Seriously, How Many Carbs Should I Eat?

There are so many different answers for this floating around on the internet.As always, here at BFP, we hope to break through some of that noise for you and give you one place where you can find the “righter” answer. What does righter mean? “Righter” is the answer that not only helps you reach your goals in terms of body image or composition but also fits your values and lifestyle. We don’t expect people to take a dogmatic approach to nutrition and then spread that it is the only way to the rest of the world.

We want our BFP Family members to be fit as heck but we also want them to enjoy life, be happy, and have to worry about obsessing over food all the time, of course, unless that is what makes them happy :).

Let’s start with some definitions: What is low carb? Seems simple right? Eat less carbs but, less than what? Well, according to examine.com,there seems to be 3 to 4 main categories for this when we look at the research. Real research. Not what someone who looks good in a facebook ad will tell you.

KETO: Less than 50g of carbs per day. This gives you the key to the city of the “Low Carb Club”. The Adtkins diet would fall under this category. “This carb level is supposed to lead to extra fat loss magic, which has been mostly disproved by recent experiments. Regardless, the lower you go below 50 grams of carbs, the more ketones you produce. And for some conditions (especially epilepsy), ketones could be beneficial. Other people just feel better eating VLC diets.”

LESS THAN 150g PER DAY: “Your liver stores carbohydrate in the form of glycogen, maxing out at around 150 grams of stored carbs. If you fast for a day or two, or just eat very low carb intakes, that’ll exhaust your liver’s glycogen stores.” This gets you access to the “Yeah, Ieat fairly low carb” club. This is actually quite a bit lower than the average American.

LESS THAN 250g PER DAY:This still keeps you less than the average American that sits at around 300g of carbs per day but might not get you access to the low carb club.

LOW CARBS AT CERTAIN TIMES AND HIGH CARBS AT OTHER TIMES: Essentially this can be done through fasting, or simply sleeping for 8 hours and not having breakfast for a few more hours after but, for most, this is done through re-feeds. What’s that mean?? You go “low carb” during the week and eat a higher amount of carbs on the weekends. No this doesn’t mean a big cheat day, just higher carbs. There are other ways to time carbs as well. The simplest way is to simply eat your carbs around your workouts. That’s the general approach we take for most BFP Family members as it seems to suit their lifestyle and work for most folks who have a sedentary job.

“There is no standard definition of low-carb, and hence everybody and their mother and their health guru has their own definition. The only definitions that matter are those that your body understands, such as the level that depletes liver glycogen, or the level that reliably produces ketones, or most importantly the level where you still enjoy eating but also doesn’t make you gain too much extra weight.” Examine.com.

So, now that you know what’s what, how many carbs should you eat?

All carbohydrates we consume are digested into monosaccharides or simple sugars before they’re absorbed by the body, regardless of whether the food source is a simple sugar cube or a high-fiber, low glycemic index bowl of oatmeal. It’s just that the “healthier carbs” are digested and absorbed much slower while the “non-healthy” carbs are digested very quickly.

Although the fundamental process of digestion is the same, people differ in their tolerance and handling of carbohydrates. However, carbohydrate type also plays an important role.

When over consumed, simple sugars or highly processed carbs like breakfast cereals, some fruits, bread, pasta, and white potatoes, digest pretty quickly and have been shown to increase insulin (when it doesn’t need to be, but it can be good post workout) and lead to higher levels of cholesterol. On the other hand, carbohydrates that are digested and absorbed slowly, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, can help to control insulin response, energy levels, and body composition. When eating the slower digesting foods, most folks tend to take in more vitamins and minerals and stay full longer as well.

The minimal recommended intake for carbohydrate is 130 grams per day for the general population. The amount of carbohydrate that should be consumed depends on body size and activity levels: bigger and/or more active people need more while smaller and more sedentary people require less. Intake is also dependent on dietary fat and protein intake.

THE MAJORITY of these 130g of carbs per day should come from fruits and vegetables. If your goal is to gain muscle, you may actually require a higher level of carbohydrates to gain.

“I’ve Heard Low Carb Is The Best Diet For Weight loss”

Recently, there was a year long study that looked at this in obese folks. The media had plenty of sensational headlines as a result of this study but we want to present it to you from a more objective standpoint. As always, we trust sources like examine.com to do that for us and then pass it on to you!

In this study, the researchers compared a low fat diet to a low carb diet. The low carb group were instructed to eat less than 40g of carbs per day (Do you remember from earlier what we call that level of carb intake??) and the low fat group was around 55% of calories being carbs which is in line with national recommendations and what docs generally recommend for heart disease.

One of the unique things about this study was that it took place on folks who did not have diabetes or heart disease. So often, research on different nutritional intakes is done on diabetics and then broadly applied to the general public by the media. This is a big mistake. But, if you are here reading this then you don’t generally fall into that trap right?? 🙂 Also, most of the participants were female so, this might not apply to men as well.

The low-carb group, while instructed to consume under 40 grams of carbs, did not manage that low of a number. The lowest average carb intake for the group as a whole was 93 grams per day at six months in, and the highest was 127 grams at 12 months in (down from 242 grams a day). Even the low-fat group ended up decreasing their carb intake considerably, but much less than the low-carb group.

“Don’t make the mistake of attributing the group results to individuals. For example, weight loss in the low-carb group varied considerably, with some participants losing around 3 kg and some losing over 12 kg. The trial results don’t mean that you should expect to lose some specific number of kilograms on a low-carb diet. In addition, the first three months is when the weight loss happened in both groups. After that, each group experienced a slight uptick in weight, on average. This is another finding that is sometimes skimmed over by media reports.

A better gauge of fat loss would be the waist circumference. At 3 and 6 months in, the low carb group had a greater reduction in waist circumference. By 12 months in, the low fat group had caught up, and the decrease was the same in both groups. One key thing to consider with the low carb group (showed some solid benefits for heart disease prevention as well) is that they increased their protein intake quite a bit.”

So, from a weightloss perspective, in women, without disease, while keeping calories similar, low carb and low fat work for weight loss at the end of a 12 month period. However, 40g of carbs (KETO) per day, over an entire year, was not manageable for most folks in the study.

Based on this study and experience with hundreds of Hampstead area residents, we will repeat what we stated earlier in the blog,

The minimal recommended intake for carbohydrate is 130 grams per day for the general population. The amount of carbohydrate that should be consumed depends on body size and activity levels: bigger and/or more active people need more while smaller and more sedentary people require less. Intake is also dependent on dietary fat and protein intake.

THE MAJORITY of these 130g of carbs per day should come from fruits and vegetables. If your goal is to gain muscle, you may actually require a higher level of carbohydrates to gain.

What You Need To Know:

-Stick to fruits and veggies as your primary carbohydrate sources

-Save the starchier stuff like sweet potatoes, red potatoes, whole grains and some legumes and such for pre and post workout as they can be used best when training. Mainly when doing strength training.

-Most folks should eat about 130g per day, mainly from fruits and veggies (second time we said that 🙂 )

-If you’d like to get a little more specific for you, check out this article from Precision Nutrition: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-body-type-eating

Thanks,

Coach Joe Rouse

References:

https://examine.com/nutrition/does-low-carb-have-an-official-definition/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-carbohydrates

https://examine.com/nutrition/will-carbs-make-me-fat/

https://examine.com/nutrition/is-low-carb-really-the-best-weight-loss-diet/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-body-type-eating

https://examine.com/nutrition/awful-nutrition-myths/