A Paleo Diet (PD) does not mean no carbs or even low carbs for someone who is active (meaning basically a minimum of 30 minutes/day exercise 5x/week). If you’re active, you need energy to burn. The great thing about the PD is that it looks to healthier ways of getting that fuel than the Standard American Diet which leans heavily towards refined grain products, white potatoes, and sugar additives for carbs. So what are healthy PD carbs? And how much do you need each day?
Identifying good carbs
To recognize good carbs, it’s helpful to first understand that carbs break down into three categories: sugar, starch and fiber. The first two provide energy, and fiber, well, just makes life easier! For the most part, carb sources that include a high percentage of fiber are regarded as healthy (click here or on chart above). High fiber carbs equate with a slower absorption rate which reduces blood sugar spikes which means less bad things happening in your body like organ stress, vascular damage, and fatigue, for starts. It’s also good to consume fat and protein with any carb as this also slows absorption and minimizes blood sugar spikes. For example, if you want banana, eat just half with a handful of nuts or dip it in almond butter.
How many carbs per day does an active person need?
Fiber is easy: 14g of fiber per 1,000 calories per day. It’s trickier with the energy-producing carbs as need varies according to personal goals (e.g., weight loss) and what makes you feel best. The Institute of Medicine recommends 112-162g per 1,000 calories per day (45-65% of your total caloric intake). If you follow and feel best on a Zone diet (40:30:30 carb-protein-fat), then a lower 100g per day per 1K calories does the trick. In other words, the amount of carbs needed varies by individual. If you find yourself thinking about sugar the way a 15 yr old boy thinks about sex, or if you feel like you’ve been flattened by a Zamboni after a workout, you may need more carbs. But if you’re looking to lose weight, go Zone.
If you’re ever uncertain about carbs, try looking to Paleo Diet guidelines. There’s a world of healthy choices waiting to be enjoyed!