‘If I want to lose weight how much carbohydrate should I eat?‘
This is a common, valid and important question, so much better than asking how many calories to eat.
Carbohydrate intake is a topic that ignites emotions and establishes deep red lines amongst the experts.
That doesn’t help you, however, if you’re wanting to understand how to lose weight comfortably and confidently.
The bottom line is that there’s no prescription but once you understand a few core principles you’ll be able to confidently choose your carbohydrate range and pick foods that keep you within that range.
Carbohydrate is the only macronutrient with no real function other than, fuel. All carbohydrate, except fibre, is eventually broken down into glucose, the fundamental fuel source of our body.
Proteins and fats are needed to build all manner of ‘stuff’, tissues, hormones, enzymes, etc. They can also be converted into glucose and used as fuel by the way and were in fact used by our early hunter-gatherer ancestors as primary fuel sources. I say this so you won’t worry about running out of fuel if you cut your carbohydrate – you won’t.
Carbohydrate, as we know it, (bread, pasta, rice, sugar, cereal ) is a relatively recent food group. The more we process carbohydrate to make these foods the more rapidly it is converted into glucose and absorbed. Subsequently, the glucose in our bloodstream, our blood sugar, rises rapidly.
When our blood sugar rises rapidly it stimulates the release of a hormone called insulin whose job is to tightly control our blood sugar levels. A spike in insulin stimulates a cascade of fat-storing enzymes which grabs the excess glucose from our blood, converts it to fat and conveniently stores it, usually around our abdomen.
When our blood sugar levels are kept lower by eating strategic amounts of unprocessed carbohydrate and adequate amounts of protein and fat our insulin levels stay in the lower ranges which stimulates the release of fat-burning enzymes. That’s what we want for weight loss.
The take home message, our insulin levels reflect daily response to all types of carbohydrate and can trigger either fat-storing or fat- burning cascades.
That’s a simplified explanation by the way (which does not specifically address type 1 or type 2 diabetes) but lets focus on getting simple solid before we build – deal?
So what are strategic amounts of carbohydrate for weight loss? I work off 3 ranges, depending on how impactful you want your weight loss to be and what you know about yourself when you have restricted carbohydrates in the past. Remember you bring expertise to this too.
Strict carbohydrate – less than 50 grams per day
Moderate carbohydrate – 50-75 grams per day
Liberal carbohydrate – 75-130 grams per day
(A caveat to these ranges, they may not apply to very active athletes. That’s a future blog.)
No-one can tell you what your unique biochemistry’s sweet spot is when it comes to carbohydrate intake and weight loss. For sure, if you want impactful weight loss then go for strict. Some people do just fine at less than 50 grams per day. Many struggle.
If you want a more sustainable and maintainable weight loss approach then you may want to consider either moderate or liberal intake ranges. Some people simply need a bit more strategic carbohydrate to feel stable and free of the dreaded urge to binge or yo-yo which tends to appear if carbohydrate is too low. I certainly fall into this camp.
Now before you choose your range assess how much daily carbohydrate you currently eat. Here’s a quick reference guide. You can see for yourself the huge fat-storing cost of eating processed carbohydrates. You can also see, however, that a few shifts in your diet can have a big impact. That’s the way to look at it.
Now choose a carbohydrate range you feel you can sustain for a 2-4 week period. Remember you can always decrease or increase it.
What do you notice about your weight, how your clothes fit, your hunger, energy, sleep, mood? Lets start there.
We definitely need to talk about quality proteins and fats but that’s another blog.
Having a personalised nutrition plan is a game changer, that’s exactly what we do at Your Nutrition Toolkit.
Together we build what’s right for you.
About Jillian Mooney
I am a nutritionist and life coach. Together we create strategies that deliver the nutrition outcomes you want while working within your life structure.