Carbohydrates are the most important part of your daily diet. The recommended amount is 50-60% of your daily diet. That being said, it is also recommended to have 10-20% of your diet as protein and less than 30% be fats.
Carbs are important because it is your body’s fuel.
Think of your body as a car and carbs as your fuel. If you don’t input enough fuel you can’t make it to your end goal. This is especially true for athletes in any endurance sport and people who love to workout 1-2 hours a day at the gym. There is good timing for your fueling as well. Every person differs and is unique on that point though. All in all, remember carbs are your friend and your fuel. You just need to pick the healthy and good for your carbs.
How many carbs should I eat and when?
As mentioned in the paragraph above the basic guidelines state that it should be 50-60% of your diet. This chart will help break it down some more, it’s a breakdown of how active you are essential.
|Activity Level||Grams per Pound||Grams per KG|
(about an hour/day)
(about 1-3 hours/day)
(more than 4.5 hours/day)
Example: For a 150-pound person who does about 1 hour a day of exercise.
150 x 2.5 = 375 g
150 x 3.0 = 450 g
So the range would be from 375 – 450 g of carbs each day
This is a simple way to figure out how much you should have.
NOTE: If you have been instructed by a DR. to limit at a certain number it would be best to take your DR.’s advice or recommendations.
Now to go over when to take in carbs. This is equally important especially when it comes to exercise.
The best way to start your day is with carbs!
Your brain needs carbs for focus and mental energy. Yes, energy drinks or coffee may give you that morning jolt you love. But, how long will it last? When it comes to caffeine your body will get used to it and require more to feel that jolt of energy. So, instead of starting with a jolt of caffeine try having a healthy carb-loaded breakfast instead.
For example, that could be oatmeal with fruit with a side of bacon or turkey slices or eggs with sauteed veggies. If you’re in a rush, a smoothie that’s been prepped ahead of time such as greens, protein, and fruit with milk. Even a healthy bagel sandwich made from home. (That could even be prepared the night before). If you are not used to eating in the morning then start small with just an apple or banana. Then over time increase it a little every day to avoid any unwanted stomach issues. All in all, start your day with carbs and protein.
Then throughout the day keep on fueling yourself with a balance of carbs, protein, and good fats. Just like a fire you need to keep feeding it to keep it going. It is recommended to eat about 4-5 smaller meals a day to keep your blood sugar even throughout the day. Each meal should contain carbs and protein or just carbs.
Carbs are important before your workout.
This is another time where your body is unique in your timing. Some need 30min before and some need about 1-2 hours before exercise to eat. Then, again after exercise, you need to eat again. The best timing for post-workout recovery is within 2 hours after you finish your exercise.
It is not recommended to eat heavy carbs late at night, this would include anything that involves flour, rice, pasta, or potatoes. That being said remember that your body needs time to finish digesting at night. So it is best to give yourself 3-4 hours without eating before bed so that when you wake up you do not experience heartburn or indigestion issues. A great dinner is a light dinner that involves veggies and protein.
Good carbs vs. Bad carbs and Sources
Most people already know that bad carbs are basically bread, flour tortillas, and noodles. But many believe that cutting out carbs altogether will help them to lose weight or body fat. That statement is true and false. Yes cutting back on bad carbs will help you lose weight, but if you eliminate the healthy carbs you’re taking away your healthy energy.
Good carbs are also known as complex carbs. This means it takes longer to digest which helps your body use energy longer. Good carbs are also natural carbs. So basically if it was grown from a plant then it counts as natural. Veggies, fruit, dried fruit, quinoa, lentils, and grains like oats and brown rice are some good examples of choices. Any of these are easy to include in your daily meals.
Bad Carbs are known as simple carbs. This means it gets digested faster which will spike your blood sugar and burn faster making your energy release burn out faster as well. Examples of bad carbs are anything processed like candies, desserts, sugary cereals, soda and sugary drinks, and refined bread.
What is the Glycemic Index?
The GI or Glycemic Index is a system based on how specific foods raise blood glucose per 50g (200 calories). Foods with a high index number like wheat or potatoes will cause a rapid spike in blood sugar. In comparison foods like oats, legumes, and apples are low in the index, meaning they have a gradual increase in blood sugar levels.
This index is especially important for people who have diabetes. Knowing this chart will help them to choose better foods or timing of those foods to avoid a rapid spike in blood sugar. The Glycemic Index was actually created for people with diabetes for this reason. Although, this can come in handy for athletes when it comes to performance. Usually, the best timing for high GI foods is post-exercise. It is more important though to learn how to enjoy healthy foods and how to read and understand your body.
Lastly, just be sure to stay hydrated! Your body is made up of 60% water. You lose water throughout the day through sweat and daily body functions. You should drink half your body weight in ounces every day. So a person weighing 150 needs about 75 ounces a day depending on their activity levels it may be more. If you are not used to drinking so much, every day increase your amount until you reach what you need.