How many “carbs” do you need?

Hot topic alert! Everyone talks about messin’ around with macronutrient ratios. Although I consider myself a perfectionist, I don’t really bother counting macros. I let my body tell me what it wants.

Paleo kinda fixes your body’s natural craving/reward mechanisms. You only get hungry when you actually need food, and you crave what you need. A big fat steak for protein and fat right after your workout? Get those fat soluble vitamins too! Maybe just some fat? I’ll take some coconut! Craving some fruit or veggies grilled in butter? Yes please. Low on energy? Nuts, coconut milk, eggs, or some other rich fat source hooks me up.

Carbs are a more difficult question. It depends on a lot. Are you new to Paleo? Are your energy levels chronically low? Do they fluctuate wildly? Or do you just crash at the end of the day? How do you feel when you eat more carbs compared to when you eat none? Do you want to lose fat or train for a marathon? How do your clothes fit? Does weight fluctuate with carb intake? What’s your daily activity level look like? There’s a lot to the picture.

Your body doesn’t actually need any carbs at all. The small amount of glucose required for brain function can be produced in other ways, like gluconeogenesis through the liver. The rest of the time it would rather run on ketones. Your heart runs exclusively on fatty acids (Which makes it odd, how the argument to avoid fats for heart health all together is still even uttered). I mean, natural unprocessed fat’s good for you, and cholesterol is good for you! They’re absolutely necessary for long term health and fitness!

If you’re new to Paleo, it’s best to get your body sorted out by keeping carbs low, around 60g for a few weeks. This will quickly get you fat-adapted, (instead of relying on cheap, empty carb snacks all day long, which make you crash, make energy levels fluctuate wildly, and don’t give you anything your body needs). At the same time you’re going to jack up the healthy fat intake, which provides a much longer lasting, cleaner burning energy source. Becoming fat adaped also allows your body to release more of its own fat stores. Mobilizing adipose tisse for energy is awesome! Protein should always stay relatively high in priority, especially if you are active. You better be active!

Once you’ve got that sorted, you can gradually add back Paleo friendly carb sources. Starchy tubers, fruit, etc. See how you feel.

Another thing is to tie carbs to activity level. If you are training for a marathon, you’re going to be consuming somewhere around the hundreds. Probably not over 150 grams max on your highest days. I also suggest looking into How To Fuel A Marathon, “Train Low, Race High”, as well as this series on High Fat Diets For Cyclists. If you just go to the gym a few times per week, you can still keep carbs in the 60’s. You can also bring them up into the 100’s on or before a HIIT day.

Again, check how you feel. If things are moving along nice ‘n’ smooth, and you feel steady energy all day long, I see no reason to adjust anything.

If you’re goal is fat loss, keep carbs to 60-ish grams a day or less, until you reach a lower body fat level, hen you can start adding some back if you want. If you already feel great, why change at all? Some people can handle more carbs and still lose weight. Some can’t handle any at all. You really need to just track your progress to figure out what works for you.

The reason we’re cutting out grains and sugars as carb sources is because they just contain a lot of empty glucose-calories, without any of the vital nutrients our bodies need. So even though you ate some calories, you’re just gonna get hungry again in a couple hours when your body goes “hey, I still need my complete proteins and fats with all those fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K!” That premature hunger signal just causes you to overeat and get fat, even more so if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Plus grains and sugar cause chronic inflmmation, which really does not bode well for our long term health!

Get stoneage!

~Dan

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