How Many Carbs Do You Need Per Day?
Great! You’re thinking about cutting carbs, but need the answer to the question, “How many carbs do you need per day?”
Dozens of studies have shown that following a low-carb diet is an effective way to lose weight. Low-carb diets have also been shown to improve other health markers like blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
But how low can you — or should you — go?
In this post, we’ll talk about what carbs are, why you need them, and how many you can cut from your diet. Read on!
What are Carbohydrates?
Found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products, carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. They’re called carbohydrates because they contain carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into their simplest form, glucose. The glucose then goes to your muscles and tissues to use for energy, and some gets stored in your liver (like a reserve tank). The excess is stored as fat.
Carbs are one of the three macronutrients (protein and fat are the others) which your body needs in large amounts to work properly. They provide fuel for your muscles and nervous system.
In order to do anything — think, breathe, digest food, exercise — you need carbs.
“Good Carbs” and “Bad Carbs”
There are two kinds of carbohydrates: Simple (the “bad” kind of carb) and complex (the “good” kind). The difference between them lies in their chemical structure and, consequently, how quickly the sugar is absorbed by your body.
Simple carbs, which contain just one or two sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides), are easier for your body to break down, so they go directly into your bloodstream. This creates a quick burst of energy — and causes your blood sugar to spike.
Simple carbs are what you find in things like snack foods, white bread, rice, pasta, cake, candy, and soda; they are devoid of nutritional value. They’re also easy to overeat since they don’t help you feel full!
Complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) are found in fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. These carbs contain three or more sugars and take longer for your body to digest, so they provide more sustained energy.
So don’t worry about cutting out all carbs — just the bad ones!
How Many Carbohydrates Should You Eat a Day?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, carbs should make up 45 to 65 percent of your daily caloric intake. That means if you’re eating a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, you would shoot for 225-325 grams of carbohydrates each day.
These are just guidelines, of course, as everyone has different nutritional needs. People with type 1 diabetes, for example, are advised to eat fewer than 200 grams of carbs per day.
If your goal is losing weight, you should aim for 50-150 grams per day.
For reference, a slice of pizza contains more than 30 grams of carbohydrates, but little in terms of vitamins and minerals. An orange contains about 11 grams, but also delivers healthy fiber, vitamin C, thiamin, folate and antioxidants.
Carbohydrates and the Keto Diet
When your body runs out of glucose, it starts burning fat. As the fat is broken down, your body produces ketones, which becomes your primary source of energy. This metabolic state is called ketosis.
In ketosis, your body runs almost entirely on fat, which can result in rapid weight loss — hence the popular “keto” diet. You can cause ketosis through dramatically cutting your carb intake (or fasting).
For most people (although, again, everyone is different) to get into ketosis, they should eat no more than 35 grams of carbs per day. Some keto dieters try to eat less than 20 grams per day. The fewer carbohydrates you eat, the faster you’ll reach ketosis.
If you enjoy carbs too much to limit them to less than 35 grams per day (or if you are diabetic), the keto diet may not be right for you. Fortunately, simply decreasing your intake of carbs to less than 150 grams per day can create similar results.
Whether you’re eating a low-carb diet to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, or simply feel your best, make sure the ones you do eat pack a nutritional punch!