What Are Net Carbs? And How Do You Calculate Them?

We're officially in the second month of 2021, and if you're anything like me, you're looking to lose that quarantine 15. You know, the 15 (or more) pounds you gained while eating delicious Marionberry ice cream and decadent Brooklyn babka while binging Queen's Gambit on Netflix. 

The silver lining here is, we did a damn good job social distancing in 2020. 

For that, I think we deserved the sweets we ingested….right? Let's be honest, though; time's not stopping for anyone. Pretty soon, summer will be here, and we'll be struggling to lift our swimming trunks above our thunder thighs if we don't chill out on the midnight snacks.  


This all got me thinking, what’s the most realistic diet for my lifestyle? 

After much deliberation, I decided to try out a cyclical low-carb diet. Meaning, I'd avoid high amounts of carbohydrates during the week and allow myself to grab a slice of pizza on the weekend if I feel like indulging. 

I was excited as I hit the grocery store to stock up for the first week of my low-carb diet. Of course, the first thing I noticed was keto ice cream. The ice cream tub had a large call-out on the top reading "1 net carb." I instantly picked up the pint of ice cream with excitement but was halted by an underlying thought…." What are net carbs?"

What Are Net Carbs?

Well, it turns out this is a bit of a controversial question. 

The concept of net carbs is based on the principle that not all carbohydrates affect the body in the same manner.

Simple carbohydrates (refined starches and sugars) are absorbed rapidly and have a high glycemic index, meaning they cause blood sugar levels to quickly rise after eating. Excess simple carbohydrates are stored in the body as fat. 

Examples of simple carbohydrates include:

  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Milk
  • Syrups
  • Desserts


Complex carbohydrates, such as the fiber found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, move slowly through the digestive system, and much of it isn't digested at all (insoluble fiber).

Examples of complex carbohydrates include:

  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Beans 
  • Whole grains

Complex Carbs

Net carbs are considered to be the carbohydrates that your body digests and converts into glucose. This is why you may also see net carbs referred to as digestible carbs or impact carbs.

However, the term "net carbs" is not officially recognized or agreed upon by nutrition experts. In fact, there's no legal definition of net carbs, meaning the FDA has not approved any regulated information on the topic. 

Although experts do not recognize the term, the practice of counting net carbs may still be beneficial to those looking to lose weight on a low-carb diet. 

 How do you calculate net carbs?

Thankfully, calculating net carbs is incredibly easy! No need to dust off the old college math books here, all you need is some simple subtraction skills to utilize the net carb equation. 

Step 1 - Determine the Total Carbohydrate Content

Determining the total carb content is as easy as reading the nutrition label. Simply turn that box of keto-friendly cereal to its side, and look for the word "Carbohydrates." Whatever number you see followed by "g" is the total grams of carbohydrates. BOOM. We're ⅓ of the way there!

Step 2 - Subtract the Dietary Fiber Content

Dietary fiber will be listed directly below the carbohydrate content. Subtract the grams of dietary fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates. If your product or ingredient does not contain any sugar alcohols, then this number will be your total net carbs! 

If you read further down the nutrition label and see "sugar alcohols," then you'll want to continue on to step 3!

Step 3 - Subtract the Sugar Alcohol Content (if Applicable)

Last but not least, subtract the number of sugar alcohols from the difference in step 2. Finally, we have our total net carbs, aka digestible carbs, aka impact carbs...you get the picture. 


Here we have the nutrition label of a keto-friendly pint of ice cream. Let's go through the label and determine the net carbs per container (far right column).

Keto Ice Cream Nutrition Label

Step 1 - Determine the Total Carbohydrate Content

Total carbs per container: 38g

Step 2 - Subtract the Dietary Fiber Content

Dietary fiber per container: 7g

38g - 7g = 31g

Step 3 - Subtract the Sugar Alcohol Content (if Applicable)

Sugar alcohol per container: 27g

31g - 27g = 4g net carbs

So, this container of "low-carb" ice cream contains just 4g of net carbs per container, which is actually quite remarkable! 

Now you're free to put this newfound skill to use on anything and everything. Hell, grab your kids and teach them how to count net carbs. Rummage through your pantry and start tossing all of the outrageously high carbohydrate-containing products directly into the trash. 

You're on your way to a slimmer life, and you can thank us later. Really, it's no big deal. 

Keto Beef Jerky

The Bottom Line

While counting net carbs is a great way to begin a low-carb diet and ease your way into a healthier lifestyle, let's be honest...ice cream isn't something you should be indulging in all the time. 

Plus, did you catch the number of sugar alcohols in that nutrition label above? Yeah, something about that just rubs us the wrong way. These sugar alcohols have been used in small doses for a while in American products such as chewing gum, but it isn't until recently that we've seen products utilizing sugar alcohols at this rate. 

Now, we don't exactly know if this is good or bad, but we just seem to have an odd feeling in our stomach about this… and we're not the only ones. Check out the reviews on these sugar-free gummy bears.  

Thankfully, we know exactly where you can get your hands on some of the most delicious low-carb snacks around. Check out our Keto-friendly Sugar-free Beef Jerky options!

Our keto-friendly beef jerky flavors  are made using zero sugar, zero sugar alcohols, and naturally contain zero total carbohydrates. That's right, just simple, clean ingredients hand-crafted into delicious all-natural beef jerky. 

Click here to shop our Keto-Collection!