For years, carbs have been getting a bum wrap. We’ve been told to avoid them in an effort to slim down, shape up, and be healthy. But here’s the thing, carbs can and should be a part of any healthy diet.
Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose which it then uses for energy in all your daily activities. Unfortunately, not all carbs are created equal and many good, truly healthy foods get tossed out the window in the name of low-carb diets. Yes, you are right to avoid processed carbs and foods made with white flour like white bread and pasta, but that doesn’t mean all carbs need to go!
If your desire is to lose weight and build lean muscle, carbs don’t have to be your enemy! Here’s what you need to know to make you’re getting the most out of this macronutrient.
How Many Grams Of Carbs Should You Eat In A Day?
Unfortunately, there is no one single answer to this question. The number of carbs you need depends on your activity level, goals, sex, and body size. But generally speaking, carbs should comprise 45-65% of your daily calorie intake. To figure out how to best divvy up these calories, you will, unfortunately, have to do a little math!
First you will need to calculate your basal metabolic rate or BMR. That’s the amount of calories you burn simply existing. The equation looks like this:
For Women: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161
For Men: (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5
Now that you have your BMR, you’ll need to calculate your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE. To do this, take your BMR and multiply it by the following number that best describes your activity level:
Fairly sedentary (workout less than 1 hour a week): BMR x 1.2
Little active (workout 1-3 days a week): BMR x 1.375
Moderately active (workout 3-5 days a week): BMR x 1.55
Very active (workout 6-7 days a week): BMR x 1.725
Extra active (you’re a competitive athlete or are very active with a physically demanding job): BMR x 1.9
Your TDEE gives you the total number of calories you burn in a day. It is here that your goals come in to play. If you want to maintain your current weight, than this is the number of calories you are able to eat in a day. If you want to lose weight, subtract 250 and that’s the number of calories you are able to eat. For gaining weight, add 250. From here, how you divvy up these calories is up to you. Keep in mind what we said before, carbs should make up between 45-65% of your daily calories which leaves 10-35% for protein and 20-30% for fat. It’s easiest to sort out your protein first. If you’re smashing your daily SweatFlix workouts and want to keep your protein in the 30% range, for example, take your TDEE (adjusted for your goals) and multiply it by 0.30. This will give you the number of calories you can devote to protein. Do the same for fat and whatever calories are left over, are the calories that can go to carbs.
And because it is sometimes easier to think about these numbers in terms of grams, remember this: 1 gram of carbs or protein has roughly 4 calories in it while 1 gram of fat is about 9 calories. Easy, peasy.
Try these numbers for a few weeks and track your results. If you aren’t progressing the way you had hoped, make a few adjustments.
When should you eat carbs?
It is certainly okay to have carbs during your day, as long as you are paying attention to your portions, but one of the best times for carbs is following a workout. Carbs often boost your blood sugar and while that’s something you’d usually like to avoid, post-workout, it can be useful. This rise in blood sugar spikes insulin production which can help your muscles absorb more protein. It is recommended that you eat your post-workout carbs with protein in a 2:1 ratio. This ratio helps you make the most use of the protein you’re eating! Of course, what you use as a post-workout snack, and the ratio of carbs to protein, will depend largely on what exactly your workout was. What you should eat after a weight training workout from the Extreme Sweat series, for example, will be different than what you should eat after a yoga session from the BodyRock Yoga Bootcamps. For some ideas on workout specific snacks, check out this infographic!
What’s the deal with simple and complex carbohydrates?
The primary ‘dietary’ trouble with carbs is that people overeat them. We’re talking potato chips, crackers, candies, cookies, cakes, white bread, you get the picture. These are simple carbs and they are high in calories, get digested incredibly fast, spike blood sugar, and get stored in your body as fat. But here’s where it gets confusing — dairy and fruit are also considered simple carbs and are incredibly good for you. There are lots of nutrient dense foods that are considered carbohydrates! Complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and don’t spike the blood sugar the same way that simple carbs do. If you can find complex carbs that are also high in fiber, you will feel more satisfied by what you’ve eaten than you would if you just had simple carbohydrates. Fiber slows down your digestion even more, keeping your stomach full and your blood sugar far more stable. Some examples of complex carbs are quinoa, whole grains, pumpkin and acorn squash.
Remember, carbs are not your enemy! It can be easy to dismiss them all as bad but it’s all a matter of what carbs you are eating and how much. If you are eating more calories than your body needs, you’ll gain fat, plan and simple. But, if you keep your calorie intake in check, and make sure your carb consumption stays below 65% of your daily calories, you’ll see real changes and real progress.
For even more ideas on how to make this work in your own life, check out the BodyRock Meal Plan. This 30 day plan walks you through everything you need to know to build healthy eating habits for the rest of your days! It has easy to follow weekly grocery lists and recipes and just to make sure you never, ever, get bored, it comes with an added recipe book with 70 delicious offerings. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult, let us help you! Learn more here!
Tell us, how do you keep your carbs in check?