After you’ve calculated your ideal daily calorie intake and then figured out what your daily protein and fat intake should be, the last major part of your diet that needs to be set is your daily carb intake.
Carbs (which, by the way, is short for carbohydrates) tend to be the macronutrient that confuses and scares people the most these days.
As usual, this confusion and fear is mostly unwarranted.
Once you understand some simple facts and we clear up some of the common myths (and general bad information) that surround how carbs truly affect your body, your health and your diet, you’ll see just how unwarranted it is.
So, before we get into what your daily carb intake should actually be, let’s cover the basics first…
Carbs Are Extremely Useful, But Not Essential
A funny thing about carbs is that, even though they will almost always account for the majority of your total calorie intake (you’ll see why in a few minutes) and they tend to confuse/scare people more than any other dietary factor, they are actually the least important part of your diet.
No, seriously. It’s true.
Quite simply, protein and fat (specifically the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) are essential to your body. Carbs on the other hand are not.
Yes, your brain and other tissues do require a small amount, but the human body is actually capable of producing that small amount on its own.
The same cannot be said for protein or the essential fatty acids (all of which must be supplied through your diet).
Now, I’m definitely NOT recommending a no carb diet here or anything remotely close to that (the human body may not truly require them for survival, but it sure as hell runs a lot better with them for a variety of reasons).
In fact, I would hardly ever even recommend anything close to a typical low carb diet.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the most important parts of your diet are total calories, protein and essential fatty acids. After that, we have carbs.
So, while they definitely DO play an important role in your diet for various reasons and for various goals (especially building muscle, increasing strength or improving performance), and they WILL still usually make up the majority of your diet, they are the least important of the macronutrients.
For this reason, once an ideal protein and fat intake have been figured out, the majority of the changes that need to be made to your calorie intake (assuming changes ever need to be made) will most often come from a reduction or increase in your daily carb intake.
Meaning, carbs will usually be the macronutrient we adjust when (and if) we ever need to make adjustments to our total calorie intake.
If that sounds a little confusing now, don’t worry. It will make perfect sense later on. You’ll see.
Does Eating Carbs Make You Fat?
As you may remember, we previously answered this same question regarding fat (Does Eating Fat Make You Fat?). And surprise-surprise, the answer now is exactly the same as it was then.
While the “low carb” craze has put some crazy ideas into people’s heads, the truth still remains that the one and only thing that makes people fat is eating too many calories.
If those excess calories happen to come from carbs, then sure, carbs will seemingly make you fat. However, it’s not the carbs themselves that cause the fat gain in this scenario. It’s the excess calories those carbs provided.
In the end, excess calories of any kind (protein, fat, carbs, healthy foods, unhealthy foods, etc.) will cause fat gain. It’s not the source of those calories that does it. It’s the excess calories themselves.
Are we clear on that now? Good.
And if you’re wondering then how various “low carb diets” end up being effective if it’s all about calories and not carbs, don’t worry… that’s a topic I will definitely cover in detail in the near future.
Until then, the quick and simple answer is this: guess what happens when you end up eliminating a ton of high carb foods from your diet? You just so happen to end up eliminating a ton of calories from your diet as well.
And as we all know by now, a reduction in calories = the one and only true key to fat loss. Magic!
Unfortunately, most low carb fanatics are too brainwashed (or just plain stupid) to understand that.
This will definitely be a highly entertaining topic for another day.
Are Carbs Bad And Unhealthy?
The next big carb-related question that often needs answering is actually one that came up before regarding fat (Is Fat Bad And Unhealthy?), and the answer was… sometimes.
With carbs, the answer is once again… sometimes.
Reason being, all carbs are not created equal. Certain high carb foods are associated with all of the bad/evil things you’ve probably heard about carbs, while other high carb foods are really not bad at all (even legitimately good in some cases) and should comprise the majority of your daily carb intake.
You just need to know how to tell them apart. Here’s how…
(This article is part of a completely free and amazingly awesome guide to creating the absolute best diet plan possible for your exact goal and preferences. Check out the entire guide here: The Best Diet Plan)