3

votes

Carbs - How low is too low?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 21, 2012 at 7:00 PM

I'm currently trying to shed fat. Like 80ish pounds of fat. I'm eating low carb, and am limiting starchy vegetables and fruits to a couple of times per week. Not too much exercise yet, just some walking and I'm starting to do some circuit training with dumbells and body weight exercises.

I just read an article on MDA that said 0-50g carbs a day is the target for Ketosis/heavy fat burning and not recommended for long term weight loss unless supervised by a doctor. According to the article, 50-100g carbs is the 'weight loss sweet spot.' I just looked at my carb intake for the past month, and while my levels started in the 50-90g range getting started on paleo, as I've acclimated to eating this way, they've setted into the 30-50g range. Do I need to increase my carbs, and if so is it better to eat starchy veg/fruits or just increase my non-starchy veggies? I'm full as it is after meals, and don't often snack between meals, and eating more volume would be difficult and woud result in a decrease in fat and protein calories (which are pretty much on target for me now). I've lost about 1.5 pounds a week (until this week, when I maintained - possibly due to where I am in my monthly cycle) and I'd like to continue on that path.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 22, 2012
at 05:48 PM

I usually run in the morning fasted (I did a half marathon like that last weekend). The only carbs I get are from green veg, and some occaisional berries. I don't think about fuelling with carbs before I run.

75e8ceee00e2459860ea38220a3a8118

(276)

on September 22, 2012
at 02:03 PM

That's fantastic borofergie! Do you spread out the ~25g of carbs over the day, or do you have them before/after your run?

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:44 PM

And @matt if I had nothing but monkey oranges to eat for a month 50,000 years ago I wouldn't have been eating much meat. http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/05/31/wild-and-ancient-fruit/

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:37 PM

For me a cheat day is when I don't get outdoors for at least a couple hours.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 22, 2012
at 09:24 AM

It certainly feels like I'm thriving on <25g. In practical terms <25g is nothing compared with the amount your metabolism generates through gluconeogenesis. The the only real carbs I eat are in vegetables, which I eat for fibre and micronutrients, not because they contain carbs.

336c383a3c4d28652d7ab888c79108a3

(614)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:45 AM

You're trying to lose weight - worry more about calories - eliminate processed crap and you'll be fine

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I disagree that paleo ancestors ate extremes either way. If we look to modern hunter-gatherers, you find very few extremes.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:11 AM

You can survive on zero carb, I don't know if that's thriving though.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on September 21, 2012
at 11:10 PM

I would skip the "cheat days". No reason to even consider them. You may reconsider how your doing things if at any point your not happy with your progress, but till then keep truckin IMO.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on September 21, 2012
at 11:07 PM

Nope, no problems there at all. All likelihood your doing just what you need to be. Long as you feel well then your good to go!

931a99246c4b901c8cabd52da1e9f6d2

(130)

on September 21, 2012
at 10:20 PM

Have that cream! ;)

931a99246c4b901c8cabd52da1e9f6d2

(130)

on September 21, 2012
at 10:18 PM

Great insight! Thanka

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 21, 2012
at 09:27 PM

A HbA1c of 4.9% is supposed to convert to an average BG of 77 mg/dL over a 2 to 3 month period. In reality my fasting BG is a bit higher than that, but I never spike above 100 mg/dL, even after a big meal.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on September 21, 2012
at 09:10 PM

thhq - my point was more if what she's doing now with low carb is working, I don't see why she shouldn't continue. She did ask, 'how low is too low?' reluctantMANGO - I'm so glad it's working for you! I also have PCOS, though a mild case. I do cycle on my own, though irregularly if I'm not following a carb-managed, gluten-free, whole food approach with a little bit of exercise. Personally, a more strict/ketogenic paleo diet didn't add anything good to my health (in fact, it disrupted my cycle), but it tends to work for a lot of PCOSers!

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:59 PM

Meant to say getting OFF the pill, not On.

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:58 PM

Getting on BCPs will help you shed fat more easily. I carried around an extra 15lbs of fat I could NOT lose while on the pill to "regulate my cycle". Lo and Behold it regulated on its own once off those damn pills and not eating junk.

83456bd85c99b73a03dc9ccf7eb44255

(487)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:49 PM

Bon Appétit - Enjoy!

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:42 PM

just curious, how does HbA1c convert/relate to mg/dL?

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 08:11 PM

Thanks, that article was helpful!

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 08:10 PM

This is helpful - I've been alternating between 30ish and 50ish grams a day, but not ever hitting the high end. I think I'l be having some roasted butternut squash for dinner tonight!

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:47 PM

Certainly agree on the effect on insulin resistance.Cutting out high glycemic carbs fixed my A1C and blood glucose. Once I lost weight I put them back in my diet without problems, and have not had problems for 5 years. But at 215 lbs the rice, sugar and wheat had to go.

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 07:44 PM

Nope, don't have to follow a pattern - just trying bring my body to better health. I'm 5'2" and started at 230lbs. I'm now down to 205lbs, and I still have a way to go. I've been about 95% paleo - just have coffee with 2TBSP cream in the morning, and I'm starting to cut back on that too. Are you suggesting what some call cheat days? I haven't experimented with that yet.

05de181d71c1df6304a03566fe821d4b

(795)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:38 PM

go here, http://livinlavidalowcarb.com/blog/ people are all freaked out about carbs, I dunno why, our bodies highly adapted will burn whatever there, glucose is more damaging than fat in my opinion.

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 07:38 PM

Oops, should have added that at least half of my plate is veggies at every meal. Macros are around 10% Carb, 60% fat, and 30% protein.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:34 PM

After becoming adapted to a paleo style of eating, every single study has shown that participants (without control) reduce their caloric intake.

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 07:32 PM

Interesting you should mention that. I have PCOS and don't cycle regularly on my own - have been on BCP for over 4 years to regulate my cycle. A month into eating Paleo, and my cycle seems to be reasserting itself - had spotting a week early, while I was on the last week of hormone pills. This has never happened before. I'm also insulin resistant, and I feel AMAZING on Paleo. Heaps of energy, I feel like I can breath deeply again, my skin is smooth, and my mood is even. I don't spend the day counting minutes until the next meal. I take the stairs. I do jumping jacks. Can't say enough.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:31 PM

If I listened to my body I'd still be obese. My body wants WAY more food than it needs. If a macronutrient group triggers overeating avoid it, but if not eat them all.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:28 PM

Good point, but it sounds like the OP is broken already.

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6 Answers

best answer

2
3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:10 PM

The "Art and Science" authors, Volek and Phinney, suggest that you can stay below 50g and be healthy. Carbohydrates are not essential.

For ketosis, it varies person-to-person -- But blood ketones above 1 mM typically necessitates fewer than 50g carbs per day.

As long as you feel healthy, and have sufficient energy, there's no need to add more carbs to your diet. Just keep listening to your body. As you increase your exercise, don't be surprised if you start craving more carbs.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7

(26217)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:34 PM

After becoming adapted to a paleo style of eating, every single study has shown that participants (without control) reduce their caloric intake.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:31 PM

If I listened to my body I'd still be obese. My body wants WAY more food than it needs. If a macronutrient group triggers overeating avoid it, but if not eat them all.

6
B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:34 PM

No such thing as too low. Carbs aren't an essential macronutrient, you could live healthily on just fat and protein if you needed to.

Practically speaking it's a bit difficult to get much below 25g while eating proper whole foods.

Whole30 apart, I've been on <25g a day for the last 9 months (because I'm a T2 diabetic). My blood glucose is better than most non-diabetics (HbA1c=4.9%), I've lost nearly 70lbs in weight and run 25 miles a week. Never felt healthier.

75e8ceee00e2459860ea38220a3a8118

(276)

on September 22, 2012
at 02:03 PM

That's fantastic borofergie! Do you spread out the ~25g of carbs over the day, or do you have them before/after your run?

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 21, 2012
at 09:27 PM

A HbA1c of 4.9% is supposed to convert to an average BG of 77 mg/dL over a 2 to 3 month period. In reality my fasting BG is a bit higher than that, but I never spike above 100 mg/dL, even after a big meal.

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 22, 2012
at 05:48 PM

I usually run in the morning fasted (I did a half marathon like that last weekend). The only carbs I get are from green veg, and some occaisional berries. I don't think about fuelling with carbs before I run.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:11 AM

You can survive on zero carb, I don't know if that's thriving though.

De641ff2accb4975e1f42886b43009db

(2227)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:42 PM

just curious, how does HbA1c convert/relate to mg/dL?

B3173217a49b5b0116078775a17eb21d

(11488)

on September 22, 2012
at 09:24 AM

It certainly feels like I'm thriving on <25g. In practical terms <25g is nothing compared with the amount your metabolism generates through gluconeogenesis. The the only real carbs I eat are in vegetables, which I eat for fibre and micronutrients, not because they contain carbs.

2
83456bd85c99b73a03dc9ccf7eb44255

on September 21, 2012
at 07:57 PM

Here's my two cents. I don't think it's a good idea to stay at a steady carb amount unless you are diabetic and need to - to control your blood sugar. If you are non diabetic, I wouldn't recommend eating over 100 grams a carbs on a given day. The trick, I think, is to vary the amounts of carbs. Two days at 50 grams of carbs, one day of 100 grams of carbs, and one day of 70 grams of carbs. Then repeat. When you stay at a constant level of carbs like 50 grams or less your body will adapt and your metabolism will slow somewhat. If you cycle carbs even on the low end you will keep your body guessing and speed up your metabolism a little. Carb cycling works and can even break weight plateaus.

931a99246c4b901c8cabd52da1e9f6d2

(130)

on September 21, 2012
at 10:18 PM

Great insight! Thanka

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 08:10 PM

This is helpful - I've been alternating between 30ish and 50ish grams a day, but not ever hitting the high end. I think I'l be having some roasted butternut squash for dinner tonight!

83456bd85c99b73a03dc9ccf7eb44255

(487)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:49 PM

Bon Appétit - Enjoy!

1
D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

on September 21, 2012
at 07:14 PM

I think it's largely a personal issue. Some people fare better on fewer, while others fare better on more. I think, for a woman, a sure-fire way of knowing if your carbs (or calories) are too low is if you start having menstrual problems. But if you're not, or if those issues seem to improve, I'd say if it ain't broke, don't fix it! :)

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:59 PM

Meant to say getting OFF the pill, not On.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:28 PM

Good point, but it sounds like the OP is broken already.

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 07:32 PM

Interesting you should mention that. I have PCOS and don't cycle regularly on my own - have been on BCP for over 4 years to regulate my cycle. A month into eating Paleo, and my cycle seems to be reasserting itself - had spotting a week early, while I was on the last week of hormone pills. This has never happened before. I'm also insulin resistant, and I feel AMAZING on Paleo. Heaps of energy, I feel like I can breath deeply again, my skin is smooth, and my mood is even. I don't spend the day counting minutes until the next meal. I take the stairs. I do jumping jacks. Can't say enough.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:47 PM

Certainly agree on the effect on insulin resistance.Cutting out high glycemic carbs fixed my A1C and blood glucose. Once I lost weight I put them back in my diet without problems, and have not had problems for 5 years. But at 215 lbs the rice, sugar and wheat had to go.

D41bd7b3d3b962eb0146f471eb632f56

(2029)

on September 21, 2012
at 09:10 PM

thhq - my point was more if what she's doing now with low carb is working, I don't see why she shouldn't continue. She did ask, 'how low is too low?' reluctantMANGO - I'm so glad it's working for you! I also have PCOS, though a mild case. I do cycle on my own, though irregularly if I'm not following a carb-managed, gluten-free, whole food approach with a little bit of exercise. Personally, a more strict/ketogenic paleo diet didn't add anything good to my health (in fact, it disrupted my cycle), but it tends to work for a lot of PCOSers!

8634d4988ced45a68e2a79e69cc01835

(1617)

on September 21, 2012
at 08:58 PM

Getting on BCPs will help you shed fat more easily. I carried around an extra 15lbs of fat I could NOT lose while on the pill to "regulate my cycle". Lo and Behold it regulated on its own once off those damn pills and not eating junk.

0
6f560350ec191c302a27573c3a81ece1

(220)

on September 22, 2012
at 06:59 AM

I did really well on super low carb for about four months - I have PCOS and found going Paleo really helped my cycles after years on the BCP. Then, I started feeling sluggish, wasn't sleeping well, and worst of all, I lost a lot of hair :( I've since added back in a lot more fruit and starchy veg, and I feel much better. (I'm a 30 year old female). I'm hoping the hair situation will get better as well, but it's too early to tell.

I guess what I'm saying is, you need to listen to your body, some people do really well on low low carb, others don't - I think everyone probably has their own 'sweet spot' :)

0
Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 21, 2012
at 07:25 PM

I look at the other way. 100% carbs may be too high, just as 0% carbs may be too low. You can lose weight on any diet.

Our paleo ancestors were not on an invariant modern diet program. They ate the extremes both ways. The question is whether you're paleo enough to do it that way, or if you have to follow a pattern diet like VLC or Atkins.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:37 PM

For me a cheat day is when I don't get outdoors for at least a couple hours.

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41757)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:13 AM

I disagree that paleo ancestors ate extremes either way. If we look to modern hunter-gatherers, you find very few extremes.

Medium avatar

(10611)

on September 22, 2012
at 12:44 PM

And @matt if I had nothing but monkey oranges to eat for a month 50,000 years ago I wouldn't have been eating much meat. http://rawfoodsos.com/2011/05/31/wild-and-ancient-fruit/

931a99246c4b901c8cabd52da1e9f6d2

(130)

on September 21, 2012
at 10:20 PM

Have that cream! ;)

2ca37952cb05fee4fa1d228108d499e0

on September 21, 2012
at 07:44 PM

Nope, don't have to follow a pattern - just trying bring my body to better health. I'm 5'2" and started at 230lbs. I'm now down to 205lbs, and I still have a way to go. I've been about 95% paleo - just have coffee with 2TBSP cream in the morning, and I'm starting to cut back on that too. Are you suggesting what some call cheat days? I haven't experimented with that yet.

3846a3b61bc9051e4baebdef62e58c52

(18635)

on September 21, 2012
at 11:10 PM

I would skip the "cheat days". No reason to even consider them. You may reconsider how your doing things if at any point your not happy with your progress, but till then keep truckin IMO.

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