The Run Down on Carbohydrates

PLN coaches review carbohydrates, how they work for you, and against you.

Published May 31, 2023

9 minute read

PLN carbohydrates.jpg

The Run Down on Carbohydrates

People who are trying to lose weight have mixed feelings about carbs. Because everyone has different carbohydrate needs, we've put together a guide to help you get the most out of carbs and choose healthy options, whether you're trying to lose weight, train for your first half-marathon, or do anything in between.



Carbohydrates are in almost all foods, and each gram gives you 4 calories. As you can probably guess, not all carbs are the same. Different starches affect your body differently. Most things with carbohydrates have both simple and complex carbohydrates.



Simple sugars or carbs

Simple carbohydrates are sometimes called "sugar." It is made of a chain of up to two sugar building blocks. Sugars like glucose, fructose, and galactose can be used as building blocks. Because the chains are short and easy to break, they taste sweet when they hit your lips. They are also quickly broken down and put into the bloodstream.


Sweeteners (like table sugar, honey, and syrup), candy, jellies and jams, and processed flour are all high in simple carbohydrates. Fruits, veggies, beans, and dairy all have simple carbs, but they also have vitamins, minerals, fiber, and/or protein, so they are still healthy choices.



Complex carbs can either be "starch" or "fiber." This type of carbohydrate is made up of three or more sugars linked together in a chain. They also have fiber and tend to be found in foods with protein, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. They are made of the same sugar building blocks as simple carbs, but the chains are longer and take longer to break down. This is why they don't taste as sweet. The longer chains also make it take longer to digest and absorb the monosaccharides that all carbs are broken down into. This slows the insulin reaction and makes you feel fuller. Bread, rice, pasta, beans, whole grains, and veggies are all good sources of complex carbs.


Fiber is a carbohydrate, but because the body can't break it down and use it, it doesn't add many calories. If you look at a nutrition label, you'll see "dietary fiber" and "sugar" mentioned under "total carbohydrates," but the grams don't add up. This is because "total carbohydrates" contains sugar, fiber, and starch. We put sugar and fiber at the top of the nutrition label because they are important to us. Starch, on the other hand, doesn't, so if you want to know how much starch a food has, you have to use the following formula:


Total starch (grams) = Total carbohydrates (g) - dietary fiber (g) - sugar (g)



In theory, net carbs are the amount of carbs in your food that can change your blood sugar levels. The idea behind net carbs is that fibrous fiber and sugar alcohols, which aren't broken down by the body and don't get into the bloodstream, shouldn't be counted as carbs. With the rise of keto and the Atkins Diet, the idea of "net carbs" became more common. To figure out net carbs, take the total number of grams of carbs and subtract the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols.


Total carbs (g) - Net carbs (g) g of fiber and g of sugar alcohols.


But it's important to remember that "net carbs" is not a scientific word and is not regulated by the FDA on food labels. Some fibers and sugar alcohols, especially those that are added to prepared foods to lower the number of net carbs, can be digested at least in part and change the amount of sugar in the blood. Because of this, it's best to focus on whole foods in general and when keeping track of net carbs. Most countries outside of the U.S. don't include fiber or sugar alcohols in their total carbohydrate counts on food labels, so they already track net carbs. Check with your doctor before keeping track of net carbs to control your blood sugar.



When it comes to picking carbs to eat or drink, the best ones are those that are high in nutrients. Here are three rules that will help you make good decisions. One thing to keep in mind is that not all of these carb rules apply to you if you are a very sporty person who wants to improve their performance. instead, read this.


1. Eat more complex carbs that come from whole foods.

This rule should also include vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, 100% whole-grain bread, pasta, and brown rice. These foods have protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

2: Eat less complex carbs from processed foods.

White rice, white bread, and traditional pasta have less fiber and other good nutrients because they are more processed.

3:  Eat small amounts of simple carbohydrates.

Most simple carbohydrate sources are called "empty calories" because they have a lot of calories but not many or any vitamins. When it comes to blood sugar going up, they may be to blame. The only exceptions to this rule are fruit and milk, which have vitamins and minerals that are good for you.



Our bodies need carbs to do basic things, especially glucose, which is the best fuel for our tissues and organs and the only fuel for our red blood cells. If you don't eat enough carbs, your body breaks down the protein from your muscles and cells to make glucose.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbs is 130 grams per day. This is the least amount an adult's brain, red blood cells, and central nervous system need to work at their best. If you don't eat enough carbs to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range, your body starts burning protein, or lean muscle tissue, into glucose to bring your blood sugar back to normal.

RDA says that adults need at least 130 grams of carbs per day for their bodies to work well. Most of us want more. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that 45–65% of all the calories we eat should come from carbs. It's such a big number because everyone's body is different and there's no one-size-fits-all rule for how many carbs you should eat.

To figure out how many grams of carbs you need:

Decide how much carbohydrate you need and turn that amount into a decimal. For example, 50% is 0.5.

Multiply your "Total Calorie Goal" by the number after the decimal point. This tells you how many calories come from carbs.

To get the grams of carbohydrates, divide that number by 4.

If you aren't sure what number is best, you can learn more about how to get the most out of your macronutrient ranges or just follow this general rule:

If you want to lose weight, you should start by making sure that 45–50% of your calories come from carbs. If you work out hard for more than an hour a day or are practicing for an endurance event like a marathon, you might do better in the range of 55–65%.


In a standard "low-carb" diet, carbohydrates make up 40% or less of the calories. There's no doubt that this way of living has helped many people lose weight and keep it off. It's famous for a reason, but it's not the only way to lose weight, and it might not work for everyone.

When you eat a low-carb diet, especially a strict one, it affects your blood sugar levels. This can make some people feel bad, like shakiness, nervousness or anxiety, chills, irritability, dizziness, headaches, hunger, nausea, tiredness, blurred vision, lack of coordination, and so on. Because of these effects and the fact that you have to limit yourself, it can be hard to stay on a low-carb diet.

If you want to try eating less carbs, here are seven things you can do to make the change last:


It can be hard to tell how you will respond to low blood sugar because everyone is different. When starting a low-carb diet, look out for the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar (see above). If you have them, eat a small portion of a carbohydrate-rich snack like a piece of fruit, some crackers, or a slice of bread.


Use the app to keep track of what you eat for at least a week so you can figure out how many grams of carbs you eat every day. Then, slowly lower your carbohydrate intake goal by 5–10% (or about 30–50 grams per day) each week until you hit your goal. Don't forget to up your fat and protein aims to make up for the carbs you're cutting out of your diet.


Dietitian Stepanie Nelson says that keeping track of net carbs is most helpful if you have decided that a low-carb diet is best for you. "It gives you more options when it comes to food and makes it easier to meet your fiber goal without going over your carb goal." Fiber is important for the health of your heart, and intestines, and for making you feel full. She also says that keeping track of net carbs is helpful if you want to keep your blood sugar levels in check because it can help you keep an eye on the foods that really affect your blood sugar.


Choose high-quality carbs like whole grains, fruits, and veggies that are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals to get the most out of your carbs. Choose high-quality foods like eggs, beans, chicken, tofu, and lean cuts of beef and pork. Choose healthy fats from foods like fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil that contain monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.


If you cut back on carbohydrates, you'll probably eat (and digest) more protein. For your body to break down protein and use it in the best way, it will need a lot of water. Here are 20 ways to get you to drink more water.


Be careful if you lose more than 2 pounds per week. Most likely, you're losing more water and lean muscle than fat. If you want to lose weight slowly but effectively, you should eat more.


Be truthful to yourself: Are you happy with the low-carb diet you're on? Do you feel good? Our bodies can get used to eating different amounts of carbs, but for some, cravings for carbs and problems with blood sugar can be a constant battle. If you think your diet doesn't have enough carbs, don't be afraid to add some. Cutting sugar too much isn't the only way to lose weight, and it's not even the best way for everyone. Keep this in mind because you're more likely to reach your goals, lose weight, and keep it off if you feel good and are happy with what you put in your body.




Ready To Crush Your Goals?

Kickstart your healthy lifestyle today!

© 2023 Project LeanNation Franchising. All Rights Reserved.