This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
Chances are you’ve been told to cut down carbs to lose weight. But is that true? And if so, how many carbs should you eat for weight loss?
Carbohydrates are a kind of fuel source your body can run on. Limiting the amount you eat can help you lose weight if you do it right.
Most foods contain a little of the 3 macronutrient groups. However, there is often one macronutrient that stands out. Let’s take a look at carbohydrates.
Why is going low carb so popular?
There are a few different reasons why lowering your carbohydrate intake could potentially help you lose weight.
In general, the foods in the category “carbohydrate-rich foods” are less filling than foods high in protein and fat.
It’s true that within the category carbs there is a wide difference. It goes from pure white sugar to whole grains.
However, in general carbohydrate-rich foods don’t fight hunger and cravings as much as other foods. It’s an important point since this is a big reason people fail to stick to their weight loss diet plan.
Reducing carbohydrates can also help you achieve a calorie deficit without even counting calories.
Easier fat burning
Eating carbohydrates causes you to raise a hormone called “insulin”. This hormone puts your body into fat storing mode.
To be able to burn away the fat, which you probably want to do if you’re trying to lose weight, it can be helpful to reduce your insulin levels.
Eating fewer carbs can help you with this.
High insulin levels can also reduce the release of sleep hormones. Sleep is incredibly important for your health and weight loss.
Try to keep your carbohydrates for earlier in the day so your body has time to lower insulin enough before going to sleep.
Good carbs vs bad carbs
It is a carbohydrate fact that not all of the foods in this category are made equal.
There is a spectrum of carbohydrates from “complex” (for example oats) to “simple” (white sugar). The chemical formulas decide where foods are on the spectrum.
100 calories of white sugar won’t have the same effect on your body as 100 calories of whole grains.
The first reason why this is the case is that the energy in simple carbohydrates is processed a lot easier. If you’re an athlete trying to get a burst of energy that’s good but if you’re someone trying to lose weight that’s not what you want.
Because of the high amount of sugar coming in such a short time, your insulin gets spiked a lot with all the negative consequences with it.
Another reason is that complex carbohydrate foods usually also contain nutrients useful for your body. Things like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients will help you feel fuller, improve your health and be more helpful when it comes to losing weight.
Examples of good carbs:
Examples of bad carbs:
- White bread
- White pasta
In theory, you could also lose weight with the bad carbs but it will make your weight loss life a lot harder.
How many daily carbs should you eat for weight loss?
So just how many carbs should you cut out of your diet?
First things first
The first step is finding out your minimum protein requirements.
Protein is just very important for weight loss. It helps you feel full, it helps you build and preserve calories,…
If you don’t exercise and are under 65 years old you should aim for a daily intake of around 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (+-0.8 grams/kg of body weight).
If you get older and do certain kinds of exercise the requirements change.
You can go over these guidelines but that can be less optimal for your health.
What should your macronutrient ratio be?
Your macronutrient ratio is the ratio between the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats you eat. In short how many of your daily calories should come from carbs.
The answer is it depends.
One of the most helpful things is switching simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates and fats. After that, it depends on your personal preference. By making this one change you will avoid overeating and add valuable nutrients.
Some people feel good going on a ketogenic diet. If you want to get into ketosis you will probably have to aim for below 50 grams a day. Other people are not up for banning pasta and rice out of their life completely.
It’s up to you to find out what diet ratio will leave you full enough and happy enough with what you are eating.
Calories a day
One gram of carbohydrates contains around 4 calories. You can calculate an estimation of how many calories you need right here.
Once you have a number you can figure out how much of a calorie deficit you want. Keep in mind that the carbohydrates from fiber don’t actually count towards your calorie intake.
Ideal weight loss rate
Losing weight too fast can cause negative effects.
In general, a healthy weight loss rate is a calorie deficit of about 500 calories a day.
This equals losing about 1 pound of body fat a week. It’s common to see more weight loss than this when you’re starting out.
Early weight loss results from low carb diets
One thing you will notice if you decide to do a low carb diet is that you will see a lot of results early on. This weight loss is most likely not yet fat loss. When you eat a lot of carbohydrates your body stores a lot of extra water weight.
Losing this water will have a big effect on the number on the scale. It’s unlikely that you will keep up this rate.
How many carbs there are in a low carb diet is inot an exact amount. You can consider under 100-150 grams of carbohydrates a day as a low cab diet.
Should you throw away all carbs?
Not all carbs are equal for weight loss.
The most helpful thing for weight loss is replacing simple carbohydrates like sugar and flour-heavy foods with vegetables, fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Low carb diets can be helpful for weight loss but in the end, the optimal amount is a combination that you can stick to.
If you don’t care about pasta and potatoes a lower-carb diet can work for you. If you can’t let those foods go you might choose a diet with a larger amount of carbohydrates.
Before making any drastic changes in your diet and carbohydrate consumption it might be smart to talk to your primary care provider. Certainly if you’re dealing with diabetes.