How Much Sugar is Allowed on the Keto Diet?

How Much Sugar on Keto

Sugar and the keto diet don't get along, and that's not good news for fans of ice cream, black forest cake, and Swiss chocolate. But just because sugar and keto are at odds with each other, it doesn't mean you need to send your sweet tooth off to the retirement home and resign yourself to a life of walnuts and coconut oil. Finding a way to accommodate the sweeter side of life is one of the significant challenges facing anyone on the keto diet, but it's not the impossible dream. All it takes is a bit of persistence, a bit of imagination and some of today's fantastic sugar substitutes.

If you want to stay in ketosis you will do well to make sure you eliminate the following foods from your diet:

  • ​Wheat, rice, corn or cereals
  • ​Potatoes, yams and like
  • ​Excessive amounts of fresh fruit such as apples and oranges
  • ​Sugar and common sugar substitutes like honey and maple syrup
no sugar sign on a spoon full of sugar

​​​​When it comes to the keto diet the problem with sugar is easy to define: if you ingest sugar in sufficient quantities, your body will decide it has enough glucose to fuel it and will exit ketosis in a hurry to resume its default power producing mechanism. That's it. So if you want to enjoy the many benefits of ketosis "How much sugar per day on keto?" has a simple answer: "Zero." That's the bad news. The good news is that doesn't necessarily mean you have to say goodbye to sweets. Just a particular kind of desserts. And you'll want to take up exercise as well.

Importance of Exercise for Depleting Glycogen Stores

gym work out

Since the answer to the question “How much sugar is allowed on keto?" is "zero" one of the first things you'll want to do when embarking on the keto diet and lifestyle is to start exercising. Regular exercise at the beginning of the process will help you deplete legacy glycogen reserves [1], and this will help kickstart your body's transition to ketosis. You don't have to become a full-time gym rat, but you should engage in at least an hour of high-intensity exercise each day (if you are physically able of course).

The type of exercise will depend on your age and the overall condition and may include weight lifting, crossfit, aerobics and more. Following your workout keep the focus on mineral supplementation and rehydration and not in giving into your bodies cravings for carbs.

Keep in mind too that while some high-intensity exercise is essential too much can have a negative effect. Too much exercise usually enters the picture when folks adopt a "more is better" attitude, i.e., "If I'm losing weight and getting into shape with one hour of exercise imagine what would happen if I exercised for four hours a day!" What happens is physical and mental exhaustion and stalled weight loss. In most cases, over-exercising also leads to binge eating as the person can no longer fight the body's cravings for nourishment and sugar binging as it's often the most comfortable, most emotionally satisfying way to satisfy carb cravings. So to stay on the right course get in your hour of exercise then head for the shower.

Exactly How Much Sugar on the Keto Diet?

The recommended daily sugar intake to stay on the keto diet is 0g. This is because sugar will rapidly fill up your entire carbohydrate allowance for the day and can potentially kick you out of ketosis. 

We’ll explain: To stay keto compliant you want to limit carbs to about 20 grams per day. But just one tablespoon of sugar is 12.5 grams of total carbs. If you think you'll get around that with honey, think again. A tablespoon of honey is even worse at 17 grams of total carbs. Just like that by consuming only a bit of sugar or honey you have nearly used up your entire allotment of carbs for the day. 

apple and donut on both hands

Meaning you'll have to watch carb intake from other sources like a hawk or you'll be bumped out of ketosis. So how much sugar can you have on keto? You should aim for zero. But, as we said that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your sweet tooth.

4 Viable Keto Friendly Sweeteners:

The glycemic index (GI) has to do with the impact food has on blood sugar. Sugar itself is the bane of the glycemic index, but the following sweeteners are extremely GI friendly.

  • Stevia - Stevia will not affect the glycemic index [2], meaning it won't contribute any carbs or calories to your diet. Stevia is most commonly used in liquid form, and recent advancements have removed what used to be a bitter aftertaste. As such Stevia can be used in myriad ways to create keto friendly desserts and snacks that will send your sweet tooth to its happy place.
  • ​Swerve - Swerve is the keto friendly sweetener for those who love their baked goods. It can be caramelized and browned, and it has a GI impact of zero, meaning no carbs or calories. If you are looking for the ideal sweetener for your keto brownies Swerve is the way to go.
  • Erythritol - Erythritol has a GI impact of zero although it will account for a tiny amount of calories; typically only about 6% of what you’d get from sugar. It’s not as sweet as some other sweeteners though so you need to be careful not to try and overcompensate by adding vast amounts to your recipes. If total sweetness is what you're after, use Stevia instead. Or else use...
  • Monk fruit - Monk fruit is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a very long way. It has a GI impact of zero and will soon enough have you forgetting about questions like "How much sugar can I have on keto?” [3]
monk fruit and extract

The bottom line when it comes to how much sugar on keto is acceptable is zero. Especially since there are several high-quality sweeteners available today that will act as more than adequate stand-ins for sugar without bumping you out of ketosis in the process. 

Hopefully this article brings you the guidance you need in order to make your keto lifestyle successful as well as help you understand that it is not the end of your love for desserts and all good things in life.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet.