If you consistently overeat carbs, it could lead to weight gain, but that doesn't mean you need to cut them out entirely. At some point, you've probably heard or even participated in a heated debate about carbs, but we'll let you battle that one out with your friends.
To find out more about the importance of carbs in your diet, how many carbs you need to eat in a day to function at your best, and what exactly happens to your body when you eat too many carbs, POPSUGAR spoke to Jason Machowsky, RD, CSSD, RCEP, CSCS, a board-certified sports dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Hospital For Special Surgery's Tisch Sports Performance Center.
Why You Need Carbohydrates
How your body functions is a complex process, but one simple thing to remember about carbs and the role they play when it comes to your body is: carbs are fuel for your body. "They're the gas for the engine, so the more you drive the car, the more gas you need. The less you drive the car, the less gas you need," Jason told POPSUGAR.
When you book your favorite workout class last minute, your body will convert carbohydrates into energy (it's a complex process) so you can get through the workout. When you're doing a HIIT workout, or any workout at that, your body turns to carbs to power you through every move.
We aren't here to tell you what foods to eat — we trust that you'll make the best decision for yourself — but it's a fact that carbs keep you functioning at your best. Research has shown long-term carb restriction can negatively affect your mood and cognitive function. Bottom line: you need carbs.
What Happens to Your Body When You Overeat Carbs
If you want to avoid feeling lackluster, you should eat carbs, and in general, consume a well-balanced diet that includes protein, fats, and minimally processed foods. "Carbs are calories so whether you eat too many carbs, too much fat, or too much protein for what your body is burning, there's a potential that you'll gain weight," Jason said.
"Gaining too much weight for those who are overweight can lead to other metabolic issues as far as insulin resistance, heart disease, and prediabetes," he explained. Overeating carbs can lead to weight gain, but Jason said, "It's not just carbs themselves, it's just eating too much and not being active. Carbs are just one potential focus of that [weight gain]."
How Many Carbs You Should Eat Each Day
To make sure you're getting enough carbs for energy but not overeating, Jason said, "The general guideline has traditionally been [to consume] anywhere from 120 to 140 grams of carbs per day as a baseline."
"I would say there are these 'guidelines' but you're not going to fall flat on your face if you don't hit those number either; it's pretty varied," Jason explained. If you want a more individualized guide on what and how much you should eat each day, we recommend consulting a registered dietitian.