There is no simple answer to this question – in fact, the amount of carbs you need to lose fat is likely going to be different than the amount of carbs your coworker, training partner, best friend or whomever, needs to lose fat.
Two people can have identical body compositions and activity levels, yet due to individual metabolic variations, one may be able to eat twice as many carbs as the other and still lose fat.
Some people believe that it is not calories, but carbohydrates, and your hormonal response to their ingestion (i.e. I think that there is some truth to both arguments and they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.
If you have diabetes, insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, you will likely feel better eating a more moderate carbohydrate, higher (healthy) fat and protein diet. Most importantly, use common sense, work with someone who knows what they are talking about, and listen to your body.
A little confused with recommendations and other poster if this actual or lean body weight. I did Adkins about 10 years ago and lost a good amount of weight, but to me, a low carb lifestyle (less than 50 grams a day) was unsustainable. Lastly, if you are dropping carbs, would you increase one of the other macronutrients to keep at a minimum calorie level?
Today I am so happy to have my good buddy Christian taking over the blog for the latest post in The Run Around. Christian is an amazing well-rounded athlete and has been an invaluable resource for me as I’ve worked through some recent running injuries and fueling woes. I can not even begin to tell you the number of times I have heard someone (athlete or not) say, “I don’t do carbs” or “I’m on a carb restricted diet” or for Austin Powers fans “Carbs are the enemy”. Carbohydrates (CHO) are single handedly the most important aspect of any diet and absolutely essential to the diet of any athlete. Now, knowing how important CHOs are means nothing if you aren’t consuming foods that supply your body with the CHOs that it so desperately desires, when it so desperately desires them.
The following are really great visual representations of how your plate should change depending on your phase of training. As distance athletes, most of our competitions occur in the early mornings which can hinder our ability and desire to consume a meal as hearty as the ones depicted above.
The body has the ability to store ~500g (or ~2000 kcals, 18-19 miles of a marathon) of glycogen. There is a really great book written by a couple super renowned sports nutritionists Skolnik and Chernus titled “Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance: The Right Food, the Right Time, the Right Results”.
This last little bit goes a little away from the main topic of CHO, however I feel that it is an essential practice for any athlete.
Depending on the kind of training you are doing, having anywhere from 5-10 small snacks to graze on all day is best practice. Ingesting bananas before and during prolonged intense exercise can support athletic performance as effectively as ingesting a commercially available sport beverage. Whole food CHO sources, raisins in particular, are associated with similar blood glucose responses and running performance as a commercially available CHO sport food. First and foremost, I can 100% identify with your apprehension entering into the field of nutrition sciences.
Commenting on the second portion of your post, this afternoon I listened to the Noakes interview that you posted.
I am by no means in a position to debunk the ideology of someone so well known and respected in his field; however, when you immerse yourself in the research that is currently available (and consistently being reaffirmed), carbohydrate is indispensable to peak athletic performance. Teri, Christian, I’m really glad for your cooperations – this article is a light in the tunel for many beginners who are lost in between all carb myths!
I wonder if the doc mentioned who supports the high fat low carb diet is someone who may be feeling the effect of aging. The body can manufacture glucose from other substances, and although the brain’s preferred fuel is glucose, it can use ketones(the by-products of fatty acid breakdown produced in very low insulin states) when no glucose is available.

Fat loss can be different from “weight loss.” It is theoretically possible to eat fewer calories than you burn but lose muscle tissue and gain body fat, as it is possible (though very difficult) to eat more calories than you burn, gain muscle but lose fat. The body uses stored sugar to fuel high intensity exercise, which should form the foundation of any fat loss exercise plan, so carbohydrates = improved exercise performance. Vegetables and many fruits, with high water and fiber content, contribute to feeling full without providing significant amounts of calories. If your weight is not coming down appropriately (1-2 pounds per week), then begin reducing your carb intake until it does. Unless i have mistaken the protein this would mean a 230lb person would be consuming 230 to 460 grams.
I met Christian at Top Tier CrossFit where he regularly kicks my butt in the bootcamp workouts. So, when she asked that contribute to hers I felt both honored and a bit nervous. Anyways, Christian here, runner, climber, hiker.
This points to the importance of CHO loading not just the night before competition, but up to 4 days prior to competition (this is an arguable training principal known as “glycogen loading”).
It’s very well written and provides a practical guide to help athletes gain maximum performance, recover quickly, reduce risk of injury, diminish muscle breakdown and enhance immune function. The best and most consistent results that I have seen in athletic performance has come from athletes who understand the importance of eating ALL DAY LONG. Be cognoscente of what your body is telling you and the very second you feel a glimmer of hunger coming on, put something in your mouth! However, on a metabolic level, fat cannot be utilized to the extent that we need it when going the extra mile, without a sustained provision of CHO. Nutrition is always such a nuanced and complicated subject, I commend you for sticking with it!
You took it back a biochemistry level that just makes sense intuitively and scientifically.
Would it then make sense to reduce carbs a little as activity decreases or muscle depletion occurs?? I have to pay for blog theme updates, hosting fees, domain fees, and other expenses to keep this site up and functioning and hacker-free.
The only way to know for sure the proper amount of carbs you should eat to lose fat is to experiment and find what works best for you. However, from a practical and performance standpoint, zero carbohydrate nutrition plans are not ideal for the vast majority of people. They argue that if insulin levels are kept low then fat storage is impossible regardless of the amount of calories consumed. If you can get away with stuffing your face with protein and fat without regard for total calories, maintain a low body fat percentage, feel well and have optimal biochemistry (low CRP, high HDL, low triglycerides, etc.), then more power to you. Other foods, specifically processed carbs like white bread, pasta and sugary candy and cereals pack a strong calorie punch and will likely leave you feeling hungry soon after eating them. If you feel better eating higher amounts of carbs and are still able to lose body fat (and control blood sugar), then by all means do so. Again though, if you feel sluggish or tired eating that much (or that little) carbohydrate, then adjust accordingly. And if you work out (running, crossfit, group fitness, cycling, dancer, anything), you are an athlete! I’m a second year grad student at Appalachian State University studying Nutrition Science. Granted, all three macronutrients deserve their spot in the limelight, however CHO is most effectively and preferentially broken down into glucose, the body’s primary source of energy and the only source of fuel for the brain (important). This is because the kind of CHO you receive from whole grains provides glucose in a more systematic and deliberate fashion, delivering over an extended period of time (the kind of energy needed on a long run or race day). This maximizes the body’s glycogen (storage form of glucose that accumulates in the muscle and liver).

What is important to remember during this period of CHO loading is to consume small frequent meals throughout the day. Quick tangent: I was on the path to going to graduate school for nutrition but after taking several nutrition courses as part of my undergrad degree I realized the ever changing theories and ideas around nutrition science was too frustrating for me.
Meaning that without an adequate supply of CHO, fat cannot efficiently be utilized as source of energy.
The glycogen that is stored in the liver and muscles is there for a reason…because many of us deplete our immediate source, glucose, so the body has a backup. I also love running, CrossFitting, my awesome boyfriend, my dog, cooking, baking and drinking too much coffee at work. To help keep my blog accessible and free, I do include affiliate links from time to time and receive a small percentage of purchases you make.
Still, there are some general rules and guidelines that can at least give you a starting point from which to work. If you are interested in this kind of diet, there are countless books and articles about them, though I do not recommend following a ketogenic diet.
Others believe that a calorie is a calorie and the laws of thermodynamics dictate that if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
Again, though, there is a huge amount of variability from person to person and you must experiment to see which carbs you react well to and which you’d do well avoiding. Even small portions of processed carbs these days (bread, pasta, sugary drinks, pre-packaged convenience foods, fast foods) become unwanted body fat. Sadly he and Django will be moving away from Winston in July (which I’m still not-so-silently protesting, along with many other friends at Top Tier who are bummed about it). I also have an academic background in Exercise Science holding both CSCS and RCEP credentials, which has allowed me to work with professional and collegiate level sports teams and really get a feel for sound training principals across the athletic spectrum.
Also unfortunate is the fact that much of the research done through clinical trials shedding light on the most cutting edge nutrition research is only made available to academics and medical professionals, leaving the masses to gather their nutrition information from articles in pop culture magazines that are more often than not funded by the very organizations that stand to gain from readership. The human body is an amazing machine that protects vital functions adaptively, but treating it well with the proper food sources improves every aspect of its functioning.
I also wonder if the way to completely balance, when not glycogen loading, is to strictly monitor glucose and keep it at an optimal level and keep gherlin low and lepton high in the process??
I do not link to products that I wouldn't personally buy, so rest assured I won't refer you to crap! Sadly, I will be leaving Winston-Salem in the fall for Birmingham to keep the school train chugging towards a PhD in Nutrition. This will minimize the degree to which the body relies on glycogen thus keeping your stores maximized for use during performance. This provides an even and constant supply of glucose, preventing crashes and reducing glycogen sequestering. Recently though he changed his stance and is now on board with the low carb, high fat diet. With that said, after your post I did a little digging into his research and couldn’t help but to find a few discrepancies. I definitely feel most energized in my life and on my runs when I’m eating plenty of carbs!
First and foremost, he really doesn’t have a great deal of published literature on the idea of low-carb-high-fat diets with respect to endurance training. I’ve loooooong been opposed to the low carb craze too, but the way he presented his stance and how he got did give me pause. Secondly, what literature he does have published is grounded on studies with a questionably small sample size (one study he did on long distance cyclists only had 7 participants total!).

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