We often get the question: “How many carbohydrates do you need to consume a day?”. The somewhat lame answer would be: “It really depends on the person.” Whether it’s lame or not, it is true. The ideal amount of carbohydrates you have to consume per day, depends on a long list of variables: your age, height, gender, weight, body-type, the amount of exercise, and so forth.
Okay, so we can’t say anything about the amount of daily carbs? Of Course we can: we’ve listed 3 categories down below, where we discuss the carb intake – from maximal to minimal intake. We also give some pointers on how you can easily manage and measure the amount of carbohydrates you take in.
What are carbohydrates?
Before we dive deeper into the ideal amount of carbohydrates per day, we’d like to briefly explain what carbohydrates are exactly. Carbohydrates, together with protein and fats, are the fuel your body needs. Your body turns carbs into sugar, which you can then burn. Furthermore, it’s good to know that one carb is not the other. There are significant differences between healthy (slow) carbohydrates and less healthy (fast) carbohydrates. The healthy carbs can be found in vegetables and fruit, whereas the less healthy carbs can be found in soda and candy.
Category 1: 120 - 200 grams of carbohydrates per day - normal to high intake
For the average human, who wishes to maintain its weight, an intake of 120 to 200 grams of carbohydrates a day deems normal. An important side-note: scientific evidence shows that taking in more than 200 grams of carbohydrates a day is rather unhealthy. Top athletes who spend hours a day on a racing bike, are an exception to this rule. If you’re not an athlete and exercise very little on a daily basis, you’re better off sticking to the 120 grams of carbs rather than 200 grams. This way you prevent your body from storing excess carbs as fat.
Category 2: 75 - 120 grams of carbohydrates per day - limited intake
In this category we discuss the limited intake of carbohydrates. If you’re trying to lose weight, this is the category you should try sticking to. Especially if you combine this intake with regular, daily exercise, you will lose weight over time. However, the rate at which you lose weight highly depends on the previously stated list of personal characteristics.
Category 3: 50 - 75 grams of carbohydrates per day - minimal intake
Whether there is a true minimum to the carbohydrate intake per day remains a topic of discussion to this day, even among scientists. But it is a healthy choice to make sure your body is not structurally getting too few carbohydrates. If your body receives too little carbs a day, it’ll start burning your muscles instead. Which is bad for your body, when done long-term. If you do decide on sticking to a low-carbohydrate diet, make sure to listen to the signals of your body, like headaches or nausea. When you’re not too sure on what you’re doing, do not hesitate to call in a helpline, like a nutritionist or dietician.
How do we measure the amount of carbohydrates per day?
Neat, we know how many carbs we need per day, but how do you know how many carbohydrates are in your food? Most (consumer) products have it written on the back. However, with a banana for example, it’s a lot more complicated. There’s plenty of information and nutritional tables you can find online, where you can find the amount of carbohydrates per product (like this table). When you keep track of your carbohydrate-intake for a while, you’ll notice that it gets easier over time – even without listing everything.