4

votes

Adding more carbs linked to better mood?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 10, 2012 at 2:00 AM

So i'm getting mixed messages about adding or reducing carbs for mood. In general i'm a high-strung person.I mean, getting overly worried about something, stressing out. But in particular, after becoming underweight and after recovery for a while, still I seem to get angry pretty quickly, or just rage if something bad happens.( For example a relative of mine decided she'll do a good deed to clean out my fridge, but she left my probiotic outside and ruined them. I started crying and was super mad, lucky she wasn't home.) Usually until the last 5 days or so , I've been around 50-80 grams of carb, sometimes less, sometimes more. Now i'm up to about 100-120 or so ( estimating I don't use fitday) I'm unsure if its helping or not because this whole week i've been sleep deprived, sleeping 4-7 1/2 hours. so if im angry this week that could be why.

I've heard some people say, that your brain doesn't feel "deprived of glucose" therefore your mood increases. Some people say that low carb helps their moods.

What do you think? What has your experience been?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on February 10, 2012
at 06:50 PM

I do fine on lowish carb, but I have to make sure to get enough calories. However, I dated someone once who was prone to anxiety and when they would eat my low carb winter diet, they became quite neurotic. I think it depends on your own metabolism and what is at the root cause of your anxiety.

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:28 PM

I reintroduced rice into my diet 3 days ago, after being essentially zero-carb (not including weekly cheats with fruit) for several months. The rice did not change my mood one iota. Not until the terrible effect it had on my colon the next day. I gotta say, NEVER AGAIN! No need for rice, thanks anyway.

Bad3a78e228c67a7513c28f17c36b3cf

(1387)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:29 PM

I think the Jaminet's would also say, that if you have a brain infection, a ketogenic diet will make you feel better. If not, the problem lies elsewhere.

685e3c967e63b4eacccf02628fd9a3ac

(1026)

on February 10, 2012
at 08:24 AM

While VLC didn't work for me either, ZC did work.

Bc3fd048801a984147b8970277037cdf

(180)

on February 10, 2012
at 07:58 AM

+1 for this. I think for thinner people, or, in my case, people looking to not lose weight (or even gain some) don't generally do well lower carb. I felt terrible and, like you, it never went away. I also alternate. On workout/swim days I tend to be much higher carb and rest days I tend to be higher fat/lower carb. I've found it to work very well for me. Another thing that has helped energy during the day and sleeping better is following something similar to Leangains IF (16 hours fasted, 8 hour eating window - biggest meal post workout and on off days 1st meal of the day biggest).

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 10, 2012
at 07:22 AM

On zero-carb, my mood was better than ever. Now that I re-introduced fruit, everything is better, but my mood isn't as stable anymore.

Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

(1902)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:45 AM

@rosalina, thanks!! Glad to help a little. @daz, yes, it ended up being ~45% carb on average, up from ~15% in baseline (protein was pretty stable, around 10-15% in both conditions). I was trying to go for higher than that, but I was surprised at how tough it ended up being to push the proportion even to that level.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:38 AM

losterman, out of interest what was your macronutrient calorie intake percentages like during your "high-carb" phase. from what i have seen/read most non-low-carb paleo people still intake a decent amount of fat ie. at least 50% of calories. i myself have increased my carb intake over the last 9 months or so, but my fat intake still makes up 50 to 60% of my calories on most days

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:37 AM

losterman, out of interest what was your macronutrient calorie intake percentages like during your "high-carb" phase. from what i have seen/read most non-low-carb paleo people still intake a decent amount of fat ie. at least 50% of calories. i myself have increased my carb intake over the last 9 months or so, but my fat intake still makes up 50 to 60% of my calories.

D270cd4ce883f5ca786ec743c5851f84

(20)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:10 AM

Wow good on you!!! Thankyou for such an awesome responce! I'll see how I go! I might keep at it for another week or so. hopefully sleeping better so I can be sure. I bamed sucrose foods making me neurotic back on the S.A.D so i wasn't sure if it was also fructose and starch giving me issues . Thanks again!

D270cd4ce883f5ca786ec743c5851f84

(20)

on February 10, 2012
at 02:15 AM

* good animal fats

D270cd4ce883f5ca786ec743c5851f84

(20)

on February 10, 2012
at 02:15 AM

That's very interesting! I actually eat alot of coconut cream/milk but never by itself because otherwise I get bloated, although with animal fat I am fine no matter what the amount *mm, grandparents farm raised pork crackles anyone? :P * ( but unfortunately I don't have that much access to good fats)

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 02:11 AM

Others may report very different experiences but that's mine.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on February 10, 2012
at 02:11 AM

Hi, rosalina! I have no credentials so my comment is just person to person. I'm also an emotional, perhaps even high-strung person and I don't do well below 80g of carbs per day on average. I can handle a low day or two, but then I need a high day or two. So I usually shoot for between 70 and 100g. Less and I am not calm; consistently higher and my metabolism/GI tract go out of whack. You didn't mention fats, but that's very important to me and it has to be mostly animal fat, not too much coconut oil or avacado, etc.

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8 Answers

8
Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

on February 10, 2012
at 03:06 AM

I think "optimal" macronutrient ratio is a hugely idiosyncratic issue, but here's my experience:

After--like you--seeing a lot of conflicting things from people regarding whether(/which) macronutrient ratio was important for well-being/mood, I decided to do a systematic test of the question as part of a project for a class I took last semester. (I've been paleo and relatively low carb for about a year and a half, so my main manipulation was increasing safe starches during the experimental phases.) It was a single-subject (me, of course) ABAB design study, and I kept careful track of what I ate, took mood/energy measures in the morning, midday and at night, as well as what time I went to bed and got up in the morning (which I do without an alarm), and briefly recorded my most salient social interactions each night. Here were my main findings:

-Two days into the first high-carb phase, my mood got more volatile (i.e., more sensitive to potential negatives in social situations, and more reactive to both positive and negative events, more indignant at potential insults from colleagues), overall mood got more negative. It continued as such until I switched back to high fat. Same thing during the second experimental phase.

-Starting the first night after I entered the first high-carb phase and continuing throughout, I slept a little longer (~30 minutes on average) than during the high-fat baseline, but felt more groggy in the morning than in the baseline condition. I thought this finding was pretty interesting, given that I was really just taking sleep measures as a control variable--I didn't expect it to vary with macronutrient ratio at all.

-I wasn't consciously manipulating caloric intake, but it spontaneously increased by approximately 200 calories a day in the high carb condition (= lower satiety).

Obviously, this doesn't represent gold-standard science or anything (not blind, yadda yadda), but I found it to be a pretty enlightening experience.

Bottom line: personally, higher carb makes me neurotic.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:37 AM

losterman, out of interest what was your macronutrient calorie intake percentages like during your "high-carb" phase. from what i have seen/read most non-low-carb paleo people still intake a decent amount of fat ie. at least 50% of calories. i myself have increased my carb intake over the last 9 months or so, but my fat intake still makes up 50 to 60% of my calories.

543a65b3004bf5a51974fbdd60d666bb

(4493)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:38 AM

losterman, out of interest what was your macronutrient calorie intake percentages like during your "high-carb" phase. from what i have seen/read most non-low-carb paleo people still intake a decent amount of fat ie. at least 50% of calories. i myself have increased my carb intake over the last 9 months or so, but my fat intake still makes up 50 to 60% of my calories on most days

D270cd4ce883f5ca786ec743c5851f84

(20)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:10 AM

Wow good on you!!! Thankyou for such an awesome responce! I'll see how I go! I might keep at it for another week or so. hopefully sleeping better so I can be sure. I bamed sucrose foods making me neurotic back on the S.A.D so i wasn't sure if it was also fructose and starch giving me issues . Thanks again!

Fe6e37f8d4c49de1ecbc926c8900cd54

(1902)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:45 AM

@rosalina, thanks!! Glad to help a little. @daz, yes, it ended up being ~45% carb on average, up from ~15% in baseline (protein was pretty stable, around 10-15% in both conditions). I was trying to go for higher than that, but I was surprised at how tough it ended up being to push the proportion even to that level.

4
Medium avatar

(10663)

on February 10, 2012
at 03:52 AM

When I was VLC (less than 20g/day), I felt horrible. I thought it was just "carb-flu" but it never went away. I was consistently tired, moody, irritable, no energy, and couldn't concentrate. I reintroduced sweet potatoes and started eating more veggies and now I feel so much better. I alternate low/high carbs. Some days I'll have less than 30g, but today I had about 140g (which is because I went on a really long run).
I always eat my veggies with a big chunk of meat and cooked in fat. So most days I would say my meals are almost equally balanced macro-wise. Higher carb actually keeps me full longer and since it's all veggies (starchy and non-starchy) anyway, it makes my meals more varied and delicious.

685e3c967e63b4eacccf02628fd9a3ac

(1026)

on February 10, 2012
at 08:24 AM

While VLC didn't work for me either, ZC did work.

Bc3fd048801a984147b8970277037cdf

(180)

on February 10, 2012
at 07:58 AM

+1 for this. I think for thinner people, or, in my case, people looking to not lose weight (or even gain some) don't generally do well lower carb. I felt terrible and, like you, it never went away. I also alternate. On workout/swim days I tend to be much higher carb and rest days I tend to be higher fat/lower carb. I've found it to work very well for me. Another thing that has helped energy during the day and sleeping better is following something similar to Leangains IF (16 hours fasted, 8 hour eating window - biggest meal post workout and on off days 1st meal of the day biggest).

3
Febcfb45a6bec019a69101cfa8104d30

(463)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:34 AM

Paul Jaminet suggests in The Perfect Health Diet (if you're not familiar, it's not exactly paleo but very much based on evolutionary diet principles like primal and so on--see here: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?page_id=8) that a certain amount of carbohydrates (up to 150g) are necessary for optimal nervous system functioning. Glucose is the preferred fuel for the brain and nervous tissue, though not the rest of the body. Hence, the optimal source for these carbohydrates is not fruit (due to high amounts of fructose) but rather what he calls "safe starches," like sweet potatoes and rice--though not any other grains. I feel better when I eat moderate amounts of these, keeping below the 150g mark.

Oh, and that 150g number should not count fiber carbs, since soluble fiber is converted into short-chain fatty acids in the gut and insoluble fiber simply passes through.

I tend to agree, but I have also noticed (and read) that carbohydrates over a certain amount (especially without plentiful protein and fat) destabilize mood. It seems there is an ideal range between the two extremes.

Bad3a78e228c67a7513c28f17c36b3cf

(1387)

on February 10, 2012
at 12:29 PM

I think the Jaminet's would also say, that if you have a brain infection, a ketogenic diet will make you feel better. If not, the problem lies elsewhere.

93ae9f2d376e5426e891a9b58d8302fa

(2936)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:28 PM

I reintroduced rice into my diet 3 days ago, after being essentially zero-carb (not including weekly cheats with fruit) for several months. The rice did not change my mood one iota. Not until the terrible effect it had on my colon the next day. I gotta say, NEVER AGAIN! No need for rice, thanks anyway.

1
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on February 10, 2012
at 04:31 PM

I wouldn't make any inferences about carb levels with the sleep dep also going on. In my N=1, my mood is always better with lower carb, especially in the evenings.

0
88a3d907cfbe4cb0a23fd5da36161f9b

(614)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:40 PM

I have only been Paleo for about 6 weeks, so my answer might be limited, but...

At the beginning, I was naturally eating very low carb and ended up very moody, especially after work and I was snapping at my husband. Neither of us were particularly happy. I started eating a little more fruit, thereby increasing my carbs, and emotionally I felt a lot better. My weight loss has slowed a bit, but I'll take that over being in a constant argument with the husband.

0
11b7b7ba720a5cd43c74a0ef99a16adb

(3448)

on February 10, 2012
at 06:03 PM

Alcohol is a carb. Candy bars are mostly carbs (full of sugar). Soft drinks are mostly carbs (high fructose corn syrup).

All of these give you a rush, even a shot of energy, and make you feel better. All make people grumpy when they are deprived of them (ever see someone with a sweet tooth not get their Coke or candy bar?)

If these forms of carbs have an addictive quality, it's reasonable the carbs in bread and such also have an addictive quality. Which implies there are also withdrawal symptoms associated with restricting bread carbs.

Last I checked, it was estimated that about 15-20% of the typical American's calories came from high fructose corn syrup. Not sugar in general, or carbs in general, but from one thing--high fructose corn syrup.

Maybe you bad mood is from sugar withdrawals.

0
5ccb98f6ae42ce87e206cf3f6a86039f

(11581)

on February 10, 2012
at 05:37 PM

IMO it depends on the individuals ability to process carbohydrates properly. I am prediabetic. Too much carb set me up for blood sugar swings and mood swings. I feel better right after a meal, and very crabby when blood sugar drops later if I ate too much carbs.

If you are underweight you are probably not prediabetic or insulin resistant. You might be one of those people who needs more carbs, in a nice low GI load form.

The way to tell is to keep a food and mood diary. And consider other possible factors that could influence mood. Sleep is certainly a big factor.

0
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 10, 2012
at 08:10 AM

Dr. Amen touches on this in one of his videos (much of his nutritional ideas are CW based, so I tend to take them with a grain of salt usually), but his piece about the different kinds of depression and anxiety struck me, some varieties respond better to VLC (I believe if there was low function in the pre-frontal cortex that was the way to go), but if you have low activity in other areas higher carbs helps.

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