Most people eat an excessive amount of calories and carbohydrates. This awareness has resulted in low carb diets being a new ‘thing’. Some may dismiss a low carb diet as a fad, but I think the reality is, it’s effective and the majority of the population could do with a reduction of carbohydrates in their diet.

What’s A Low Carb Diet?

A low carb diet is exactly what it states on the tin. A diet low in carbohydrates. But to be honest, I don’t like the term ‘diet’ since it suggests if you don’t eat low carb, you’ve failed or fallen off the diet. I prefer the idea of following a low carb lifestyle or ‘way of eating’ in which the majority of your food choices are based around foods low in carbohydrates, but you have flexibility in what you eat.

Why Reduce Carbohydrates

People might be confused about why they should reduce carbohydrates. We’re taught (and I still remember being taught) that carbohydrates are essential for energy and that 50% of the energy or calories we consume should come from carbohydrates.

However, most people consume far too many carbohydrates to the point they actually become inflammatory to the body. Ultimately, all carbohydrates are broken down into sugar which is released into the blood. If your body runs out of places to store sugar, then it has to resort to storing the sugar in your fat cells which makes your fat cells fatter.

These excess carbohydrates (generally over 300g per day) over a prolonged period of time can cause elevated blood sugar levels, insulin spikes, insulin resistance and are likely to contribute to metabolic dysfunction and obesity.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. The liver stores about 100 – 200g glycogen whilst all the muscles combined store around 400g glycogen.

Glycogen in the liver is used to fuel the brain (along with ketones) throughout the day whilst muscle glycogen is generally spared for higher intensity exercise.

The brain uses about 120g glucose daily so if you don’t exercise intensely then really you’re not going to use up that much glycogen and the reality is your needs for carbohydrates are quite low.

What’s The Carbohydrate Limit?

You get to set the carbohydrate limit you want to aim for. My suggestion is to find out how many grams of carbohydrates you eat in a typical day, round it down to the nearest 100g and use that to start. Overtime, gradually reduce the number of carbohydrates you eat till ideally you could eat somewhere between 100 – 150g carbohydrates (or less) on a day where you’re fairly sedentary or inactive.

Low Carb But Plenty Of Carbs

Whilst you may feel slightly restricted on a low carb diet, you can still consume plenty of carbohydrates for your body’s requirements. If you exercise intensely on one day, then it might be a good idea to eat more carbohydrates.

If you ate only 100g carbohydrates throughout the day and fancy some chocolate biscuits then unless you truly eat a whole lots of biscuits then you’re unlikely to consume over 150g carbohydrates during that day which is still considered low carb.

Carbs To Aim For

Whilst a low carb diet doesn’t specify which carbohydrates are better than others, generally, you want to eat foods which have a lower amount of carbohydrates in general. I suggest aiming for foods with a low glycemic index.

However, if you occasionally feel like consuming a food high on the glycemic index with lots of carbohydrates and sugars, then that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t. If it makes you feel good, it’s not a regular thing and especially if you’ve depleted your glycogen stores through intense exercise, it might be a beneficial choice.


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Further Reading:

Healthy Carbohydrate Swaps

How To Optimise Your Carbohydrate Intake