Low carb diets, high carb diets, slow carb diets, carb cycling... It's understandable why one of the number one questions I get asked is "How many carbs should I be eating daily?" Every nutrition expert seems to have a different opinion on how many carbs we really need to consume. What's even more confusing- women's bodies are different from men's! You know how you and your husband can go on the same diet, and he loses 15 lbs with the snap of his fingers, but the scales aren't budging in your favor? Yep, our bodies are more complicated! So I wanted to give you some concise information on carbs based on my personal experience, research, and observations from clients diets.
1. Carbs aren't the enemy...they're your frenemy
We NEED carbohydrates to balance our hormones. Too many carbohydrates will cause weight gain, but too few carbohydrates can result in hormonal imbalance, lost of menstrual cycle, and weight loss resistance. Yes, you read that right, weight loss resistance! Majority of women also feel very extremely fatigued on a low carb diet because they don't have enough carbohydrates to support thyroid function. So if you are consuming fewer than 50 grams of carbohydrates a day (and are a woman) for more than a couple days at a time, yet you're struggling to lose weight and feel exhausted all the time, STOP! Consider adding some healthy carbs back into your diet.
2. Carbs aren't created equal
Yes, I'm telling you to eat carbs, but that doesn't mean cake and candy bars! The carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables is what you're after. Bread, pasta, cookies, etc are all laden with carbohydrates, but these will cause a spike followed by an energy crash, and the carbs add up quickly with these types of food. You can easily meet your daily carb intake with foods like berries, sweet potatoes, nuts/seeds and lots of greens. You'll also feel incredible when you fuel your body with clean energy and nutrients.
3. There are always exceptions, and our carbohydrate needs evolve over time
We all have a specific biochemical individuality. What works for you won't always work for your friend or co-worker. There are a number of factors that play a role in how many carbohydrates your body needs. If you have PCOS, fibroids, or endometriosis you may need fewer carbs than most. Activity levels are another thing to consider. For example, a nurse that is walking from room to room at the hospital and lifting patients will need more carbohydrates than an accountant that sits at a desk all day. If you have an active lifestyle or do strenuous workouts you will need more carbs to help your body recover. Are you pregnant or breastfeeding? Then you may need to up your carbintake. So really, you need to find what works for YOUR body. Everyone has a carbohydrate sweet spot, but it can change over time due to the factors above. As your body evolves, your nutrition needs will also evolve. So always be open to experimenting with diet.
So, taking that information into account, here is my suggestion for a starting point. I've found that with my body, and with the majority of my client's, 75-100 grams of carbohydrates is the "sweet spot" for effortless weight loss (again, for a woman). If you are wanting to maintain your weight or have a slower and steadier weight loss you can have up to 150 grams of carbohydrates a day. Remember to get your carbs from fruits, vegetables, sweet potatoes, and nuts/seeds. Hope this helps in your quest for good nutrition! Feel free to email me if you have additional questions or comment below! Stephanie@fitness51.com