What does 50g of carbs look like?
How many carbohydrates should I be eating?
With so much information surrounding carbohydrates, it can be challenging to understand how many carbohydrates you should be eating.
Unfortunately, there's no easy, single answer.
Your type of exercise and training, goals and preference will all dictate your carbohydrate needs. Adequate carbohydrates are needed to perform well when training at a high intensity, moderate to high volume for sessions shorter than 2 hours. For low intensity and low volume sessions, they are not quite as important. See low carbohydrate training for athlete. Preference will also play a part, so don't feel the need to cut carbs if you enjoy them.
Totals matter more
Your overall carbohydrate intake for the day considerably outweighs the importance of timing. That is why your personal preference and your work/social schedule should form the basis of when you eat and how many meals you eat per day.
OK, but how many?
I like to start with a macro split of: -
3g per kg of target bodyweight of carbohydrates per day
2g per kg of target bodyweight of protein per day
1g per kg of target bodyweight fat per day
Your goal and training will then dictate how I would adjust these figures. For weight loss, I could reduce fat and or carbohydrates. Depending on the activity, I would change your carbohydrates too. Endurance athletes will need more than strength sport athletes.
To help calculate your overall carbohydrate requirements for the day
Fuelling your workouts
If your session lasts less than 60mins, you won't warrant any acute fuelling strategy, where your overall carbohydrate totals for the day will be enough. However, to maximise performance, a good starting point is to aim for 1gram per kg of target bodyweight (g.kg.tbw) before exercising.
If your target body weight is 80kg, multiply your 80 x 1 to give your pre-workout carbohydrate totals = 80g of carbohydrates.
Again, the session's type (intensity vs length) and the goal will factor in how many carbohydrates you consume after your session. I recommend that you have another 1g.kg.tbw serving of carbohydrates after you exercise, especially if you are training again within 12hrs. If your goal is weight loss and you don't have many carbohydrates to play with, you may need to reduce this number to fit in with your overall carbohydrate totals.
See more about the Box Nutrition's 4 R's of Recovery here.
Once you have ticked off your fuelling and recovery needs, you can then split up your remaining carbohydrates' across your main meals and snacks.
But what does a portion look like? What does 50g or 80g of carbohydrates look like?
The best way to understand portion sizes is to track your food on an app like MyFitnessPal. You don't need to track forever; however, tracking your carbohydrates will quickly highlight how big your portions should be. I find using measuring cups and kitchen scales the easiest and quickest way to do this.
Let's say you need 50g of carbohydrates before you exercise. We can establish that 1/2 a cup of dry pasta or 75g gives you 50g of carbohydrates from tracking. Once you know this, you're not going to need to track again!
I appreciate this does take a little time and practice, but if you're looking to become more intuitive with what you eat, tracking is one of the best ways to help you do this.
Below are a few familiar sources to highlight what 50g of carbohydrates looks like. Then all you need to do is adjust the portion size to suit the number you've worked out.
Nutrition is a fluid subject where your progress, energy levels and performance will dictate if you need to adjust your carbohydrate portions moving forward, so stay flexible and be ready to make any changes where necessary.