Confused about carbs? You’re not alone. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there. The most important takeaway here is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Don’t feel like you need to put yourself in a low-carb or high-carb camp – you just need to do what works for you! There’s a vast spectrum of carbohydrate intake, so it’s a matter of finding out what type of carbs and how much you feel best on it. Carb is not a four-letter word! While there are situations where a Ketogenic (extremely low carb) diet is optimal, excluding an entire macro is generally not sustainable.
Counting macros goes a step further than typical calorie counting. You count the macronutrients—grams of proteins, carbs, and fats—you’re eating within your calorie goal and in what ratios. You want to be sure you are eating enough protein for your needs and the appropriate amount of fat and carbohydrates.
The amount of your daily calories that should come from carbs is influenced by several factors, like activity level, body composition, age, hormones, and existing medical conditions. For example, If you have type 2 diabetes or PCOS (high insulin levels) or are looking to lose weight, you’re likely going to feel better on a lower carbohydrate/higher protein diet. Current guidelines support the use of lower carbohydrate diets as an alternative to standard low-fat, calorie-counting advice for suitable patients with obesity or type 2 diabetes.If you have some hormonal issues, such as PCOS (high insulin) or hypothyroidism (low thyroid), you’ll probably feel better on a more moderate carbohydrate diet. Breastfeeding? Super athletic? You’ll need more carbs.
If you are an overall healthy person (and exercise moderately), I suggest starting on a moderate carbohydrate diet and experimenting from there.
If your carbohydrate intake is too high, It might trigger cravings for sweets. If it is too low, you’ll be tired and irritable. Being mindful and taking notes along the way about how you’re feeling is fantastic intel.
If you really like numbers, you can go a step further.
Net carbs = carbs - fiber
Essentially, the net carb theory is that certain carbs don't need to be tallied as carbs for the day. For example, there are 40 grams of carbs in a cup of cooked quinoa and 5 grams of fiber.
40 grams total carbs – 5 grams fiber = 35 grams net carb. This cup of quinoa only has 35 grams of digestible, calorie-containing carbohydrates.
Calculating net carbs can be helpful as it encourages the intake of high-quality food, namely fiber. As a general rule of thumb, foods in their natural state high in fiber will be amongst the best quality options compared to those with similar carbs and less fiber. Think all non starchy veggies and fruits, whole grains and beans, and starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes.
Fiber, insoluble fiber specifically, is essential for overall health and gut health. Women should aim for 30-40 grams of fiber per day, while men should target 40-50 grams. Fiber is significant for weight loss and microbiome health.Some Macro %'s
Standard American Diet: 50% Carbohydrates 15% Protein 35% Fat
Modified Mediterranean Diet 40% Carbohydrates 30% Protein 30% Fat
Ketogenic Diet 5% Carbohydrates 25% Protein 70% Fat
An online macro diet calculator or meal planning app can help guide you and gives you the ability to log the foods and calculate macros. Here are a few popular macro diet apps to try:
MyFitnessPal automatically sets your macros at 50% carbs, 20% protein, and 30% fat but you can adjust accordingly.
Takeaway: you don’t need to take an all-or-nothing approach to carbs. What is important is to consistently choose unprocessed carbohydrate choices for fiber and nutrients over refined, processed carbohydrates.