“I want to lose weight so I’m cutting out carbs.”
We’ve all heard this before, and many of us have probably even said it ourselves. I know I used to.
But is cutting carbs really a good idea?
While we definitely want to be aware of how many carbs we eat, we shouldn’t completely exclude them from our diets, even if the end goal is fat loss.
Let me explain why by starting with a question…How many carbs should we REALLY be eating every day?
I know this is a super annoying answer but…It depends. The amount of carbs in our diet will depend on a lot of different factors, like the amount and quality of the exercise that we do and our unique hormonal balance. These differences can explain why low-carbs diets might work for your friend but not for you.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a “diet” of any sort, low-carb or otherwise, won’t work in the long-term if it’s not something you can see yourself maintaining forever. If you do a low-carb diet for a month, lose 10lbs, then you jump right back to your old habits…then guess what? That weight, plus a little extra, will likely come right back! Ugh!
We have to better understand how our unique bodies work if we want to find the amount of carbs that will allow us to reach our goals (fat loss, maintainence, muscle gain, etc.). This process of learning how our bodies react to different amounts of carbs will take some time and some adjusting, but where’s a good place to start?
- According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of a person’s total daily calorie intake. For example, if you eat 1500 calories per day then your daily carb intake would range from 170 to 245g.
- According to Metabolic Effect, we should be eating about 50g of carbs at every one of the three main meals of the day, which means about 150g total per day.
- According Jill Coleman from JillFit, we should eat about 1g of carb per pound of bodyweight.
I have tried all of these methods and taken a little from each to come up with a good starting point. Here are some steps for how to start finding your carb sweet spot:
1. Find your short-term ideal body weight, within reason. This number should be no more than 20-30lbs away from your current weight.
2. That ideal bodyweight is the amount of carbs per day that you should ingest, assuming you exercise that day. For example, if I weighed 150lbs and wanted to be 140lbs, I would eat 140g of carbs per day.
3. On days you don’t exercise much, cut back on your carbs and stick to less starchy, fibrous vegetable carb sources like leafy greens, broccoli or mushrooms instead of things like rice, corn, or potatoes. (We’ll talk more about types of carbs later this week.)
As we adjust over time to find the right amount of carbs for our bodies, we also want to make sure that this amount will keep us satisfied. If I finish a meal and I’m still hungry and craving carbs, I will let myself have just enough so that I’m not raiding the pantry in between meals.
Allowing myself that extra bit of carbs keeps me from overindulging later because I’ll be in that sweet spot between too much indulgence and too much restriction.
Once you find the sweet spot you’ll be able to eat without worrying or counting because the “right” amount will just be second nature.
In the meantime, the counting part kind of sucks. It’s annoying to have to read labels all the time or google nutrition facts, but eventually you will learn the carb count of the foods you eat and you won’t have to look them up anymore.
We can make the counting part a little easier by using one of the many phone apps available. I use this one (snapshot below), but something like MyFitnessPal would also work just fine. And DONT STRESS about it! The counting does NOT have to be a perfect science, as long as you’re in the right the ballpark.
Once you get the counting down and start to adjust a little here or there to get to your sweet spot, you’ll be well on your way to the fat loss you’ve been looking for. Personally, I have found that my body does best if I eat the majority of my carbs in the morning, plus a little more with dinner. And if I’m working towards fat loss, I try to make most of those carbs non-starchy, fibrous veggies.
It took time for me to find this structure, but now it’s just a force of habit, and that’s the goal isn’t it? Finding a way to fat loss or maintenance that works and also requires very little planning or thought?
So give this method a try and don’t forget to share your success once you find your sweet spot!
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