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How Many Carbohydrates Per Day to Lose Weight?

girl stretching on trailDo you have any idea how many carbohydrates you should be eating per day to lose weight? Find your sweet spot for optimal fat loss.

Don’t Fear Carbohydrates

As a society we’ve come to label carbohydrates as one of the major sources of our weight loss woes. In actuality though, it’s the processed carbohydrates (among other things) that are mostly to blame. Carbohydrates (specifically glucose) serve many important functions in the body. For starters, they fuel high-intensity exercise and central nervous system function. And while you can derive glucose from other sources like fat and protein through a process called gluconeogenesis, it is still much more efficient to derive your glucose from carbohydrates. Not to mention, it is much cheaper on the wallet.

Also, I don’t like to see people restricting entire food groups, as too much restriction makes it harder to stick to a healthy lifestyle. It leads to feelings of deprivation and can create eating disorders like binge eating – trust me, I know. Carbohydrates also provide all kinds of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. While our society greatly over consumes refined carbohydrates, we greatly under consume whole food carbohydrates. The key is to eat the right ones in the right quantities.

Eating any of the carbohydrates from this list of 100 healthy foods would be a great pick.

Earn Your Carbohydrates

To efficiently burn fat, we need to train our bodies to use fatty acids for fuel. One of the ways we do this is by limiting (not eliminating) our carbohydrate intake so that we are only eating what we need. I like to call this “earning your carbohydrates”. Anything more just promotes more efficient sugar burning, lowers your insulin sensitivity, and converts excess carbohydrates into fat via insulin when muscle and liver glycogen stores are full.

To lose fat we must keep insulin levels under control. Since insulin is a storage hormone, it becomes very difficult to lose fat while insulin levels are high. Through a combination of eating whole foods that are high in fiber and eating them in quantities that correspond to your activity levels, you will be better able to control insulin levels so that fatty acids can be mobilized.

Read more about why your insulin sensitivity is the key to fat loss.

How Many Carbs Per Day to Lose Weight?

All this leads us to the big question – how many carbohydrates per day to lose weight? You must understand that carb intake is highly individual. It depends on many factors such as activity levels, body stats, prior lifestyle eating habits, and genetics. However, for most people, an intake of around 150-200 grams (or 30-40 percent of calories) of carbohydrates is a good starting point, and should be sufficient to fuel their exercise and central nervous system function. At 4 calories per gram, that’s 600-800 calories worth of high-intensity fuel.

Chances are, you aren’t burning much more glycogen than that during your workout. And let’s not forget that when we exercise, we burn a combination of fat and glycogen. If you are highly active, you will probably need more than that (myself included). However, for the typical individual who exercises and then is sedentary and behind a desk the rest of the day, 150-200 grams gives you a nice reference point to work from. It’s not so low that you’ll feel sluggish, and it’s not so high that you’ll have difficulty losing fat.

The rest of your calories will need to be filled with healthy fats (I supplement with this omega 3 oil to get my essential fatty acids) and protein. Set your protein intake to .8-1 gram per pound of lean body mass, and fill the rest of your calories with healthy fats and veggies that have trace carbs such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc.

If you are having trouble losing weight, and you’re mostly sedentary during the day (minus your workout), and you’re eating well over 150-200 grams of carbohydrates a day, you might want to reconsider your intake to put it more in line with what you actually need. Doing so will help keep your insulin levels down so that fatty acids can more easily be mobilized and used for fuel.

  • Tom Parker

    Great post Tony. I agree that as a society we do greatly over consume carbohydrates. The only problem with the low carbohydrate mentality I find is that it encourages people to avoid fruit and then they miss out on a lot of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. I personally try to stick to natural carbs and avoid the processed ones but I don’t beat myself up for eating an extra piece of fruit.


  • khalilah

    Tom what exactly is natural carbs & can u give an example of some processed ones as well? Thanks

    • Coach Calorie

      Natural carbs are whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, tubers, and whole grains. Processed carbs tend to come in boxes and have several ingredients listed on the label.

  • Chris

    I’m having problems figuring out just what quanitiy and quality of carbahydrates to lose weight. I’m 5’5 and weight 192.2 lbs. I’m very confused and would truely appreciate any advise you could give me. I’m really getting discouraged here. Thanks

    • Coach Calorie

      Chris, it’s hard to say without knowing your energy demands from your workouts. Generally speaking, you should be able to eat 50-100 grams per day of carbohydrates and lose weight. Maybe 100 on workout days and 50 on non workout days. Keep your carbs around your workout and have protein/fat meals the rest of the day.

      • Pernille

        Hey. Now, i read A LOT about low carb diet. I lost some weight, but still needs to lose a little more. So, I was looking at low carb diet, but that did not at all fit me. Even though I was up to about 50 g Carbs, I love my oat porridge, I love fruit, and can’t live without bananas. See my problem?
        But I tried it, but felt miserable. And then I read all about the effects, and they sounded so unhealthy.
        So what I’m trying to say, is that I need a little help. As far as I understand, you eat few carbs to not eat so much calories? ‘Course then it’s all about calories again. And I can control my calories, with fruits and vegetables and grains and oats. I’m eating a 1200 calorie diet par day, many days under. Can you give me advice? Is it about calories, or is Carbs really that unhealthy?
        Pleas, help me:)

        • Coach Calorie

          Carbs are not unhealthy, but eating 1200 calories per day or less on most days can be. You need to make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your activity. Eating less is not going to give you better results. On the contrary, it can cause metabolic damage and muscle loss, which will slow your weight loss to nothing. Start to add back calories a little at a time until you’re eating 10-12 times your body weight.

  • Polly

    Are energy bars OK to eat and if so, which ones would you recommend?

    • Coach Calorie

      I don’t like eating them, although some are made from nothing but whole foods. Lara bars I believe are one of them. You could also make your own.

  • Lindsey Pollard

    When you say “limit carbs,” do you mean limit only the bread / grains type of carbs? Like Tom said, there are lots of benefits from eating fruits and vegetables, but I know that they are considered carbs. They are “complex” versus “simple,” so that is why I wonder about what kinds of carbs should be limited. 50-100 grams is not much at all, and I’ve read so much nutritional literature that discusses how important complex carbs (in the form of vegetables and fruits) are to the diet. Please expound on this topic. Thanks!

    • Coach Calorie

      With 100 grams of carbohydrates, you should be able to eat a lean meat, a healthy fat, a fruit, and a veggie in every single one of your 5 meals (if you choose to eat that many) without going over your allotment. Fruits and vegetables are healthy – no doubt about it. When I say to limit carbs, I mean to control them.

      I personally don’t do well with grains, but if you’re OK with them, you can eat them too. I prefer potatoes myself. There’s also legumes.

      • Rayca

        This answer is still a bit confusing. When you say 50-100 grams, I’m sure you mean starch, yes? Fruits, unless they are berries, are probably in the 20g minimum range, so no, you could not eat those at every meal + get your starch. You cannot sustain a workout, that is, weightlifting on fruits, vegs., and meat. You MUST have starch, i.e., grains, potatoes, rice, pasta, legumes, beans, oats. That would be the bulk of those 100g and like you said, it would probably be in the 100g range if lifting weights. Nowadays, people refer to carbs as “starch.” Fruits and vegs. are just extra food items, at this point. It’s the starch that people are concerned with and the starch that’s needed to fuel workouts. You would, however, need to add the fruit grams into the gram total, i.e. 50-100.

        • Coach Calorie

          Hi Rayca, starch is not necessary. Glycogen for your workouts can be synthesized from fruit sugar too, although about half of this sugar is fructose – which refills liver glycogen. That being said, I have no problems eating starch. Potatoes are a great food to eat post-workout to refill glycogen stores. Eat as many carbohydrates as needed to fuel your workouts, but try to eat no more than that. 50-100 grams is a guidelines I think will fit the majority of people’s lifestyles.

          • Nayive

            50-100 grams per meal or per day?

            • Coach Calorie

              100/day is a good starting point. You can always adjust from there.

  • Rayca

    Simple and to the point, which is exactly the way a diet should be. Whether you’re trying to lose, maintain or gain, the diet strategy should be simple so you can manipulate it easily. Plus it’s easier to stick to if it’s simple. Gives you more time to do life…Thanks, Tony.

  • Maryam

    hi. started the low carb diet. on about 20 -30g per day. is it impoertant to drink all 8 glasses of water for this to work?
    some days i can go by with just 1 glass, lemons and things dont help because i just dont want to drink it.
    (random days im gulping water down like i havnt drank for days – but thats rare)

    also do carbs work like calories? if you burn them off, do you get a leeway to eat some more? so, do you get exercise carbs like you get exercise calories? this question has been going round my head since i started last week.

    found you by accident but appreciate the fact that i can post straight away for advice. other places have been asking me to register and sign up first. keep up the good work.
    And thanks in advance.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Maryam,

      For weight loss to “work” you need a calorie deficit. Drinking water should be done regardless of how you’re eating. You need fluids, and 1 glass is surely not enough. You don’t have to force it, but have a glass with each of your meals at least. That should be easy.

      Carbs have 4 calories per gram. Carbs ARE calories. Whether or not you have “leeway” just depends on if you’re hitting your calorie limit for the day.

      I don’t like thinking of it as “getting” anything. You have what you burn in a day, and you have what you eat in a day. You have to eat less than you burn to lose weight.

    • Sheila

      I used to be the same way with water. I didnt like drinking it..boring. BUT! I found once I kept myself fully hydrated, my body craved it, and now I dont EVER leave the house without my jug. I would recommend the jug, all 8 glasses in one place so you know you are getting at least that much. I drink more than that actually, but you can get em at walmart or dollar tree for 2.50.

  • Monica Eaton

    When you say we need to consume 150-200 grams of carbs per day, you aren’t talking carbs like bread, pasta, rice etc, but you mean complex carbs like veggies and fruit? Like most people, when someone says carbs I only think flour and starch. That’s not the type of carbs you are saying we eat, or is it?

    Then when is comes to protein, how do I know how much protein is in 1 chicken breast? I can weigh the chicken, but there is more than just protein in it, so how do I know exactly how much I am consuming protein, and how much fat and other things I am consuming from this one piece of meat?

  • Coach Calorie

    Breads, pastas, and rice are complex carbs, and yes, that is part of the 200 grams.

    Enter in how much chicken you eat into an app like loseit or myfitness pal. They will break down the macronutrients for you.

  • LeighAnne Parks

    There is 7 grams of protein in one ounce of lean meat so if your eating say 4 ounces of chicken breast then you get 28 grams of protein.

  • Louis

    Do you include fibers in the 150-200g/day?

  • Coach Calorie

    I don’t.

  • Rosie

    I’m shocked that you’re recommending reducing people’s fat intake, especially when you’re recommending such a high carb intake. Sounds a lot like conventional ‘wisdom’ to me. Fat (especially saturated) is very important! Carbs not so much. Fat does not make you fat. Carbs do. I’ve lost the most weight by eating less than 80g of carbs a day and more than 100g of fat + over 100g of protein.

    • Coach Calorie

      It’s simple, the higher your carbs, the lower your fat. You have to keep calories under control some way, and cutting protein is not the way to go.
      Ps this is far from a high carb intake.

    • Amelia Owca Hinote

      I’m confused on the same matter!

      • Coach Calorie

        High carb and high fat makes it difficult to keep calories under control.

        • Amelia Owca Hinote

          Not my point! I have been told, by many professional sources, that a diet of around 40/40/20 or around those number and taking around 500 calories off your BMR will be effective. Of course, no sugar, healthy fats, simple carbs, etc. but not to just reduce fat intake as you mentioned. That’s where my confusion is. I’ve been a low-sugar, low-carb, low-fat person for years. Now just adding healthy carbs and some fats (avocado, limited olive oil/cocoanut oil, etc.) and even though most my carbs come from veggies and have for years, I’m allowing some brown rice, sweat potatoe, quinoa (also a whole protein) and hope to see some results. I try to consume around 150 grams of protein a day, same or a little less on carbs and about 30-50 grams of healthy fats. Is that not ok? Should I lower carbs and fats again?

          • Coach Calorie

            I think there is some confusion. I’m not recommending low fat or low carb, although there is nothing inherently wrong with either.
            In fact, you’re eating exactly the way I outlined (150-200 grams of carbs to start, .8-1 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, and fill the rest of your calories with healthy fats.
            Unless I’m missing something, I don’t understand the confusion or “your point.”

    • Coach Calorie

      A few things Rosie:

      1 – I did not recommend reducing any fat intake. I simply said to fill the rest of your calories with healthy fats.

      2 – I did not say fat makes you fat. I have written articles to the contrary, actually. Here is one of them –

      3 – 200 grams of carbs is not high. Regardless, what is considered “high” is completely relative to each individual’s activity levels and body composition.

      4 – I also never said saturated fat was unhealthy. Again, I’ve written articles to the contrary too.

      I’m glad what you’re doing is working for you, but I’m not exactly sure why you’re putting words into my mouth.

    • whtorchid

      No where in the article it says to reduce fat. Rosie, you need to read the article.

  • Stephanie Garcia

    I have a really hard time understanding how many grams of carbs a day is good. For example you say 150-200 grams… per meal? Per day? I mean 110 grams is only 4 ounces. Help me understand.

    • Coach Calorie

      That’s per day. I wouldn’t look at it in ounces. 200 grams of carbs is 800 calories. Food is energy, not weight.

  • Tony Schober

    I usually include it all.