How Much Carbohydrate Should I Eat?
We’re dedicating today’s blog to one of the most common nutrition questions our coaches receive: “How much carbohydrate should I eat?”
With the popularity of low-carb and ketogenic diets, carbs have gotten a bad rap. However, carbs can have a place in a healthy diet and can be incredibly important for supporting some fitness goals!
Like all aspects of exercise, behavior, and nutrition, carb intake is highly personalized, and this blog will explain some of the reasons why.
What is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients (fat and protein are the other two) and supply the body with energy. They’re found in foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
Each gram of carbohydrate provides the body with four calories, and carbs are the easiest form of energy for our bodies and brains to utilize. Carbs can help stabilize blood glucose levels and can be stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen to be used for activity.
What type of carbs should I eat?
Carbohydrates can be part of a healthy diet, but quality matters!
To determine quality, can distinguish between simple and complex carbs. Simple carbs, such as candy, sugars and soda, are fast sources of energy and spike blood sugar. These highly-processed carb sources are low in nutritional density and can be considered lower order carb sources.
Complex carbs, such as non-starchy vegetables, are slower to digest and keep blood sugar more stable. They offer high nutritional density and are also great sources of fiber. Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains are examples of complex carbs.
How many carbs should I eat?
Now we’ve talked about quality, let’s answer the question that started this blog: “How much carbohydrate should I eat?”
Carb intake must be matched to your activity-level, function, goals, and body-composition.
For example, for athletes engaged in intense training, carbs are important for performance. However, if you’re training for general health and at a lower intensity, then you may not require as many additional carbs to support your training. Your activity level outside of the gym will also affect how many carbs you need.
Typically, leaner folks are most sensitive to carbs and can utilize them effectively. They may benefit from starchy vegetables, grains and fruits in their diet.
On the other hand, carrying excess body fat can make someone more resistant to carbs, and this insulin resistance can eventually lead to fat storage, metabolic disease and diabetes. If fat loss is a goal, sticking to non-starchy vegetables as primary carb sources may be beneficial.
Other considerations around carb quantity include ensuring you eat an adequate array of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Low-carb diets can be great for satiety and blood sugar management, but they may not provide adequate levels of important micronutrients.
All in all, carb quantity is highly personalized. Everyone should shoot for high quality sources as a general rule of thumb, but make sure the quantity reflects your specific needs.
For help matching your carb intake to your function and goals, find an OPEX Gym near you and schedule an initial consultation to discuss your personalized exercise and nutrition plan.