Literally two of the questions that I get asked the most are what should I be eating to be able to see my abs and how many carbs should I be eating per day to lose weight?
First and foremost, I want to point out that I will be giving very general guidelines here. Every person is different and will respond differently to dietary manipulations. I will also say that I tend to err on the side of lower carb diets. Most people have crappy insulin sensitivity and don’t handle carbohydrates well. In addition to that, most people who struggle to lose body fat, don’t eat enough protein and fat to begin with (and most women who struggle don’t eat enough calories period).
Yes, that’s right. I said it. In my experience, most women who struggle to lose body fat don’t eat enough total calories, and especially not enough protein and fat. For some reason, popular media has brainwashedwomen into thinking that we can only eat 1200-1400 calories a day if we want to be lean. That’s NONSENSE! Especially if we’re active or carry a sexy amount of muscle mass.
What IS a “Carb?”
Carb has become a major buzzword over the last decade or so. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal. Different types of carbs have very different effects on the body. Here are the different categories with examples of each:
Examples include: spinach, broccoli, asparagus, chard, cabbage, celery, sugar snap peas, kale, etc. And although not as fibrous or leafy, I would include vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, onions, squash, cucumbers, or other vegetables where fiber makes up the vast majority of carbs with little or no starches or sugar, in this group as well. These vegetables don’t elicit an insulin response and can be consumed liberally by anyone looking to lose body fat. A serving of the fibrous/leafy carbs is typically 1 cup while a serving of the other vegetables is typically ½ cup.
Fruit/Sugary Vegetable Carbs:
These tend to be higher in sugar per servings than the carbs mentioned above, and they tend to release small amounts of insulin over time. They have their place in a fat loss diet, but should be consumed in smaller quantities and always eaten with a protein and fat source. Examples include: all types of berries, apples, oranges, grapefruit, carrots, beets, cherries, etc. A serving of these types of carbs is usually ½-¾ cup.
A serving of these carbs will release moderate amounts of insulin, making them a good choice for consumption during 2-3 hours immediately after a strength training session. Examples include: rice, oats, all varieties of potato, quinoa, etc. A serving of these carbs is typically around ½ -1 cup cooked.
Finally, these carbs release enough insulin to support substantial fat gain if not consumed at the proper times, which would be post-workout, or another specifically timed window. Examples include: cake, candy, doughnuts, cookies, soft drinks, etc. These foods should be consumed sparingly.
As you can see, not all carbs are created equal.
Weight or Fat?
So, how many of them should you eat per day to lose weight? I am going to take a leap of faith here and assume that most women want to lose FAT, not just weight. They could easily lose weight by chopping off their arm, sitting in a sauna for an hour, or having a huge BM … but that probably wouldn’t help them reach her goal of being leaner, and looking and feeling better.
How Many Carbs?
When designing a fat loss program for someone, I always give them a thorough questionnaire so I can customize their nutrition program, in order to increase their chance of success. Not only should their nutrition program be designed to help them reach their goals, but it should also be something that gives them energy and makes them feel good, and something that they feel like they can do for the long-haul. I am not a big fan of, 6-weeks-to-a-new-you crash diets. Heck, I will even decline to work with a client if that’s what they’re looking for. Of course, they may require a diet that’s a bit more restrictive at certain times, but overall, their nutrition program should be something that they can live with forever.
How many carbs per day to lose weight naturally?
You will most likely experience quick weight loss during the first week on a low-carb diet, and this is mainly due to reduced fluid retention. Weight loss will slow down after that.
Cutting out sugar, grains and vegetable oils, and substituting them for meat, fish, eggs, vegetables and fruit may be enough to start losing weight, and is a good alternative to wondering how many carbs per day to lose weight and in fact a lot of people have succeeded admirably by simply changing the foods they eat.
I would like to mention, though, that for athletes wondering how many carbs per day, that people who do a lot of high intensity exercise do need more carbs in a day than someone who isn’t very active.
How many carbs per day for optimal health?
Regarding the question on how many carbs per day to achieve optimal health, I’m not really sure it matters. I think eating real, non processed, non factory made food would be the best option for health instead of obsessing over macronutrient ratios.
People who are active or do a lot of high intensity exercise will be able to eat more carbs than inactive people, while people who tend to gain weight should eat fewer. It’s impossible to give a specific recommendation, but those carbs should come from healthy sources such as fruit, vegetables or tubers.
Organic food is the best, but not really necessary unless you can afford it. It is always preferable to go for the less processed option.
There have been populations in the world who were incredibly healthy, both eating high carb and low carb diets, but what they all had in common was that they ate real food that they could acquire in nature.
Modern diseases like the metabolic syndrome seem to pop up in any population that consumes wheat, sugar, vegetable oils or processed foods, no matter how many carbs per day the people eat.
To sum up,
How many carbs per day
It depends on how many calories you eat in a day.
In general, 45% – 65% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates.
If you eat 1800 calories a day, 810 – 1170 calories should come from carbohydrates.
Here’s the math:
1800 calories x 45% (0.45) = 810 calories
1800 calories x 65% (0.65) = 1170 calories
45% – 65% of 1800 calories = 810 – 1170 calories of carbohydrates
- Athletes: 200-250 grams per day, or more
- Weight Loss or Maintenance: 150-200 grams per day
- Extreme Weight Loss: Fewer than a 150 grams per day
Have you ever tried a low carbohydrate diet? How did you feel? Did you have weight loss? Were you able to sustain that weight loss for a long period of time?