the breakdown of the carb. You want five or more grams of fiber to aid in the process.
I don't use net carbs as a metric. To me, a carb is a carb is a carb. I look at the whole carb figure and base my serving size on that number. In my opinion, the fiber is a bonus to help slow the carb down from becoming sugar so quickly in the body. If you're just starting carb counting, I would just count total carbs and not net carbs at least until you understand how it affects your blood sugars.
These carb basics should get you started on your carb counting journey. Counting carbs can be daunting at first, but once you learn it, it becomes a habit. Trust me! It does get easier. Plus, you will eventually have the serving size of your favorite foods memorized. Make sure you get my low carb snacks freebie here!