There is no easy answer to this question – in fact, the amount of carbohydrates that you need to lose weight will be different for you, your colleague, for your best friend or anyone who wants to lose weight.
Two people can have identical body composition and levels of movement but still, have individual metabolic variations. One can eat twice as many carbohydrates than the other and still burn fat more efficiently. This, of course, can be very frustrating for some people. The only way to find out exactly how many carbohydrates you should take is to experiment and find what works best for you. However, there are some basic rules and tips that can give you a starting point, to begin with.
How many carbohydrates are needed by the body to survive?
The answer to that question is zero. The body can produce glucose from other ingredients, and although it is the preferred fuel for the brain, it can use ketones (by-product of the decomposition of fatty acids in low insulin conditions), when glucose is unavailable. But from a practical standpoint, diets with zero carbs are not ok for most of the people. If you are interested in this type of diet you can find a lot of information, but I personally do not recommend the ketogenic diet.
Carbohydrates for calories
Some people believe that not the total calories but the carbohydrates and the hormonal response to their intake (insulin release) are responsible for their weight gain. They argue that if insulin levels remain low then the storage of fat is not possible, regardless of a number of calories that are consumed. Others believe that calories are calories and the laws of thermodynamics dictate that if you eat more calories than burning, will lead to weight gain. Respectively, if you eat less, you lose weight.
I think there is some truth in both arguments and not necessarily mutually exclusive. Burning fat may be different from losing weight. Theoretically, it is possible to eat fewer calories than burning, but losing muscle and gaining fat. It is also possible (very difficult) to eat more than burn and build lean muscles but to burn fat at the same time.
Whatever works for you, it works. If you manage to consume protein and fat without counting the total calories, keeping a low body fat percentage, feeling well and have optimal biochemistry, it will mean more power to you. But most people will understand that calories should be controlled in order to lose fat. (Note: often people who are on low carbohydrate diets believe that weight loss is caused by the carbohydrates reduction but in reality, the total calorie reduction is responsible for the weight loss. These people will most likely lose the same amount of fat with a modest reduction of both carbohydrate and fat, feeling good while doing it and having a better chance to keep the lost weight for longer).
In addition to this, people feel better even with small amounts of carbohydrates in their diets. The body uses the stored glucose for energy during high-intensity exercises that are the basis of any training plan to burn fat.
What are the different types of carbohydrates that should I eat?
Certain carbohydrate sources are better for weight reduction than others. Vegetables and many fruits with high water content and fibre make you feel fuller without adding unnecessary calories. Other foods, especially the processed carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and sweets are a powerful charge of energy, but you will feel hungry soon after your meal. Although there is a huge variation from person to person, you should experiment what carbohydrates work well and which you should avoid.
How many carbs should I eat to lose weight?
If you have diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, it will feel better if your diet contains a moderate amount of carbohydrate, more (healthy) fats and proteins. If you feel better eating a high amount of carbohydrate and yet burn fat (and control your blood sugar), then do it. Not a common general guidelines for burning fat, but remember that everyone is different. Some people sensitive to carbohydrate should restrict the intake to lose weight. In addition, the amount of protein and fat in the diet will have an impact on a number of carbohydrates that you should take daily. These are just basic guidelines that you should take according to your carbohydrate response:
- people with insulin Resistance: 50-150 grams per day
- healthy people aiming weight loss with high-intensity training: 2-6 grams per kilogram of body weight (add 2-4 grams protein per 1 kg of body weight and 30-40 grams healthy fats per day)
I recommend to start at the upper end of these examples and carefully monitor the dose. If your weight is not reduced appropriately (0.5-1 kg per week), begin to reduce carbohydrate intake until you start losing weight. If you feel tired from eating so many (or little) carbohydrates, balance them according to your needs.
Most importantly – use your mind, listen to your body and work with someone who knows what he’s doing.