The body needs a balanced diet with adequate intake of the three macronutrients: fat, protein and carbohydrates. The body primarily uses carbohydrates for energy, and unused carbohydrates are converted to a chemical called glycogen and stored for later use. Despite some popular trends, low-carb and no-carb diets are dangerous and can result in irreversible health risks.
Low- and No-Carb Diets
Most healthy adults need about 225 g to 325 g of carbohydrates each day. Diets that promote severe restrictions in carbohydrate intake advocate about 50 g to 150 g of this nutrient. Low- and no-carbohydrate diets operate on the premise that if your body has little glycogen to offer for fuel, it will turn to fat stores for energy. These types of diets often promote fallacious principles, such as limiting fruit and vegetable intake.
Too little carbohydrates in the diet can place your body in a state of ketosis -- or an unhealthy buildup of ketones in the bloodstream. Excessive amounts of these chemicals can increase the level of acidity in your blood and place undue strain on your liver and kidneys. Low- and no-carbohydrate diets that restrict fruits, vegetables and grains can also prevent your body from receiving important vitamins and minerals. Chronic nutrient deficiencies can lead to severe damage of vital organs and in severe cases, death.
Weight Loss Facts
Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume through food, regardless of the source. You'll lose about 1 lb. for every 3,500 extra calories you burn, whether those calories come from carbohydrates, fat or protein. Low-and no-carbohydrate diets generally work because they help people pay more attention to their diets and restrict caloric intake. The best diet plans include balanced intake of nutrients, vitamins and minerals; consistent and moderate caloric restriction; and increased exercise.
Calculating Carbohydrate Needs
Carbohydrates should account for about 45 to 65 percent of your total caloric intake. If you generally need about 2,000 calories a day, 900 to 1,300 of these should come from carbohydrates. If you are on a 1,500-calorie diet, you would still need about 675 to 975 calories from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates contain 4 calories per 1 g, so this translates to about 170 g to 245 g of carbohydrate each day.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal, and there are some you should try to avoid when on a diet. Foods that have a high glycemic load, or those that cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar levels, can lead to weight gain, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Try to avoid products with a lot of sugar. Whole grain products, fruits, vegetables and foods that are high in fiber are the best sources of carbohydrates.
- MayoClinic.com: Low-Carb Diet
- Brian Mac: Sports Coach: Nutrition
- United Kingdom National Health Service: Ketosis
- "Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning"; Thomas Baechle and Roger Earle (editors); 2008
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates -- What Should You Eat?
- Harvard Health Publications: Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods
- The Glycemic Index
- Kids Health: Learning About Carbohydrates
- Medline Plus: Carbohydrates
- United States Department of Agriculture: MyPyramid