How Many Carbs Do You Really Need?
Each macronutrient has a job that it’s best equipped to do. The Recommended Daily Allowance for carbohydrates (130 grams) allows it to do its most important duty: fuel the brain. The body breaks down all carbs, except fiber, into the simplest form, glucose.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend 45 to 65 percent of total calories as carbohydrates, which equates to 247 to 357 grams per day on a 2,200-calorie diet (for perspective, a cup of pasta or can of regular soda contains 38 grams of carbs). Nutritionists may recommend a lower range depending on your goals and metabolism, such as 40 percent for weight loss.
Brooke Schohl, MS, RD, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a triathlete who prescribes diet regimens to fuel endurance clients, says, “100 grams of carbohydrates per day is the absolute minimum I recommend to fuel workouts after fat-burning has been exhausted.” She prefers that clients balance carbs with fat and protein, rather than going drastically low-carb like the ketogenic diet, which she thinks is too low and unsustainable. “I generally recommend people reduce carbs while increasing fat,” she says, recommending good fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and oily fish.
Carbs are also the main energy source for muscles for people who haven’t trained their bodies to burn fat for fuel, which means most of us. Protein and fat can eventually break down into fuel, but it’s an inefficient process, since protein is better at building muscle. Carbs also help shuttle amino acids (the building blocks for protein) into muscle cells.
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