If you go on the internet and search for meal plans, nutrition advice, and different diet approaches, you may end up super confused and don’t even know anymore what you should and shouldn’t be eating. I often get questions like ‘What is the ideal carbohydrate intake?’ ‘Are grains ok or not?’ , ‘Should I follow the ketogenic diet to lose weight?’ ‘Will cutting out meat help me feel better?’… the list goes on and on. Everyone wants to look their best and feel their best. What’s important to understand is that one specific diet that helps one person get a six pack and feel amazing can be detrimental to another person’s health and body composition.
Where to start
For all my clients I usually start off with a “Paleo Template”, which is based on unprocessed and nutrient-dense foods. But even with this template, there is a lot of room for customisation and individual differences.
For instance, there are a few of my clients who benefit from eating a vegetarian-type diet for a short period of time during their program because we found out through testing that they have active gut infections (parasites and bacteria). Since undigested protein can further “feed” pathogens I recommend cutting down on animal protein for a while as a therapeutic intervention in these cases.
For someone who needs to lose weight, is mostly sedentary, and has type 2 diabetes, I might recommend a lower-carb version of a Paleo diet, at least initially.
Another example would be a 25-year-old female athlete with amenorrhea, adrenal fatigue, and low blood sugar. For her, I would suggest a higher carb Paleo approach, with snacks and no skipping meals.
Tailoring factors like macronutrient ratios, meal frequency, and meal timing is a matter of particular circumstances and personal needs.
If you have already switched to a whole foods diet and cut out sugar and processed foods but still experience symptoms or notice new symptoms like insomnia, hair loss, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances, you may unintentionally eat too little calories and/or carbohydrates. When I go through the intake form with a new client, I often discover that they do not eat enough starchy plants or fruits, and in most cases, they actually don’t realize that they’re “accidentally” following a low-carb diet.
Sometimes a small increase in carbohydrates can make a HUGE difference and people report better sleep, energy levels, skin, hair, hormones, and improved well-been overall.
Of course, there is always more work to do and several other factors need to be addressed, but this is an example of how even small customisations can have a profound effect.
There is no one-size fits all approach when it comes to diet. Each of my clients is dealing with different conditions, has different lifestyles, activity levels, goals, health status, age, genes, gene expression and so on. All these factors influence what the optimal dietary approach is and make everyone’s health plan unique.
In this article, I will focus on carbohydrate intake as I find this is the most variable macronutrient and the easiest one to work with. When it comes to carbohydrate intake, I think of four categories:
Very low carb would be below 10% of total calories
Low carb would be 10-15 % of total calories
Moderate carb would be 15-30% of total calories
High carb would be above 30% of total calories
Most people do best on a moderate carbohydrate approach if they’re relatively healthy and don’t have a particular health condition. This would be 15-30%, which is generally a good starting place. So for a moderately active female, this would be between 75-150 grams on a 2,000-calorie diet.
I’ve found that this is also especially helpful for people with HPA-axis issues or so-called adrenal fatigue. A really low-carb or a high-carb diet often does not work as well for these individuals. The same is true for people with hypothyroidism.
A low carb diet, which is about 10-15% of calories from carbohydrates or about 50-75 grams on a 2,000-calorie diet is often very useful for individuals who need to lose weight and maybe haven’t tried a low-carb diet before. Especially those with metabolic issues like insulin or leptin resistance can greatly benefit from following a low-carb approach. Other issues that are also often caused by blood sugar issues include mood swings, depression, or anxiety and individuals with these symptoms will also benefit from eating fewer carbs and more fat as this will prevent those blood sugar fluctuations.
A low-carb diet can also be good for people with digestive issues like SIBO or dysbiosis. This is because a lot of these pathogenic bacteria are able to feed on carbohydrate-rich foods like starch and fruit.
Very Low Carbohydrate
The very low carb diet is very beneficial for people with neurological or cognitive issues. In most cases, when a person eats less than 10% of their calories from carbs and consumes the majority of their calories from fats, they get into ketosis, which means that the body, especially the brain is using ketones as an alternative fuel source to glucose.
This approach can also be very helpful for people who had some success with weight loss on a low carb diet but may have plateaued and taken it a little further with the ketogenic diet. This can be very helpful in some circumstances, whereas others get a new kickstart for their weight-loss after adding back in carbohydrates.
Lastly, the high carb category would be considered anything above 30% of calories from carbohydrates, or 150 grams and up on a 2,000-calorie diet. This level is usually best who are lean have a very active and healthy metabolism, or people who are athletes, or competitive athletes who are doing a lot of glycolytic activity. Most bodybuilders also use a higher-carb diet to increase their muscle mass.
As you can see, determining carbohydrate intake depends on a variety of factors. and it is very helpful to work with a licensed practitioner who can help you assess and monitor the most appropriate macronutrient for you.
Remember that nothing is set in stone and that once you have found your appropriate macronutrient breakdown it may not stay that way forever, as we always go through different phases of life.
Are you confused about what, how much, and when you should be eating? Interested in finding out what works best for you? CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE discovery call!