How Many Carbs Should I Eat If I’m Trying To Lose Weight?

If you’re trying to lose weight, you may have heard the recommendation to cut back on carbs. You may even be wondering how many carbs a day you should eat to lose weight—which, TBH, can be a pretty tricky number to figure out.

Contrary to popular belief, you do have to cut carbs altogether to lose weight. Your body needs carbs for energy and in some cases, they may even support your weight loss goals. “Carbohydrate-rich foods can be your ally when it comes to weight loss and management,” says dietician Charlotte Martin. The myth that carbs can make you gain weight isn’t entirely true and eating carbs won’t prevent you from losing fat if you want to, either, she says.

Instead, swapping out simple carbs (white bread and flour products like baked goods, cereal and pasta) for more complex carbs like beans, sweet potatoes and whole grains, can help. Complex carbs help you control satiety, hunger and overall calorie intake, and therefore your weight as a byproduct—no carb or calorie counting necessary, says Martin.

Here’s what you should know about consuming carbs during your weight loss journey and how many carbs a day are optimal for losing weight.

Meet the experts: Christy Brissette, RD, is a Chicago-based dietician and owner of 80 Twenty Nutrition. Charlotte Martin, RDN, is a dietician and the owner of Shaped by Charlotte. Danielle Schaub, RD, is a dietician and the culinary and nutrition manager for Territory FoodsCrystal Scott, RDN, is a dietician at Top Nutrition Coaching.

How many carbs should you eat in a day to lose weight?

Remember: Cutting carbs completely isn’t necessary for weight loss—in fact, most people can lose weight without reducing carbs drastically, says dietician Christy Brissette. It’s recommended that you get between 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates, Brissette says. “Dropping carbs below the 45 to 65 percent range isn’t recommended for most people because it makes getting all of your vitamins and minerals each day far more challenging,” she says.

Since everyone needs a different number of calories every day, there is no universal number that will dictate whether or not you lose weight. However, to accelerate weight loss, your doctor or dietician may recommend that you practice a low-carb diet to see if it makes a difference. This means aiming for the lower end of the recommended daily carb range (45 percent).

How To Calculate Your Carbohydrate Needs

If you know how many calories you typically consume daily, you can do a little math to find your low-carb range using the 45 to 65 percentage rule. (For example, if you’re eating 1,800 calories per day, that equates to 810 to 1,170 calories from carbs or 203 to 293 grams of carbs per day.) To simplify, you can use the formula below:

Carb Math: Your total daily calorie goal x .45 = the lower end of your carbohydrate calorie goal per day. To calculate that amount in grams, take that number and divide by four.

However, remember that your daily carbohydrate needs will also depend on your activity level, age and body composition, among other factors. To that end, always consult your healthcare provider or registered dietician before trying a new eating plan so they can help you understand your unique needs.

Healthy Carbohydrate Sources

As a reminder, simple carbs are quickly and easily digested, while complex carbs take longer to digest, but translate into longer-lasting energy. Since complex carbohydrates take more time to break down in the body, they can help you feel fuller and more satisfied, making them a great option if you’re trying to lose weight. Healthy carb options include:

  • Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, green peas and lentils
  • Sprouted grain bread and whole-wheat bread
  • Grains like barley, brown rice, farro, millet, multigrain hot cereal, quinoa, rolled oats, spelt and whole-wheat pasta
  • Starchy vegetables like butternut squash, kamut, potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, celery, arugula, spinach and eggplant
  • Fibre-rich fruits like apples, blueberries and raspberries
  • Low-carb bread, granola and pasta

READ MORE: 19 Complex Carbs You Should Def Incorporate Into Your Diet

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a low-carb diet help you lose weight?

On a very basic level, weight loss happens when the number of calories consumed is less than the number of calories burned (known as a calorie deficit). Eating a low-carb diet is one way to lose weight, but it’s not the only way, says Danielle Schaub. Instead of focusing on the amount of carbs you eat, try to focus on the  of carbs, she says. Replacing simple carbs (like refined grains and sugar) with complex ones, like carbs from veggies and legumes, can help you lose weight over time.

If you decide to limit carbs, you might be more likely to get more of your daily calories from protein and fat instead, both of which are more filling than carbs. “You may eat fewer calories overall because you’re more satisfied by what you are eating,” says Schaub.

Can you eat too few carbs?

Experts say yes. Eating too few carbs (under 100 grams a day) could possibly impact your memory, energy level and mood, says Brissette. “Carbs are your brain’s preferred energy source, and they boost the release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that lifts your mood and makes you feel happy,” Brissette says. “That’s why low-carb diets [may be] associated with a higher risk of depression.”

Cutting back on carbs can also have some uncomfortable side effects. “Fibre is a carb and it’s important for nourishing your gut microbes,” says Crystal Scott, RDN, a dietician at Top Nutrition Coaching. “If you cut carbs, you also cut important sources of fibre and this can have a negative impact on your gut bacteria.”

Rather than immediately opting for a low-carb diet to lose weight, try prioritising minimally-processed complex carbs, reducing portion sizes and increasing the amounts of non-starchy vegetables you’re eating first, says Brisette.

READ MORE: 3 High-Protein, Low-Carb Breakfast Recipes You’ll Actually Love To Eat

Who should follow a low-carb vs. high-carb diet?

You may want to aim for a low-carb diet if you have diabetes or metabolic disorders that require you to keep your blood sugar stable, says Schaub. If you struggle to maintain a healthy weight or simply feel your metabolism slowing down with age, a low-carb diet (combined with higher protein and fat intake) may help you feel fuller and maintain muscle mass, she adds.

On the other hand, you may want to opt for more carbs if you’re an athlete who wants to improve performance or an active person with high muscle mass, Schaub says. If you have kidney disease, a higher-carb diet may reduce the protein-filtering load on your kidneys, she says. Additionally, if you have digestive issues like constipation, reducing carbs and adding more fibre-rich foods (like whole grains, beans, fruits and veggies) may help.




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