In this article, we go over five of the most common questions on carbohydrate consumption’s effect on the human body, what their function is and how to use them to your advantage.
Question#1: What is the amount of carbohydrates one should consume in one day? Can you suggest a precise ratio or is there some equation used to calculate the exact amount for me?
The amount of carbs you need to eat in a given day depends on several factors like the size of your body, how physically active you are, your fitness goals and last but not least, your genetics. The prevailing suggestion among nutritionists is that approximately 50% of the calories you ingest every day should come from carbs. The majority of professional bodybuilders get around 50% of their total calories from carbs while the advocates of low-carb diets suggest consuming maximum 10-15%.
Carbohydrates are actually a non-essential nutrient, which means they are not necessary for our survival. Having said that, striving to eat a low amount of calories is unnecessary to achieve your fitness and health goals.
The best method to calculate how many carbs you need to eat each day is to first calculate how many grams of fat and protein you need to eat, with the rest of your calories coming from carbs. For example, if you want to shed some fat and keep your hard-earned muscle at the same time, you can consume 1 gram of protein and 0.5 grams of fat per pound of body weight, and the rest will be carbohydrates.
For a person who weighs 180 pounds, that translates to 180 grams of protein and 90 grams of fat. If we assume he needs to ingest a maximum of 2000 calories per day, it means he has 200 grams of carbs left over (one gram of protein or carbs has four calories, and one gram of fat has nine calories). The macro-nutrient ratio in this example is approximately 35% protein, 45% carbs, and 20% fat.
A general rule would be to ingest something in the range of 40-50% carbs, 25-30% protein and 20-30% fat if you intend to be on a cutting diet. Of course, you can always play around with the percentages and increase or decrease the carb or fat level and see what’s the best ratio for you.
Question#2: When should I eat a high amounts of carbs, and when should lower the amount?
Immediately post-workout is the most optimal time to consume a relatively high amount of carbohydrates, especially fast-digesting simple carbs. In this instance, they can be quite anabolic since they increase blood sugar levels, which then triggers the release of insulin. This hormone has gotten a lot of bad rap over the years, because of its tendency to increase the fat storage, but you can also turn it into a powerful ally by helping the muscles get more protein. After a training session, consuming carbs with protein in 2:1 ratio has been proven to help the body use up the protein more effectively.
Consuming more carbs when you’re preparing for an endurance race or any kind of competition can also be quite beneficial. “Carb loading” or eating high quantities of carbs to saturate the sugar storage deposits, like the muscles and the liver, before a competition can greatly improve your performance.
There’s no need to eliminate carbs completely, however eating them in excess should be avoided. So, if you weigh 180lbs, you train a few days a week and work a sedentary job, circa 200 grams of carbs should be enough fuel for your essential bodily functions, as well as your training sessions without wasting the excess and turning it into fat. For every additional hour you spend in the gym exercising, you can add around 50-100 grams of carbs. As a reference point, endurance athletes consume up to 300-400 grams of carbs a day.
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