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"Net Carbs"...real or hype?

by (1982)
Updated about 17 hours ago
Created January 30, 2011 at 4:03 PM

I am just curious...I was recently looking at the website for Quest protein bars, which are touted as being somewhat paleo-friendly. The site mentioned several times that the bars have something like only 4 or 5 "net carbs" which as I understand it is total carbs minus fiber. Does this make sense, or does it make more sense to count total carbs and forget the whole "net carb" idea? I'm thinking the latter.

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575 · February 01, 2011 at 10:47 AM

mari is correct, fiber is broken down somewhat... One can derive approx 2 cals per gram, it's a misconception that fiber isn't digestible or that it's somehow "free".

Medium avatar
39841 · February 01, 2011 at 1:16 AM

Yeah the overall effect in terms of calories is probably the same. It's like when I steam potatoes and want some more short chains instead of glucose, I let them cool down which increases the resistant starch and thus fodder for microflora. On the other hand, if I'm working out or something, I'll not wait for them to cool down all the way so I can tilt it toward glucose. Not that I care about calories in the least bit, but I imagine that it is largely the same either way.

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1982 · January 30, 2011 at 9:16 PM

That's good to know. Thanks!

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225 · January 30, 2011 at 5:52 PM

So yes, they're real, but I wouldn't use them as any kind of indicator. I'd count the total carbs (if I was counting at all), and go from there.

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1982 · January 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Yes, Jake, that is the kind of thing I am wondering about.

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225 · January 30, 2011 at 5:08 PM

Net carbs indicate only the load that would hit the body after the fiber is subtracted. So in that sense then yes they're real. If you're counting carbs strictly for a goal, then you shouldn't be eating anything with a label that guarantees a certain amount of net carbs. Only count the overall carbs and you won't get sucked into the idea that "Oh I don't have to count this 50g of sugar alcohol because it has 0 net carbs". Does that answer your question?

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1982 · January 30, 2011 at 4:59 PM

Thanks for answering my actual question. :)

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e
1982 · January 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thanks, but that wasn't my question. I never said I was eating Quest bars (I'm not); I'm curious about the concept of net carbs.

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8 Answers

Cab7e4ef73c5d7d7a77e1c3d7f5773a1
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7324 · January 30, 2011 at 5:14 PM

I don't think fiber counts as carbs, it is just food for gut bacteria. It's fermented by said bacteria into short chain fats, so you can actually get a few calories from it I believe.

8632c87a833f1d30f5fa8d4768d10c45
575 · February 01, 2011 at 10:47 AM

mari is correct, fiber is broken down somewhat... One can derive approx 2 cals per gram, it's a misconception that fiber isn't digestible or that it's somehow "free".

Medium avatar
39841 · February 01, 2011 at 1:16 AM

Yeah the overall effect in terms of calories is probably the same. It's like when I steam potatoes and want some more short chains instead of glucose, I let them cool down which increases the resistant starch and thus fodder for microflora. On the other hand, if I'm working out or something, I'll not wait for them to cool down all the way so I can tilt it toward glucose. Not that I care about calories in the least bit, but I imagine that it is largely the same either way.

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1436 · January 30, 2011 at 4:32 PM

IMO, it makes sense. Fiber is non digestible, it just "passes through you". Carbs are saccharides that are broken down and digested.

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e
1982 · January 30, 2011 at 4:59 PM

Thanks for answering my actual question. :)

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1982 · January 30, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Let me clarify, since there seems to be some confusion on this point. I am just trying to educate myself about food, paleo, SAD, 80/20, and anything else I run across in my reading. I asked a question about the concept of net carbs. Knowing that 'glycemic index' and 'glycemic load' are really more hype than science, I became curious about the idea of net carbs, and thus asked for opinions, or hopefully, studies that show the idea holds water or not. I am not asking and did not ask "Should I eat Quest bars?" or "Should I start trying to count net carbs?" If you re-read my original question, I didn't ask either of those things. Again, I have a curiousity about the rightness or wrongness of the concept, and that's the basis of my question. Thanks.

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e
1982 · January 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Yes, Jake, that is the kind of thing I am wondering about.

1baee29895c245c3d24bf6421ee4a9f7
225 · January 30, 2011 at 5:52 PM

So yes, they're real, but I wouldn't use them as any kind of indicator. I'd count the total carbs (if I was counting at all), and go from there.

1baee29895c245c3d24bf6421ee4a9f7
225 · January 30, 2011 at 5:08 PM

Net carbs indicate only the load that would hit the body after the fiber is subtracted. So in that sense then yes they're real. If you're counting carbs strictly for a goal, then you shouldn't be eating anything with a label that guarantees a certain amount of net carbs. Only count the overall carbs and you won't get sucked into the idea that "Oh I don't have to count this 50g of sugar alcohol because it has 0 net carbs". Does that answer your question?

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225 · January 30, 2011 at 4:46 PM

Think of it this way: If you have to choose between Food and "something that someone made that may or may not be food" choose food. If you're going to not choose food, yes you can likely subtract the net carbs from your total carb count for the day -- but there's more to it than that.

What is your goal? Are you trying to loose weight? If so, stay away from anything packaged and man-made. If your goal is to just get healthy the previous still holds, but as a "oh crap I forgot to make lunch today" or "aww man, I'm running late to work and don't have time to cook bacon", then yes grab a bar.

I like to think of it as the "Eat food" rule. Food first, fast second, if you can't fast grab an appropriate alternative third.

Eating this way isn't about counting carbs and making your scales balance at the end (this isn't Atkins or Points Plus). This is about eating the foods that make you fit, happy and healthy :-D

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10 · February 01, 2011 at 1:18 AM

I am familiar with Quest protein bars. They are in my opinion not totally Paleo but easily the best protein bar on the market.??

Eva brings up a great point. Almost every company that has a so-called "low carb bar" uses sugar alcohols so that they can make the "low carb" claim even though some sugar alcohols contain more calories than regular carbs.

The Quest Bars do not contain any sugar alcohols at all and to answer your specific question, I do think it makes sense to subtract fiber. If you don't, high fiber veggies will seem to provide more usable carbs than they really do.

I don't think it's debatable that any type of fiber is treated differently than a regular carb and as long as you're subtracting fiber and not sugar alcohols, you will in my opinion get a truer sense of a food's true carb contribution.??

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20787 · January 30, 2011 at 6:01 PM

I agree that fiber can be logically subtracted out of the carb load. You aren't digesting fiber so it will not result in blood sugar spike. However, they sometimes also used sugar alcohols as ingredients and then subtract those out as if they were fiber, with the argument that those are also not digested. I am personally more suspicious when they subtract out sugar alcohols as not counting. Sugar alcohols are sweet and digestion of them varies from one person to the next. My advice would be to consider what is being subtracted out when they are coming up with their net carb count. As long as it's just natural fiber, should be fine. But if it's sugar alcohols as well, then steer clear. Those things are artificial and do weird things to digestion.

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e
1982 · January 30, 2011 at 9:16 PM

That's good to know. Thanks!

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0 · February 01, 2011 at 1:10 AM

Regarding Aarons response, I definitely agree that nothing beats a steak for a clean protein source, however, there are times when grabbing a bar is just more convenient. My schedule is packed tight daily, and meal prep is not always an option, so a bar makes more sense as a viable protein source. Only problem with that is most protein bars are poor substitutes for lean meats and fish as they contain too much sugar and or carbs. So if Quest truly has low net carbs (and there is a difference between the two...fiber vs non fiber), I'll opt for the low net carb bar for sure, and here's the kicker (just went to the site), they don't use sugar alcohols either.

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1248 · January 30, 2011 at 4:12 PM

Honestly, what makes since is to eat REAL food and not eat man made protein bars. A little piece of steak is a "protein bar".

Aebee51dc2b93b209980a89fa4a70c1e
1982 · January 30, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thanks, but that wasn't my question. I never said I was eating Quest bars (I'm not); I'm curious about the concept of net carbs.

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