Do 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.
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.
How Many Carbs Should You Eat?
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 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.