Are you eating too many carbs? Low-carb diets have been trending for decades after the popularity of low-fat diets. In fact, The Stillman Diet (1967) was created half a decade before the Atkins Diet in 1972 and was interestingly also low-fat and high-protein. You might be wondering how much is too much carbs based on your health and fitness goals.
For example, you might want to lose a certain amount of weight or pounds or build lean muscle mass or endurance. In those situations, it’s important to know when you’re consuming too many carbs. For example, you’ll want to avoid consuming so many carbs that you have trouble losing weight.
This is a complex issue that involves various factors. Are you on a low-carb diet like Atkins or Keto? How physically active are you usually? Do you already have conditions like type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease? These are all important factors to consider in order to determine an ideal daily carb intake.
If your goal is to lose weight you should generally consume 50g to 150g of carbs. Meanwhile, if you’re on diets like the ketogenic diet you should reduce carbs to under 50g. Meanwhile, if you’re doing “carb-cycling” you’ll have low, mid, and high carb days.
What Are Carbohydrates?
In the past decades, we’ve heard a lot about carbo foods, low-carb, and carb-overload. In a sense, it seems like carbohydrates have become a bad thing like the fat-free trend before that. However, it’s critical to get to the nitty-gritty of what exactly a carbohydrate is.
Carbohydrates are one of the three macros that provide people with energy. They’re named as such because they contain carbon. Macronutrients are needed for the body to function properly. They also must be consumed through food since like essential amino acids (EAAs) the body doesn’t produce them.
The term “carb foods” can be misleading because carbohydrates are an entire macronutrient along with protein and fat. What’s usually being referred to is high-carb foods.
Carbohydrates include stuff like starches, sugars, and fibers found in different kinds of food like grains, veggies, fruit, and dairy. While several fad diets have swapped out the macro, they’re needed like the other two for good health.
Carbohydrates are required in our diets because they have several key functions. For example, they fuel up the central nervous system (CNS) and supply muscles with energy.
It turns out a bigger issue is the types of macros you eat. For example, there are “good” carbs, fats, and proteins.
In a similar way, health experts have recently focused on complex carbs like brown rice instead of simple carbs like white rice. If you want to achieve weight loss it’s important to avoid foods like white sugar and white flour that will cause your blood sugar to spike.
Here’s why. When you eat high-calorie/carb foods your body turns the food into glucose that your body uses as energy. That’s a good thing, right? The problem is when you eat high-carb foods and don’t burn the extra calories the unused energy turns into stored fat. Over time this can cause obesity and other health conditions.
How Much Is Too Much Carbs?
This is a complex question because it depends on who you ask. Health experts generally say people need 50g to 150g of carbs per day. However, many people on the Standard American Diet (SAD) are getting up to 300g of carbs on a daily basis.
As noted, one of the main issues isn’t just the quantity of carbs, you’re consuming but also the quality. For example, a can of Coke has 140 calories but they’re mostly “empty” ones with no nutritional value.
However, if you over-eat this can cause you to become overweight or obese. That’s even true if you’re eating mostly good carbs and exercising regularly.
One of the most popular diets today is the low-carb diet known as the ketogenic diet. It requires you to stay under 50g of carb daily. Depending on whether you follow a standard or modified keto diet your carbs can be as low as 5% of your daily macro split. A standard keto diet is 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbs.
The Keto diet has existed since 1923 when the Mayo Clinic used it to treat epilepsy patients. Flash forward to 2018 when Keto was the top diet trend on Google. While it’s almost a century old it’s only recently been used for weight loss.
Some studies show that the keto diet and other low-carb diets might provide various health benefits. They include lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and risk of diseases like type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
However, there’s more scientific research that the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy diet to follow. Some of the world’s regions with the highest average life-expectancies are in the Mediterranean region: Spain, Italy, and Greece.
The Mediterranean Diet provides a better balance of macros. Unlike the keto diet, there are no restrictions on whole grains, beans, and dairy. It also allows one glass of red wine/day at 2.6g of total carbs.
Tips to Reduce Carb Intake
1. Avoid store-bought fruit/vegetable juice
Just because a drink includes the word “fruit” or “vegetable” doesn’t mean it’s healthy Store-bought versions are often loaded with additives like sugar, salt, and artificial colors/flavors/preservatives. If you’re going to drink fruit/vegetable juices go with DIY versions and use natural sweeteners instead of white sugar.
2. Eat eggs for breakfast
Eggs contain 1g of carbs and are high in protein/good fat. That’s one-tenth of the carbs in a slice of white bread. You can also prepare eggs in several ways.
3. Pick above-ground veggies
There’s no question root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams are full of nutrients. However, they’re also high-carb. Better low-carb options include green leafy veggies, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms.
4. Eat less bread
You’ve probably heard about celebrities who lost tons of weight by ditching baked goods including bread. Does it work? They were likely consuming white flour instead of whole-grain flour, which is higher in carbs.
Low-carb diets like keto allow low-carb substitutes for wheat flour like almond and coconut flour. They’re much lower in carbs so if you don’t want to give up bread it’s a 100% better option than white bread.
5. Swap out cow’s milk
Dairy is iffy on low-carb diets. If you want to reduce carb intake then consider almond/coconut milk.
6. Pick low-carb snacks
Atkins and Keto offer several healthy low-carb snacks. You can even find entire recipe books with several versions of keto-friendly “fat bombs.” These are mini cheesecakes that are surprisingly low-carb and high in good fat.
7. Stop drinking sugary drinks
If you want to reduce carbs then make sure to consider “hidden” sugars. That includes beverages like sodas, sports/energy drinks, and store-bought fruit/vegetable juices. You should even consider avoiding sweetened tea/coffee beverages. Artificial sweeteners can also cause various health problems after you learn how much is too much carbs.