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- MedlinePlus: Carbohydrates
- MayoClinic.com; Low-Carb Diet; May 2010
- American Dietetic Association: Strength Building and Muscle Mass
- American Dietetic Association: Eat Right for Endurance
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Carbohydrates are the "most important energy source" for your body, according to MedlinePlus. While consuming too few carbohydrates increases your risk for weakness, constipation, nutrient deficiencies and irritability, eating enough, particularly from nutrient-dense sources, enhances overall wellness. Understanding the amount of carbohydrates adults need daily may help you plan an appropriate, health-promoting diet. For best results, seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian.
Basic Minimum Carbohydrates
A healthy diet should consist of at least 45 percent carbohydrates, according to MayoClinic.com, which generally amounts to about 225 g or 900 calories from carbohydrates. For optimum wellness, the bulk of your carbohydrates should derive from nutritious sources, such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Your remaining diet should consist of at least 10 percent protein and at least 20 percent fat.
Carbohydrates for Muscle Building
Carbohydrates help fuel your muscles and help ensure your body does not burn lean tissue for energy. If you do weightlifting or other muscle-building activities, you require more carbohydrates and overall calories than your lighter-weight and less active peers. Carbohydrates should account for half of the daily calories of an adult male who strength trains at least twice per week, advises the American Dietetic Association, which is equal to about 130 g a day.
Carbohydrates for Active Individuals
If you run, bike, swim or participate in other endurance-based physical activities, a carbohydrate-rich diet, with enough calories, is particularly important. If you exercise moderately, the ADA recommends consuming at least 2.3 g of carbohydrate per 1 lb. of body weight per day. Very active people should aim for at least 4.5 g of carbohydrate per 1 lb. of body weight. In other words, if you are extremely active and weigh 150 lbs., your daily diet should contain 675 g of carbohydrate and about 5,000 calories. If you are smaller and moderately active, 150 to 200 g of carbohydrate and 1,600 calories per day may be enough.
Many foods contain carbohydrates, including sweets, breads, cereals, dairy products, vegetables and soft drinks. Choose whole grains over refined grain products, and eat more fruits, vegetables and legumes than sugary and salty snacks, for enhanced nutrient and fiber intake. One slice of whole-wheat bread, 1/2 cup of cooked oats, 1/3 cup of brown rice or whole-grain pasta and 3 cups of popcorn each provide about 15 g of carbohydrate. The same amount can be reaped from 1/2 cup of ice cream or one-quarter of a large bagel.
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