The ideal nutrient to meet a man’s energy needs is carbohydrates. When chosen smartly, carbohydrates feed your brain and nervous system, keep your digestive system fit, and within calorie limits, help keep your body lean.
This all sounds well and good but there’s a problem. Not all carbohydrates are created equal in terms of nutrition. And too many men are making poor carb choices or have drastically reduced the amount their body requires for overall good health. In addition, certain diet fads have demonized all carbohydrates from whole grains to fruit, telling men to eliminate these health-promoting foods from their plate.
While shunning not-so-healthy carbohydrates is advisable for weight loss and dodging chronic diseases, smearing good carbs can actually harm your health and fitness goals.
Before looking at which carbohydrates you should be eating daily, let’s review what a carbohydrate is and how many carbohydrates you need each day.
What is a carbohydrate?
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient – meaning we need them in large amounts – along with protein and fat. Carbohydrates, protein and fat are all energy-yielding or calorie-yielding nutrients with carbohydrates providing 4 calories per gram (same as protein) and fat providing 9 calories per gram.
Our main source of energy is from carbohydrates – that’s its primary job. Every time you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your body revs up breaking carbohydrates down to its smallest component a sugar called glucose that enters the bloodstream. Glucose floats through your vessels waiting to be allowed into the cells of our brain, muscles and all cells of the body providing them energy to function and survive.
If you eliminate or greatly reduce your intake of carbohydrates, your energy levels will tank leaving you feeling exhausted and drained.
How many carbohydrates do men need?
According to the current Dietary Guideline recommendations, 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. However, all men are unique depending on their age and activity level. In general, younger men who often are more physically active, require more calories per day than older men who may be more sedentary.
The best way to determine your specific carbohydrate needs is to first multiply your goal weight or the weight you want to reach or maintain by 12 to 15. If you are young (under age 50), healthy, and physically active, you would use the higher number or 15. For example, if you are a 30-year old athletic man who wants to maintain a weight of 175 pounds, multiply your weight by 15 and your daily caloric need would be 2625.
Once you know your total daily caloric need, it’s time to determine your specific carbohydrates needs per day. Knowing that 45 to 65 percent of your total calories each day should come from carbohydrates, if you require 2625 total calories in a day, then 1180 to 1710 of those calories should come from carbohydrates.
To estimate how many grams of carbs you need from this equation, since carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, this translates to roughly 295 to 428 grams of carbs per day. From here, you can determine how to spread the amount of carbs per meal and snack throughout the day. For example, let’s say you want 20 grams of carbs per snack and you have 3 snacks a day or 60 grams. Subtract 60 from the total carbs your aiming for each day and then divide that number by 3 meals a day to get approximately how many carbs per meal to aim for.
Choosing the best carbohydrates for fueling your body
The amount of carbs you eat each day is important but even more so is choosing quality carbohydrates. You could eat donuts, chips, and French fries along with guzzling sugary sodas all day long fulfilling your carbohydrate needs, but with a price to your health. Simple carbs like these, full of sugar and lacking vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, can lead to excess weight gain and increase risk of inflammatory conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease.
What you want are complex carbohydrates, found in vegetables, whole grains, fruit, milk, lentils, beans, and nuts. Complex carbohydrates are digested slowly with a resultant slowed delay in the amount of glucose absorbed into your bloodstream. When blood sugar and insulin levels are moderate, it leads to less body fat storage. Plus, your gut bacteria or microbiota love complex carbs to feast on over any other type of food source.
Once gut microbiota have completed their feeding, they send short-chain fatty acids into your bloodstream helping lower inflammation while strengthening your immune system.
It’s recommended to eat 30 grams of fiber a day (fiber is only found in plant-based foods) to aid in weight maintenance, feed gut bacteria, reduce constipation, slow spikes of blood glucose, and to create a feeling of fullness. Some of the best foods for fiber include pears, raspberries, apples, nuts, lentils, split peas, beans, chia seeds, and grains such as farro and buckwheat.
Why highly refined carbs should be avoided
All of us have eaten refined carbohydrates – white bread, white rice, cookies, ice cream, pastries – and of course, the ubiquitous plethora of sugary beverages. Doing just the opposite of what complex carbs do, refined carbs will send your blood sugar (glucose) skyrocketing causing your pancreas to work overtime as it spits out large amounts of insulin to correct the sugar overload. Even your gut bacteria react by releasing harmful inflammatory compounds harmful to your health.
If you routinely choose refined carbs over complex carbs, in time you’ll likely have elevated triglyceride levels, liver enzymes, weight gain, and a host of chronic diseases that develop.
Be carb smart by eating a consistent amount of complex carbohydrates every day. These disease-fighting carbs will fuel your body best providing plenty of health-promoting vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Not only will you feel and look healthier, you’ll be ahead of the game in terms of brain, gut, and overall health.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncolo gy and prostate cancer 911.