by Will Grumke February 16, 2021 4 min read
Two of the most common questions we receive are… “what should my macros be” and “how many carbs should I eat?”
The second of the two questions stems from many misconceptions that carbohydrates are bad for you. This comes from the conflicting information you see and hear from media and social media.
For example, there are many different diets out there, some saying to go virtually completely carb-free like the keto diet and some saying you need to eat more carbs and low-fat foods… right there it’s a contradiction and it can leave you feeling confused and unconfident in how to get the results you want.
Therefore, I want to clear the air a bit when it comes to the carbohydrate debate.
There is no one generic answer here. The honest answer is, I have no idea because it depends on goals and body type. If anyone tells you that all humans need “x” amount of carbs, run away because they have no idea what they are talking about.
Now, what we can do is look at percentages that have been proven to be effective for many people. For example, a healthy diet would have about 25-40 percent of your overall intake of calories come from carbohydrates.
In general, how many grams of carbs per day you should consume is probably going to be in between 100 to 300 grams of carbohydrates per day — once again the exact number will depend on your goals, body type, activity level, and other factors.
Since many people are typically looking to trim down a bit, or “get into shape” and most of us are not as active as we think … a more focused range would be about 120 to 220 grams of carbs a day category.
Carbohydrates are NOT bad for you. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen the low-carb diet fad with diets. In reality though, your body naturally uses carbohydrates for energy, and they’re important for everyday function — but the truth is also that most people are getting way too many carbohydrates in their diets per day. That is where the problem with carbohydrates comes in… over consumption.
One of the best things you can do is take time and make a food diary. Write down for three to seven days what you eat on a daily basis. I would look at your Carbohydrate number and make sure it is somewhere in that broad range of 100 to 300 grams a day.
Then, from there you can dial it in. Better yet, you can sign up for a free account for the 1st Phorm App and use the macro calculator to figure out how many carbohydrates you should be eating during the day.
From there, you should start monitoring your overall fat, carb and protein intake every day and see how your body responds from sticking to a more focused plan.
Well, good is a bit of a relative term because there are different types of carbohydrates that would be better at certain times of the day. For example, during the day you want slow digesting or lower glycemic carbohydrates. Then around exercise and especially post-workout you want quicker digesting or high glycemic carbohydrates.
But for a quick reference, here are some good carbohydrate sources when it comes to nutrition during the day:
Whole Grain Pasta
Unfortunately, the standard American diet primarily lacks these foods and is more based on highly processed food, fried foods, and carbohydrate sources that lack other beneficial nutrients.
I would use the items above as sources of healthy carbohydrates for your day to day nutrition plan. There certainly are more good options than this such as vegetables, fibrous fruit, and some ancient grains.
Carbohydrates are not evil or something you need to avoid as much as possible; however, carbs sometimes get a bad reputation because many unhealthy foods are incredibly high in carbohydrates.
Remember, over-consumption of carbs relative to your needs is what is “bad,” not the carbohydrate. Since over-consuming carbs is “bad,” you’ll want to have a game plan on how many carbs you should eat a day so you don’t eat too many or too few carbs. Each person will be different and the exact number of carbs they need per day will vary.
However, a good starting point is to keep in mind that carbohydrates should make up around 25-40 percent of your daily calorie intake. For a more specific idea, sign up for a free TransPHORMation account to gain access to the macro calculator and meal plans.
As always, you want to base your carbohydrates around high-quality nutrient-dense options!
Will Grumke is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.