If you are wondering how many carbs are in a low carb diet, you may be looking at carbohydrates in the wrong way. The subject is not quite so simple.
Carbohydrates are an extremely beneficial food source, provided you know and adhere to the science and rules of eating them.
Carbohydrates are in many different types of food. But not all carbohydrates are equal! They can be sugar based, starch or fiber.
When you consume carbohydrates in your diet they are broken down into sugar which then enters the bloodstream and triggers the release of insulin.
Insulin carries the sugar around the body to power your muscles.
The real issue is the type of carbs you eat. Some digest quickly and flood your system. Your body can burn all of them and stores them as fat, which encourages weight gain.
Other carbs release slowly, which delays hunger and provides energy for longer periods.
How Many Carbs are in a Low Carb Diet?
Carbohydrates are commonly misunderstood. Before picking a number, it is important to understand a few things. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions:
- What Are Carbs?
Carbohydrates are compounds found in most foods. As already mentioned they break down in your body to create glucose which powers your muscles.
The best carbohydrates are known as complex. They have three or more types of sugar and plenty of fiber. Complex fibers take longer to digest which gives you a steady flow of energy released throughout the day.
Examples of complex carbs are sweet potatoes, apples, and lentils.
In contrast, simple carbs have just one or two sugars. They are easily absorbed by your body and give a quick energy boost. Examples of these are white flour, soda, and many boxed cereals.
Check out the video below for a more in depth explanation.
- So How Many Carbs are in a Low Carb Diet?
The recommended number of carbs one should consume really depends on the types of carbohydrates, the number of calories, fitness goals, and level of activity. The typical 200 lb man should receive roughly 35% of his caloric intake from healthy carbohydrates. The number of carbs in a low carb diet would be anything less than 30% of your caloric intake.
- How Do Carbohydrates Cause Weight Gain?
Consuming too many simple carbs will cause your blood sugar level to spike. Unfortunately, there is a point when you have more fuel in your body than you can possibly burn.
Your body senses this and stores the sugar as fat to be used in the future.
Of course, if you carry on eating in the same way, you never need the extra energy and simply gain weight.
- Why Do I Crave Sugar Carbs?
Simple carbs flood your body with energy. You’ll experience a boost and then feel fatigued. Unfortunately your body will quickly get used to this feeling and start to crave the energy boost that the simple carbs give you.
In many ways it works the same way as an addiction; your body needs the next sugar hit.
- When is the Best Time to Eat Carbohydrates?
You can eat Carbohydrates at any time of the day IF you follow the principles laid out above and in the videos in this article.
However, eating none, or very few carbs at breakfast will be beneficial to kickstart your day with a filling meal of proteins and healthy fats.
You should consider consuming carbohydrates after a workout.
The post workout carbs will help to replenish your energy reserves which you have used exercising. Again, these will not be stored as fat. If you’re not sure what workout to try then give our Old School Muscle program a try.
Using Carbohydrates Productively
It is important to know which carbs you should be consuming and when. The quick energy release associated with sugar based carbs can actually be beneficial!
- Carbohydrates for Everyday Tasks
Throughout your average day, you’ll need to have enough energy to keep your body ticking along. This means you need to consume complex carbs.
The best way to do this is to aim for the perfect plate. Put simply your meal should be measured as ½ plate vegetables, ¼ plate protein, and ¼ carbohydrates.
- Carbs Before Exercise
This is the one time you need to look at eating simple carbs. You want a quick boost of energy that your body can burn as you exercise.
Ideally, you should consume these within an hour before you start your workout.
But don’t forget that there is still a limit to the simple carbs you consume. You need to consider how much exercise you are doing and balance your food intake in accordance with this.
Again, the perfect plate is a good way to do this. You can also get an array of healthy eating tips by joining the Fit Father Program.
- Eating Carbohydrates After Exercise
After you’ve completed our old school muscle program it’s time to replenish your energy levels. However this is definitely the time when you should consume complex carbs. They can replenish your energy levels without risking adding fat.
The Risk of Simple Carbohydrates & How To Avoid Them
Excessive consumption of simple carbohydrates results in a blood sugar spike. This triggers your body to release insulin which carries the energy around your body.
Unfortunately repeatedly doing this will result in intolerance to insulin. Your body will need to produce more and more until it can no longer cope with the demand. At this point, your blood sugar level will be high and you will appear pale, sweaty and probably have blurred vision, hunger, and an increased heartbeat.
At this point, you are extremely likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
You may also be interested to note that high levels of carbohydrates will lead to increased water retention and can actually suppress the immune system.
The best way to avoid this risk is to stick to carbs that are complex and therefore healthy. Good examples of these are:
Soaking or fermenting grains such as rye, wheat, barley and eve, spelt will allow you to get the most nutrients from them.
- Lentils & beans.
Choose white beans, kidney beans or fava beans. In fact virtually any type of bean is good!
- Vegetables – particularly starchy ones.
Vegetables are full of fibre rich carbohydrates. There is virtually no limit to how much of them you can eat.
Starchier vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips and pumpkins will make you feel fuller faster. This can help to reduce the amount you actually eat.
The sugar in fruit is known as fructose. This does have a similar effect to the glucose created from simple carbs.
You should consume fruit in moderation or opt for low sugar fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, prunes, plus and even strawberries.
The Bottom Line
Moderation is always the key, no matter which level of carbohydrates you choose to consume. Hopefully you are no longer wondering how many carbs are in a low carb diet. Virtually any combination of healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats can be consumed, and combined with exercise, to achieve almost any fitness goal. It's just important to avoid the extreme ends of the spectrum.
We recommend 35-45% of your caloric intake come from carbs, but that doesn't mean you should eat 4 chocolate bars and a steak.
You could say that carbs are not essential for life but they are the simplest way to ensure your body has the energy it needs. The secret is to understand the difference between simple carbs and complex ones.
In general, you need to stick to complex carbs and use the perfect plate method to ensure you are eating the right amount.
Your new friend & health coach,
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.
*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on conditioning workouts.