Everyone Has A Carb Sweet-Spot, Says A Functional Medicine Expert: Here's How To Find Yours
Perhaps this goes without saying, but let's drill it in once more: There is no perfect diet; there is only the diet that's perfect for you. That's the beauty of personalized eating plans—your body is unique, and testing what works for you is half the fun.
So when it comes to the oft-asked question, How many carbs should I eat? there isn't a one-size-fits-all type of answer. In fact, functional medicine expert and mbg Collective member Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, says everybody has their very own carb sweet spot: "We all have different carb tolerances," he says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast.
How to find yours, below.
What is a carb sweet spot?
We're certainly not going to tell you you shouldn't ever eat carbs (again, if they work for you, please, fill your plate!). But if you find that carbs do make you feel a certain type of way—sleepy, hangry, bloated, and so on—Cole says it's important to determine how much of the macronutrient you can tolerate, especially if you face any sort of insulin resistance. "This can make them very carb-intolerant and impact their hormones, how they feel, their inflammation levels, their digestion. They're just not going to feel really great when they have carbs," he says.
He includes your typical grains, like wheat, rye, quinoa, and barley but also some fruits, starches, and legumes. "Anything that has sugar or turns into sugar," he notes. "Those carbohydrates are not so good for somebody that has a carb intolerance." Of course, it's difficult to generalize, but if the above scenario sounds familiar, you might want to determine your limit.
How to find yours.
The first step, says Cole, is to make sure you have a stable baseline. "As you gain metabolic flexibility, you calm that noise," he says. "You can start to hear intuition a little bit more. You are in touch with your body on how foods make you feel. And then [you can] experiment with increasing carbohydrates and checking in with your body as you do that."
Here's how that looks in practice: To reach a steady baseline, Cole suggests following a ketotarian diet (a cross between a ketogenic and vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian diet) sticking to 50 grams or less of net carbs for around 30 days. It's like a reset, he says, to "train your mitochondria." Then once you reach that touchstone, you can begin experimenting with different amounts of carbs on your plate. "At that point, you're a little bit more stable. You feel better, and you're in tune with your body, so [you can] increase clean carbohydrates to 75 grams, to 150 grams," he explains.
Finally, assess: How did you feel when you added more carbs to your plate? How's your digestion, your mood, your energy, your hanger levels? Try to notice how you're feeling, and play around with adding and taking away carbs. Soon, you'll notice what specific amount works for you. '"Some people are going to know, 'Oh, I feel better with fewer carbohydrates,'" Cole notes. "And some people are going to do better with more carbohydrates."
The bottom line? There is no one magic formula to tell you exactly how many carbs you should be eating. It's all about finding what works for your individual body—feel free to experiment with your own eating plan, but know that what helps you may not work for your neighbor. As Cole says, "That's the heart of functional medicine. We're all created differently."
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