Let’s talk CARBS!! I was prompted to start a blog series of sorts on the topic of macronutrients (carbs, protein, & fat) when I was talking with a client the other day. She made a comment about a particular meal having “too many carbs” and I was intrigued…both about how she (and other people) define “too many carbs” and why that number (I think it was 34 grams) was considered a large amount of carbs. In my life and on my fitness/nutrition journey, 34 grams of carbs is a very moderate amount and definitely not an amount I would ever consider to be HIGH. It was at this moment that I realized that some people could benefit from some education on carbohydrates and how to connect an appropriate amount that is meaningful to their individual goals.
The very first thing I want to emphasize about carbs is that THEY ARE NOT BAD FOR YOU! Please stop believing that carbohydrates are the devil. They are not, and in many cases they are highly beneficial. As with anything, we tend to get in trouble with carbs when we go overboard (e.g. lots of cakes, cookies, sugary drinks, etc.) I’d like to give you a general idea of whether you should be eating lower carb, moderate carb, or high carb.
First things first, it is important to remember that carbs are a form of energy. Many sources of carbs (e.g. whole grains, fruits & vegetables, legumes, etc.) are FULL of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that our bodies need. In fact, many of these carbohydrate sources can help lower your risk of chronic disease. There are a plethora of factors that need to be considered when you decide how many grams of carbs YOUR body needs per day. Gender, weight, height, activity level, & lifestyle, are a few to consider. There is never going to be one amount that works for everyone.
Let’s talk LOW CARB. I will speak in a very general sense here. A good candidate for a low carb diet (<125g/day), assuming the person is healthy with no disease or pre-existing condition, would be A) somebody who has a goal of weight loss, B) a person that has a sedentary lifestyle (e.g. office worker), or C) somebody who is not following a rigorous fitness routine. Like I stated before, carbs are a source of energy. A person who wants to lose weight, leads a sedentary lifestyle, and is not following a rigorous fitness routine simply needs less fuel than someone who leads a more active lifestyle.
MODERATE CARB. Again, a very general idea here. A good candidate for a moderate carb diet (125-300g/day), assuming the person is healthy with no disease or pre-existing condition, would be A) somebody who may or may not have a goal of weight loss, possibly a person looking for maintenance depending on lifestyle and fitness routine, B) a person that leads a moderately active lifestyle (on their feet most of the day, possibly walking for a greater part of the day for work), or C) somebody who is following a rigorous fitness routine 2-3 days/week. Again, this person needs carbs for energy. Think of it as a carbohydrate tank that is being filled and emptied throughout the day. This person is engaging in a lifestyle that is emptying the tank at a moderate pace, therefore he/she needs to consume a moderate amount of carbohydrates throughout the day. (We will discuss other macronutrients in parts 2 and 3 of this series).
HIGH CARB. Yes, people follow high carb diets! With so much talk about weight loss nowadays, we tend to hear a lot about low carb diets and many of us are appalled to hear that people would eat higher carb diets. A good candidate for a high carb diet (>300g/day), assuming the person is healthy with no disease or pre-existing condition, would be A) somebody who likely has a goal of weight gain or maintenance, perhaps a person looking to build muscle, B) a person that has an active job (e.g. postal carrier), or C) somebody who follows a rigorous fitness routine 4+ days/week, including a heavy lifting routine. This person needs a lot of fuel for energy. Their tank is consistently being lowered, so it needs to consistently be replenished to maintain energy levels.
Again, these are very general explanations for a topic that is truly very individual. My advice to you would be to figure out your personal macronutrient goals based on factors like gender, age, lifestyle, height, weight, activity level, etc. A great one to check out is the IIFYM Calculator…I love it, for the most part. Occasionally, I will tweak my own numbers a little bit but it is one of the better calculators on the web.
My goal with this post is to help you learn a little more about carbohydrates than you knew coming in, and perhaps walk away with less fear about carbs if you are the type of person that worries about eating too many carbs. I encourage you to follow a fitness routine if you are not already doing so. This and the increased amount of carbohydrates benefits your body GREATLY! By learning more about these kinds of things we are more able to follow through with long-term, sustainable results no matter what your goal is. 🙂