Saturday, January 11, 2014

How Many Carbs Should I really be Eating?

Sorry in advance for the long post, but there's a lot of research on carbs out there!! 

Before I even tried to get my carb intake under control, I needed to figure out just how much was ok to eat each day. And there are SO many opinions out there!! I did a little research on three of them that seemed legit, and decided to compare them here so you could see them all in one place. The sources I compared included the USDA's website, The Primal Blueprint, and the Atkin's/South Beach Diet. Now, on to the first opinion...

The Government (USDA and CDC):

The government website,, was extremely tough to navigate. But after looking through almost all of it, I found these recommendations:

"45% to 65% of daily caloric intake should be from carbohydrates. If following a 1,500-calorie diet then 675 to 975 of those calories should be from carbs. On a 2,000-calorie diet, it would be between 900 and 1,300 calories. When choosing carbs, the focus should be on healthy simple carbohydrate sources, such as fruits and vegetables, along with healthier complex carbs like whole grains."

Here is their "poster" that you could print out, with their recommendations summed up for you:
 If you notice on here, they have 5 main food groups: fruit (carbs), veggies (carbs), grains (carbs), dairy (carbs, not much fat because they recommend low fat products) and protein. Protein takes up less than 1/4 of the plate. They suggest that you only need to eat 5-6 ounces per day, or around 20%. This leaves fats to fill the last 30% of your daily calorie intake. 


While the USDA and CDC recommend mostly carbs, diets like Atkins and South Beach recommend the complete opposite. They recommend, during the induction phase (lasting 2 weeks), to eat only 18-22g of carbs, which calculates out to be about 5% carbs, 65% fat, and 30% protein each day. During this induction phase of the diet, your body enters ketosis, which is supposed to accelerate fat loss. However, it's unhealthy to stay in long term and for awhile will make you feel like crap.

The Primal Blueprint:

The last website I looked up was from the author of "The Primal Blueprint", a book that talks a lot about macronutrients and food groups and what we should be eating based on what a caveman would normally eat (how they know this is a mystery to me, as there are none left to interview...). Here is a chart that sums up his views pretty nicely. There's a TON of resources on his website that you could read for hours if you are that interested in how to do this sugar/carb thing right. Anyway, here is the chart, followed by his explanation of each part of the curve:

0-50 grams per day: Ketosis and I.F. (Intermittent Fasting) zone. Excellent catalyst for rapid fat loss through I.F. Not recommended for prolonged periods (except in medically supervised programs for obese or Type 2 diabetics) due to unnecessary deprivation of plant foods. 
 50-100 grams per day: Sweet Spot for Weight Loss. Steadily drop excess body fat by minimizing insulin production. Enables 1-2 pounds per week of fat loss with satisfying, minimally restrictive meals. 
100-150 grams per day: Primal Maintenance zone. Once you’ve arrived at your goal or ideal body composition, you can maintain it quite easily here while enjoying abundant vegetables, fruits and other Primal foods. 
150-300 grams a day: Insidious Weight Gain zone. Most health conscious eaters and unsuccessful dieters end up here, due to frequent intake of sugar and grain products (breads, pastas, cereals, rice, potatoes – even whole grains). Despite trying to “do the right thing” (minimize fat, cut calories), people can still gain an average of 1.5 pounds of fat every year for decades. 
300+ grams a day: Danger Zone of average American diet. All but the most extreme exercisers will tend to produce excessive insulin and store excessive fat over the years at this intake level. Increases risk for obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

After reading through all of these and comparing them, I think that the Primal Blueprint may be the most doable and well-balanced choice for me personally. Some people can get away with the extremely low carb stuff, but with graduate school on the line I can't afford to go brain-dead while experimenting with nutrients! Do more research if you feel the need, and choose which option you think is right for you depending on your goals and lifestyle. Everyone is different!

Whew! What a long, dense post! I promise, they won't all be this bad. But hey, have to start somewhere, right?

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