One of the best ways to lose weight is to limit how many carbs you consume.
A low-carb diet is appetite suppressing, making you lose weight without the need to count calories or control portion sizes.
You can eat as much low-carb food as you want till you feel satisfied, and still, lose weight.
But you are here because you want to know how many carbs you can eat in a day and still lose weight.
The answer depends on a few things so let’s first look at a few things to figure this out.
Do low-carb diets work?
For many years, experts recommend eating low-calorie, low-fat diets for weight loss.
There are many issues with such a diet. People struggle to stay on them because such diets are not filling, making you crave snacks throughout the day. And even when people stay with such diets, the results are mostly disappointing (a, b, c).
In plain terms, low-calorie, low-fat diets do not work.
Low-carb diets have been around for a while and are a great alternative to low-calorie, low-fat diets. It is a diet that limits calories from sugars and starchy carbs like pasta, bread, etc., replacing those calories with protein and fats.
Researchers found that a diet with limited-carbs can suppress your appetite, which automatically limits your calorie intake and help you lose weight (d).
There are a few studies that directly compared the effectiveness of low-carb and low-fat diets. Researchers found that they had to limit the calorie intake of those on a low-fat diet to get a comparable result to those on a low-carb diet. And yet, the group on low-carb diets still lost more weight (e, f).
There are other benefits of a low-carb diet besides weight loss. Studies show that they can reduce blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides levels. They also have a positive impact on both good and bad cholesterol (g, h, i, j).
Some experts still recommend a low-calorie, low-fat diet even though science shows that a low-carb diet causes more weight loss than that combination. Scientific studies show that you should be on a low-carb diet (k, l, m).
Conclusion: Research shows that a low-carb diet is more effective for weight loss and healthier than the calorie-limited low-fat diet.
How to determine how many calories you should eat
This is like the how many grams of sugar question. There is no magic number to throw out there because what may be low-carb for one person may be high-carb for another person.
However, there are ways you can find out how many carbs you should eat per day to lose weight.
The figure depends on many different factors, including your age, gender, current weight, how active you are, your body composition, and your metabolic health.
Highly active people with more muscle mass can consume more carbs than inactive people. They can eat a lot of carbs and still lose weight because of their activity levels, and in a way, they do need to carbs to be able to perform their activities. This applies in particular to those that perform high-intensity workouts, weightlifting, and other aerobic workouts.
How much carbs you can safely eat also depends on the status of your metabolic health. If you have type 2 diabetes, are obese or get metabolic syndrome, you’ll have to watch your carbs intake very closely.
This is because such people are less tolerant of carbs than healthy people. There are even a few scientists that use the term “carbohydrate intolerance” to describe it.
Conclusion: How much carbs you need varies from individual to individual. Factors such as age, body composition, current weight, your metabolic health, etc., play a role in how many carbs will cause you to lose weight.
Highly Effective Guidelines for Carb Intake
The best place to start is to eliminate unhealthy carbs, refined sugars and starchy carbs like refined wheat, from your diet. Doing this alone puts you on the path to weight loss.
However, if you want to experience the full benefits of a low-carb diet, you must limit your intake of other carbs.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific formula out there that can calculate the exact carb intake figures for each person.
However, I found that you can follow the guidelines below to lose weight effectively, on a low-carb diet.
1. Limit carb intake to 100 to 150 grams a day
I don’t consider this a low, but moderate carb intake. This level of carb intake is excellent for highly active and lean people who simply want to maintain their current weight.
This level of carb intake can cause weight loss; however, you may need to limit calories and eat smaller portions.
You can consume the following carbs at this level:
- Any type of vegetable (excluding root vegetables) in any portion size.
- A few whole fruits a day.
- A small amount of starchy carbs, such as sweet potatoes, white potatoes, and yam. You can also consume oats, quinoa, and rice.
2. Limit carb intake to 50 to 100 grams a day
This level of consumption is considered low-carb. It is appropriate for those who want to lose weight without much effort, and still enjoy a bit of carb in their meals.
50 to 100 grams of carbs per day also works for carb sensitive individuals.
You can consume the following carbs at this level:
- Loads of veggies (excluding root vegetables).
- A moderate consumption of fruits a day (about 2 to 3 pieces).
- Very small amounts of starchy carbs.
3. Limit carb intake to 20 to 50 grams a day
At this level, you get the full metabolic benefits of a low-carb diet. This level is extreme low-carb dieting. This level of consumption kicks weight loss into high gear and is appropriate for those that need to lose weight fast.
It is also an excellent level of carb intake for those with metabolic health problems and illnesses like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
A 50-gram or less low-carb diet kicks the body into ketosis. It suppresses your appetite significantly over time, causing automatic weight loss with minimal effort.
You can consume the following carbs at this level:
- Loads of low-carb vegetables.
- Berry fruits like raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries. You may add whipped cream to it if you like.
- Get your carbs from other sources like nuts, seeds, some healthy grains like quinoa, and avocados.
Some people tend to confuse a low-carb diet with a no-carb diet. You can add loads of low-carb vegetables to your low-carb diet and be fine. They are not only good for weight loss but also contain plenty of healthy nutrients.
You should experiment to find the best carb intake level for you.
As mentioned earlier, everyone’s carbs needs are different. Just because a level of consumption worked for one person does not mean that it will work for you.
Try different levels to see which one works for you. Start with 150 grams per day for a month, then reduce it by 50 grams if it doesn’t work for you. Keep lowering it till you find a level that works for you.
If you are on medication, you should talk to your doctor before going on an extremely low-carb diet.
Please note that if you limit your carbs intake, you must replace the lost calories with protein and fats. A low-carb diet does not mean a low-calorie diet.
Conclusion: The number of carbs you need per day to lose weight depends on many factors. Highly active people can maintain their weight by eating 100 to 150 grams per day. If you want to lose weight fast or have metabolic health problems, you should shoot for 50 grams or less per day.
Good vs. Bad Carbs
It would be easy to lose weight if we don’t add health into the equation. You’ll simply need to eat very few calories, and the weight will come off fast.
However, this is not our goal. We want to lose weight in a responsible weight, it is, therefore, important to eat foods that will make you lose weight and improve your health.
It is, therefore, important to get your carbs from healthy carb sources and avoid processed foods.
You are asking for health troubles if you take the “low-carb junk foods” route.
A healthy weight loss diet should include unprocessed, whole foods like eggs, fish, meat, low-carb vegetables, healthy fats like extra virgin olive and coconut oils, full-fat dairy foods like yogurt, and nuts.
You should limit or steer clear of added sugars and refined carbohydrates like wheat.
If you don’t know what to eat, check out our comprehensive low-carb meal plan with delicious sample menus.
Conclusion: Don’t just eat any carbs, choose carbs that are rich in fiber, and include loads of vegetables in your meals.
Burn fats whiles you rest
There are many characteristics of low-carb diets that make them an excellent fat burning tool.
They lower the levels of insulin in the blood. Insulin is a hormone that extracts and transports glucose from carbs into your cells.
Insulin is linked to fat storage in the body. Some scientists believe that low-carb diets help the body burn fat because they reduce the level of insulin in the body.
Insulin is also linked to sodium retention in the kidneys. This leads to high water retention in the body, causing you to put on water weight.
Some people can lose as much as 5 to 10 pounds of water weight within the first few days of going on a low-carb diet.
After the first few days, your body switches from burning carbs to burning fats for energy. This is where your body starts attacking your fat storage.
In a study comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, researchers found that people on a low-carb diet lost more body fat and gained more muscle weight than those on a low-fat diet. The researchers used a highly accurate tool known as the DEXA scanner to measure body composition (p).
Your body goes through an adjustment phase, where it gets used to the switch from burning fats instead of carbs for energy. This only happens at the beginning of a low-carb diet journey.
We refer to this as the “low-carb flu.” This phase lasts only a couple of days. Once your body makes the switch, you become a fat burning machine. Your body stops burning carbs for energy and burns fats instead.
This is why it is important to increase your fat intake when you switch to a low-carb diet.
Conclusion: The first week of a low-carb diet can be difficult, but once you get through it, your body starts burning fats for energy, causing you to lose weight in the process.
I wish I can tell exactly how many carbs to eat per day to lose weight there is no formula to calculate this.
A good way to determine how much carbs are in your meal is to use a food tracking app. I personally recommend “Cron-O-Meter.” It is a free app and very easy to use.
It gives you all sorts of information about the ingredients in your meal, including how much of your carbs are fiber. And because carbs from fiber do not count, you can eliminate fiber-grams from your calculation to get the net carbs.
Tracking is not necessary for a low-carb diet but using a tracker gives you a general idea of the contents of your meals so that you can make the appropriate adjustments.
Although you did not get a straight answer, I hope that this article has helped you determine how many carbs you should eat in a day to cause weight loss.
Read more articles about carbs and low-carb diets