Keep reading to get some of your burning questions about carbs answered!
HOW MANY CARBS SHOULD I EAT PER DAY?
A sweeping, general recommendation for all active women is 150-200 g of carbs per day. Or, after you’ve calculated your carb targets from my DIY Macros Guide with your preferences and training in mind, do a double check to see that it’s not lower than 1 g per lb of body weight.
Some less active or shorter women may do well eating <150 g carbohydrate while highly active women will need >200 g of carbohydrate per day.
Insulin sensitivity may decline with age, so those women approaching or past menopause may see better results with fewer carbohydrates and more fat in the diet. However, physical activity, specifically strength training improves insulin sensitivity and may prevent common cellular changes and would warrant little change in carbohydrate targets with advancing age.
HOW MANY CARBS SHOULD I EAT PER MEAL?
Carbohydrates influence blood sugar balance so it is recommended to space them fairly evenly throughout all meals and snacks. For most, this looks like 30-50 g of carbohydrate per meal across 4-6 meals per day, but ultimately carbs can be stacked however you please.
Those who are highly active might choose to “bookend” their carbs around workouts. This means they emphasize a higher percentage of carbs (~40-50%) between their pre and post workout meals/snacks. Playing with carbohydrate timing is an advanced tracking strategy and comes after mastering the basics of eating enough, consistently.
SIGNS YOU MIGHT NOT BE EATING ENOUGH CARBS
- you crave, fantasize, or otherwise find yourself obsessing over carbohydrate rich foods
- you struggle with energy during workouts, feel like you hit the wall and lack an extra gear to push yourself
- your body composition (muscle gain) is limited despite engaging in a structured strength training program
- you are not recovering well from workouts, you’re tender to the touch hours or days after exercise
- you feel fatigued, could use a nap most days, fall asleep early or shortly after workouts
- you struggle with brain fog or have trouble concentrating
- you have poor digestion, have loose stools, oscillate between constipation and diarrhea
CIRCUMSTANCES THAT CHANGE YOUR NEED FOR CARBS
- active time per week
- type of activity
- current health status
- health history
- preference for carbohydrate-rich food
- pregnancy, breastfeeding
If after reading this you’re still thinking, “but how many carbs do I need, specifically?”
My free DIY Macros Guide download would be a great place to start to help you figure out what ALL your macro targets should be – including carbs.
Of course, if you want me and my macro expert team of dietitians to do the math for you, the Personalized Macro Calculation service is exactly what you need.
While I’m rarely recommending an active woman eat fewer than 150 g carbs per day, there are several factors that can influence a daily carb target.
- You prefer plant-based eats. Wouldn’t it be nice if the calculator knew that before spitting out an impossible protein to carbohydrate ratio.
- You’re not sure if you want to fat loss or lean muscle gain phase – or both
- You’re stuck between wanting to see definition in your arms and wanting to string together pull-ups. Your training age, training history and goals will influence carbohydrate targets.
- You’re riding the waves of peri-menopause. Even though you’re highly active, carb sensitivity drops as we age, especially if you’re not engaging in resistance training.
- You’re in a season of life that’s stressful! So you wanna do everything in your power to support your body to mitigate that stress and build resiliency – that definitely includes not skimping on carbs.
So, like most things in nutrition, professionals usually recommend a nice comfortable, moderate middle ground that’s influenced by your food preferences, personal goals, and health history and that goes for carb-rich eats, too.