How Much Carbs Should I Eat To Lose Fat? Answering the question on a general level, there is no specific amount of carbs you should eat if your goal is to burn fat because it will depend on several factors such as, activity levels, daily calorie requirements, prepartum body fat and other variables.
Carbs might be one of the most controversial topics between fitness professionals and the fitness community. Everyone has different opinions about the right and wrong amount of carbohydrates and fat in your diet. The best way to decide what is right for you is to look at the actual science behind it.
How Many Carbs Do You Need to Lose Weight?
It feels like carbohydrate intake has become one of the most controversial topics when it comes to losing weight. For decades, health and nutrition experts have battled it out over low-fat and low-carb styles of eating for the best results. And in recent years, a keto-style diet has taken the low-carb approach even further by restricting them to less than 5% of your calories.
According to the US Dietary Guidelines, Carbohydrates should make up 45% to 65% of total calorie intake. But other popular diets recommended intake as low as 20g of carbohydrates per day.
Is there any proof that cutting carbs is an efficient way to lose weight, and how many carbs do we actually need?
First, as far as we know, weight loss is only accomplished by eating fewer calories than you burn each day. So the argument is not whether or not eating too many carbs will make you fat; it’s whether or not eating fewer carbs can promote more body fat loss during a calorie deficit. And whether or not low carb diets offer specific advantages over other macro diets for weight loss.
The truth is, there is plenty of research suggesting low-carb diets may be more beneficial than low fat. But there are also large, high-quality studies implying no difference between the two.
What we can take away from the science is that everyone is a little different when it comes to their dietary needs. We are in need of more individual approaches to dieting and more research, looking at what variables we should be guided by.
They type of carbs you choose is likely more important than the amount for most people.
Carbohydrates come from anything that grows out of the ground, including fruits and vegetables – and carbohydrates contribute fiber to the diet. They are the body’s quickest and most efficient source of fuel and the only macro that is able to readily supply energy to the brain (ketones can also do this, but requires your body to go into a state of ketosis and metabolize fat into usable fuel).
They are also important for muscle recovery, endurance, and strength building. And they play a role in helping regulate our energy, mood, and self-control. Lack of carbs can actually make you “hangry,” tried, and even create brain fog. And poor blood sugar control from too much added sugar and poor dietary choices can do the same thing.
Depending on your fitness level and personal goals, striving for low carb intake (less than 100g of carbs per day) may not be the best solution. But the less active you are, the fewer carbs your body needs.
Carbohydrates are embraced in the athlete world. Macro timing and balance have been a popular tool for optimizing performance and results, and this approach can be applied to the average eater. Understanding how carbs work and adjusting your intake of high-quality options to support your daily needs through carb cycling may be an alternative approach to just eliminating carbs altogether.
|Higher Carb Foods||Low Carb Foods|
Baked Goods and Desserts
Beans, Lentils, and Peas
Breads and Tortillas
Candy and Sweets
Corn and Potatoes
Fish and Shellfish
Meat and Poultry
Melon and Berries
Nuts and Seeds
Oils and Butters
What Carbs Should I Eat To Loose Belly Fat?
When you’re looking to lose belly fat, you should eat complex carbs plentiful with dietary fiber. It takes your body longer to break them down which keeps you full and curbs cravings…you know, those things you get 24/7 when you don’t eat enough. Keep reading to learn about the top 8 carbs for weight loss.
8 Carbs You Should Be Eating To Lose Weight
Oats are loaded with complex carbs! They also have 10 grams of protein per a half-cup serving which makes for an excellent energy boost. Look for rolled or steel cut oats (these have more nutrients vs. instant or quick-cook)! These banana oat blender pancakes have definitely kept me full, happy, and satisfied!
Did you know: lentils, chickpeas, beans, and peas are all legumes? These bad boys are great for reducing belly fat. Woohoo! Promising studies have shown that eating a semi calorie restricted diet that included 4 legume servings per week aided in MORE weight loss…compared to those that didn’t eat legumes.
3. Whole-Wheat Bread
Whole grain bread and pasta have been wondrous additions on my weight loss journey! Check out 6 Best Store Bought Breads to discover the most nutritious brands you can buy. Hearty carbs help you burn more belly fat especially when you nix other more refined carbs.
Give this Chocolate Zucchini Bread a try. It’s made with whole wheat pastry flour, is super easy to prepare, and is a GREAT way to satisfy your chocolate cravings.
4. Full Fat Yogurt (And Dairy)
Full fat yogurt doesn’t often come to mind when it comes to weight loss. But, this creamy snack can actually lower your body mass index, weight, AND fat. The combination of natural sugars, satiating fat, and protein will keep your cravings at bay.
Craving for something cool and sweet? Try these Frozen Yogurt Recipes! They’re creamy, rich and flavorful. So, so easy to make!
It’s the first thing most people think of when they’re looking for a healthy snack. But my friends, the banana is more than that! Not only does this fruit increase bloat-fighting bacteria in the stomach, it’s also packed with potassium (which helps diminish water retention).
Want to level up your smoothie and banana game? Try these 14 Smoothie Freezer Packs. They. Are. Amazeballs.
When I got into clean-eating, I discovered just how awesome quinoa is. No wonder it’s considered to be the powerhouse of the ancient grains! Quinoa keeps you full and it’s also a complete protein…which gives you the amino acids your body needs to build muscle. And you know we like to stay fit around here.
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, this Chocolate Quinoa Breakfast Bowl will definitely brighten up your morning.
Carbs and broccoli don’t normally go in the same sentence. But broccoli is a great source to consider because it packs a good dose of fiber. This aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
This Healthy Broccoli Salad with Greek Yogurt Dressing is crunchy, light, and refreshing.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Ahh, my beloved sweet potatoes. Not only are they chock-full of nutrients but they also have medicinal properties. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s no wonder sweet potatoes are a superfood!
Try these Sweet Potato Nachos. But only if you’re looking for a meal that’s so good it feels like a cheat day.
myths about carbs that are preventing you from losing weight
A doughnut, whole-wheat bread and an apple are all carbohydrates.
All carbs are not created equal.
The minute a beach vacation, a high school reunion or a friend’s wedding pops up on the calendar, we immediately wage war on carbohydrates.
Definitely no potatoes.
But is banishing carbs really the best plan of attack to slim down, tone up and feel your best? Not to mention, where do carbs come into play when it comes to our overall health? And why have they become the scapegoat for our muffin top?
“People love to say things like ‘I am on a low-carb diet’ or ‘I’m not eating carbs right now.’ Typically, they’re referring to pasta and bread, but what many don’t know is that dairy, fruit and vegetables have naturally occurring carbohydrates!” says Courtney Ferreira, RD, owner of Real Food Court nutrition consulting. “If you are eating broccoli, you are eating carbs.”
So before you ban every carbohydrate from the menu — know the facts.
Carbohydrates are a actually a macronutrient (along with protein and fat) and they play a very vital role to your overall health, productivity and yes, your weight-loss success.
“It’s really important for people to understand that the body’s preferred source of fuel for most everyday activity is carbohydrate. And your brain and red blood cells rely on carbohydrate almost exclusively for fuel,” says Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD, director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition. “So following a very low-carbohydrate diet can really shortchange your physical and mental performance; you cut down (or out) so many healthy foods … and that limits your intake of many important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber that are critically important to good health.”
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 45 to 65 percent of the calories we eat come from carbs. Since it makes up such a large chunk of our diet, it’s worth it to school yourself on the myths that are misinforming how you consume this important nutrient.
MYTH: Banning carbs means giving up bread and pasta
Fact: Yes … but it would also mean nixing fruits, vegetables and whole grains
Yes, that plate of steamed veggies you ate for lunch contained carbs.
“Carbohydrates vary widely in terms of their nutrient density, so everything from a green bean, which is a good source of fiber, protein [and other vitamins and minerals] to a slice of white bread, which does not offer much other than carbohydrates, is considered a carbohydrate,” says Pegah Jalali, MS, RD, CDN, an NYC-based pediatric dietitian.
Instead of saying, ‘I can’t eat that,’ ask, what is a source of carbs that will provide me with more nutrition?
She recommends that people move away from the obsession with banning all carbs and focus on the types of food they’re eating. “If you are eating mostly fruits and vegetables, then it is fine if your diet is high in carbohydrates,” says Jalali. “On the flip side, if your diet is high in carbohydrates, but you are eating mostly processed foods like packaged breads, cookies and chips then that is a completely different diet.”
Ferreira advises her clients to think about the different foods that contain carbohydrates on a spectrum. On one side are the foods you can eat in unlimited quantities — nutrient-dense, fiber-rich and whole-food carb sources like green veggies and fruit. Towards the middle are nutrient-dense, but also carbohydrate-dense, foods such as white potatoes, that should be balanced out with those at the ‘eat as much as you can’ end, she says. On the other end of the spectrum are foods like breads and pasta. “While these still have a place in the diet, they require balancing out in order to create a diet that provides nutrients we need,” says Ferreira “I really urge people to start looking at carbs in this new way. Instead of saying, ‘I can’t eat that,’ [ask] what is a source of carbs that will provide me with more nutrition?”
Myth: All carbs are created equal
Fact: There are simple and complex carbohydrates
“The main reason [carbs get a bad rap] is that when people think ‘carbs’ they think ‘starch’, like white rice, pasta, potatoes or white bread,” says Bowerman. “While many refined carbs don’t offer up much nutritionally, there are lots of ‘good carbs’ — healthy foods that provide carbohydrates your body absolutely needs every day to function properly.”
In actuality there are three types of carbohydrates: fiber, sugar and starch. Where things get confusing is when we look at specific foods, which can contain different types of carbohydrates. They can either be labeled simple or complex based on their chemical makeup. Complex carbs “contain a complex chain of sugars as well as some fiber, protein and/or healthy fats, vitamins and minerals,” says Rebecca Lewis, registered dietitian at HelloFresh. “The presence of fiber, protein and fats is important because it slows digestion, prevents a spike in our blood-sugar levels, and helps us to feel full and satisfied for longer (i.e. curbs cravings).”
That’s why carbohydrate-containing foods like starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains are included in many healthy diet plans.
The simple carbs, often found in processed foods and drinks, are easier for the body to break down, meaning they don’t keep you full as long and can lead to erratic blood sugar levels.
That’s not to say that simple carbs are always bad for us.
“Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, veggies and dairy — all of which are healthy choices as they also contain good stuff like vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says Lewis. “However, simple carbs are also found in less healthy foods like refined grains, processed snacks, sweets, soda and juice, which lack extra nutrients. These foods are very quickly digested, which can cause swings in our blood sugar levels and often leave us hungry for more.”
The trick is to look for foods that have a more robust nutritional profile. That apple may have simple carbs, but it also contains a hefty dose of fiber to slow down the digestion of the sugars.
Myth: Carbs are fattening
Fact: It’s not the carbs making you fat, it’s the sugar and calories
“Anything is fattening if you eat too much of it, and not all carbohydrate-containing foods have the same calorie density,” says Bowerman. “This myth persists because many people who eat a lot of refined carbs and sugar do lose weight when they cut back on these foods. But it isn’t because they’ve cut out all of the carbs, it’s because they have cut out a lot of the calorie-dense foods.”
Research actually shows that while low-carb eaters tend to lose more weight at first, after one year, that weight loss levels out and is no different than those who eat a low-fat (moderate carb) diet.
That being said, when it comes to carbohydrate-containing foods and weight gain, sugar and excess calories tend to be the culprit.
“Really the secret behind carbohydrates is to identify and limit the amount of added sugar in your carbohydrate sources; highlight whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains; and pay attention to portion sizing carbohydrates along with your protein and fat sources,” says Amanda Markie, MS, RDN, LD, Outpatient Dietitian at UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center. “Sugar can be found naturally in foods like fruits and milk products, as well as being more concentrated into your processed foods like sodas, candy or baked goods,” explains Markie.
Research shows that while low-carb eaters tend to lose more weight at first, after one year, that weight loss levels out and is no different than those who eat a moderate carb diet.
So you want to ensure that you’re choosing sources of carbohydrates that have this naturally-occurring sugar.
“Also look for higher dietary fiber with a lower amount of added sugar, which you can identify if it is one of the first ingredients on the ingredients list,” says Markie. “Limit those foods that have sugar within the first two to three ingredients.”
And just because you’re choosing the higher-fiber, low-sugar options doesn’t mean you can eat them in unlimited qualities: portions matter.
“Four cups of quinoa will make anyone gain weight. The quantity is the key strategy,” said Monica Auslander, MS, RDN, the founder of Essence Nutrition. “For example, I’ll eat steel cut oatmeal, but only 1/3 cup a day. I’ll eat beans, but only 1/2 cup at a time. I’m a petite person and not an athlete, so I can’t afford to have three slices of Ezekiel bread for breakfast, a sweet potato at lunch, and three cups of quinoa at dinner.”