Carbohydrates - Part 4
In the first and second articles of this series, I explained how to calculate your daily calorie index, an estimate of the number of calories that we must consume daily to ensure good health. In the third article, I explained a few basics concepts about macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and, proteins).
In this article, I will talk about how to structure our plates in our favor.
Basically, I am going to explain how much of carbohydrate, protein and fats we must eat daily to support our body.
Why is this an important topic?
Actually, if we select the right balance, manipulating the percentages or, the amount of carbohydrate, fat and proteins that are in our plates, we have a better chance to support our metabolism, hormones, body weight and composition, blood pressure, glucose tolerance, lipids, fatty liver, etc. Also, it generates a more spontaneous attitude toward our food that prevents us from restrictive diets that are detrimental to our health and filled with side effects.
How much of protein, fat or carbohydrate can we daily eat?
Our daily meals are made up of three macronutrients, fat, proteins, and carbohydrates. And the energy in these foods, contribute to calories. Unlikely numerous health professionals’ opinions, we should have a combination of these three macronutrients, proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our plates since each macronutrient has its specific function in our physiology.
In addition, customizing the amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat that we daily consume, we can make our plates in a way that assists us to feel full and satiated, or gain more muscles, or lose fat, or have more energy in our workouts, etc. So, we can quickly manipulate long-term changes in our body while we are still supporting our metabolism, hormones and overall health by eating the calories from our daily caloric index.
But how can we do that? How to customize the amounts of macronutrients in our meals?
Let's start with carbohydrates.
How can I customize the ideal percentage (estimate) of carbohydrates in my diet that specifically helps me attend my personal goals?
As a starting point, we estimate our daily caloric index, estimative of the number of calories we should consume daily. And, depending on our goals, we determine a percentage of how much of carbohydrate we can eat in relation to our daily caloric index.
Also, in order to decide the percentage of carbohydrate that is appropriate to us, we must take into consideration some factors, such as:
The state of our health
Physical activity level
Level of activity during the day
Our personal goals (lose, maintain or gain weight, gain muscles and others)
With this information in mind, below there are listed four categories of carbohydrate intake. Remember that these percentages are related to your daily caloric index (calculate your daily caloric index here).
1- Less than 10% (total daily caloric index) of carbs - Very low carbohydrate diet or extremely low carbohydrate diet
2- From 10 to 15% (total daily caloric index) of carbs - Low carbohydrate diet
3- From 15 to 30% (total daily caloric index) of carbs - Diet with moderate carbohydrate intake
4- 30% or more (total daily caloric index) of carbs - Diet with high carbohydrate intake
How to decide an ideal percentage of carbohydrates in our diet?
As mentioned before, this is a completely personal matter. So, while some people feel good and energetic on a low-carb diet, some individuals could lack energy and have adverse side effects when they are eating very little carbohydrates in their diets. Especially if they are on these diets for long periods of time. And I will talk about this in the future. (1)
Right now, what I want you to understand is that food can be used as medicine. So, diets such as an extremely low carbohydrate diet, a low carbohydrate diet, as well as a ketogenic diet should be used as powerful therapeutic tools in many chronic health conditions, including obesity. However, depending on your specific case, these diets could not be a good option for you.
Then, before you choose one of the four categories of carbohydrates above, I encourage you to take a look below, and identify what benefits each of these categories might have on your health. Then, you can choose one carbohydrate category or percentage that is appropriate for you, according to your own personal condition and goals.
1- Very low or extremely low-carb diet (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Extremely low carbohydrate dietsare indicated for the management of a variety of health conditions. So, consider a very low or extremely low-carb diet if:
You are obese or in need rapidly lose weight
You have severe blood sugar problems, such as diabetes or metabolic syndrome
You are dealing with neurological disorders such as epilepsy, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, depression, anxiety, etc.
You are dealing with severe gut issues
Also, these diets are recommended for a several types of cancer, etc.
Diets extremely low in carbs are likely to be effective and are not harmful to our health in the short-term. Besides, these diets may have therapeutic benefits for chronic weight-related illnesses. Studies shown that diets very low in carbohydrate intake induces to several favorable effects, such as:
Rapid weight loss
Decrease in fasting glucose and insulin levels
Reduces circulating triglyceride levels
Improved blood pressure
Improves cardiovascular markers
Beneficial effects on neurological disorders
Improves gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux (GERD), SIBO (small intestine bacteria overgrowth), IBS, IBD, etc.,
Improves PCOS – Polycystic ovarian syndrome
On the other hand, extremely low carbohydrate diets are not favorable to everyone. Or, no one size fits all approach. And, studies shown adverse effects in certain individuals, such as:
(10, 11, 12).
Loss of lean body mass
Urinary calcium loss
Increased plasma homocysteine levels
Increased low-density cholesterol
Lack of energy
Weight gain (even you are eating very little)
Poor athletic performance
In addition, an extremely low carbohydrate diet in the long-term can cause unfavorable changes in the intestinal flora or, gut microbiota such as dysbiosis and loss of microbial diversity. Factors that alone create predisposition and are the root cause of every modern chronic health condition. (13, 14)
For this reason, if you select an extremely low carbohydrate diet look for a health professional guidance to ensure that you are not undereating. Also, to guarantee you with a good nutritional status for maximum benefits, without risking your health.
2- Low carb diet
These diets are ideal for: (15)
3- Moderate carbohydrate diet
These diets are ideal for: (16, 17)
People who are generally healthy and want to maintain their weight
Highly active individuals
High cholesterol problems
HPA Axis-Dysfunction (Adrenal fatigue)
4- High carbohydrate Diet
High-carb dietsare ideal for: (18)
Athletes and extremely active people
Individuals who want to gain muscle or even gain weight, or who have a too fast metabolism.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
I encourage you to start applying in your life what you have been learning in this series of articles. Self-experiment for a while a percentage of carbohydrate according to your condition and goals. Consider where you are right now in terms of your health. Are you dealing with thyroid problems and are you eating an extremely low carb diet? Think about any underlying condition that you might be dealing with. How about if you experiment a low-carb or even a moderate carb diet for a while to see if your symptoms get better?
By changing our diet, we can improve symptoms and change our health status. Why don’t you give it a try?
Also, independently of the percentual you chose, focus your diet on real and nutritious carbohydrates. Avoid for a while everything that comes in boxes or bags, caloric dense products that are depleted of vital nutrients. Maybe simple changes are what you need mostly.
So, in the next article I will continue talking about carbohydrates, and will explain how to convert the carbs percentages above into quantities of carbohydrates in your plate, and many other details that are going to empower you.
See you soon, and please, leave your comments or questions below.
Be Healthy to Fully Enjoy Your Life.