What is a Good Low Carb Range?
Max Carmody, MSc
A low carb range is generally anywhere between 20 grams of carbs to 130 or even 150 grams of carbs a day. However, extremely low carb ranges around 20 grams a day may work for the short term, and aid with rapid weight loss, but are probably not great for long term health. More moderate low carb ranges, around 100-130 may be better for longer term weight maintenance, as they are not so extreme.
What are Carbs?
Carbs, AKA carbohydrates, are a type of macronutrient. A macronutrient is a nutrient that your body needs in large quantities to survive and function efficiently. The other two types are protein and fat. Carbohydrates are made up of fibers, starches, and sugars. The digestive system breaks down carbs into glucose, or blood sugar. The bloodstream then absorbs glucose, and uses it as energy to fuel the body. There are multiple types of carbs. Two of the main types are complex carbs, and simple carbs. Both types of carbs give your body energy. However, simple carbs provide short bursts of energy, and complex carbs take longer for the body to break down and are a longer lasting energy source. Simple carbs are short molecule chains, and complex carbs are longer molecule chains. Simple carbs are in things like fruits and dairy products, and sugar. Complex carbs are in things like whole grains and legumes. If you would like to find out if 100 grams of carbs is a low carb diet, here is an article I wrote on the subject.
What is a Low Carb Diet?
On a low carb diet, you limit the amount of daily carb intake, you typically eat under 130 grams of carbs a day. However, this can be as low as 50, or even 20 grams of carbs per day, on certain types of diets such as the keto diet. Because you are eating fewer carbs, you typically make up carbs with other macronutrients, eating more protein, more fat, or both. A general low carb diet is not branded, however many specific types of low carb diets exist, and some of them are commercial diets run by companies. To contrast this to the normal amount of carbs that people eat, at least in the U.S. a typical American diet is between 45-65% of daily calories, or between 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day.
Moderate Low Carb Range
The least intensive type of low carb diet would be a moderate carb diet. Eating between 100 and 150 grams of carbs a day would fall under a moderate carb diet. It is possible to lose weight at this carb range, but you must also be aware of calorie count, and portion sizes. I’ve tried this diet myself for a while, eating about 100 grams of carbs per day, and I did lose weight on it, it worked for me. One new Harvard study actually shows that the healthiest amount of carbs to eat, is a moderate carb diet. The study tracked 15,000 people, and found that those people eating a moderate amount of carbs, about 50% of daily calorie intake, had lower mortality rates over 25 years than those who consumer either less than 40% of daily calorie intake from carbs, or more than 70%.
The Harvard study however, was not looking at moderate low carb diets, it was more MODERATE moderate carb diets. In terms of moderate low carb diets, there are many diets that advocate eating about 100 grams of carbs a day. One of these is the Atkins 100 diet. On the Atkins 100 diet, you eat 100 grams of net carbs(total carb content of food minus the fiber content) a day, split between 3 meals and 2 snacks. This type of diet is considered to be especially good for weight maintenance. You must also pay attention to portion control. On this diet you can eat a fair amount of things like complex carbs and starchy vegetables, however things like sugars and refined, simple carbs are still discouraged. This diet may be a good option for pregnant women because it is not too limiting.
Standard Low Carb Diet
A standard low carb diet generally involves eating under 100 grams of carbs a day, maybe less than 70, but more than 50, because 50 grams of carbs falls into the range of Keto. A diet in this range is going to have some significant restriction of food groups. Even complex carbs, which are generally considered to be relatively healthy, and good for you, may be shunned. People going on a diet like this generally lose weight pretty quickly, as long as they are not eating tons of food in the other macronutrient groups. If you would like to find out what a good ratio for a low carb diet is, you can find an article here that I wrote on the subject.
On a Keto diet, you consume under 50 grams of carbs, to as low as 20 grams (or even lower in some cases) of carbs a day. The keto diet is very low carb, and high fat. The point is to drastically curb carb intake, and to replace it with fat. The reduction in carbs puts your body into a state called ketosis. When this happens, your body becomes very efficient at burning fat.
Keto diets are incredibly popular right now, they are all the rage. They are very restrictive in terms of carbs however, you need to be very careful about watching the carbs you eat, and that may get tiresome after a while. They are a bit extreme. When I tried the keto diet myself briefly, I did find it to be rather pleasant, because you still get to eat so many things like cheese, and bacon. I loved all the cheese.
What is the Best Low Carb Range?
There is really no one best low carb range. You can lose weight on any low carb range, I have, and even high carb ranges if you exercise calorie counting and portion control. A lot of people lose weight eating extremely low carb, such as 20 grams of carbs a day, on the Keto diet. However, it may not be great for your health to be eating all that fat, and reducing carbs by that much, in the long run. I see Keto as more of a short term thing. If you are looking for a more long term diet, especially if you are pregnant or have health conditions, or are trying to maintain weight, then 100-130 grams of carbs a day may be the way to go.
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