Although carbs are the enemy for many dieters trying to lose weight, carbohydrates should actually make up the largest percentage of your calorie intake. Regardless of your age and gender, your recommended daily percentage of calories that should come from carbs is 45 to 65 percent, according to the Institute of Medicine. Individualized carb requirements are based on your calorie needs.
Women who eat 1,200 calories per day will likely shed pounds. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1,000- to 1,200-calorie diets will help most overweight women lose weight safely and effectively. If you fit into this category and eat about 1,200-calories per day, 45 to 65 percent of your calorie intake equals 135 to 195 grams of carbs each day—since carbs provide 4 calories per gram. Since high-protein diets can help you feel full from fewer calories, aim for closer to 45 percent of your calories from carbs during weight loss, which will allow you to increase your protein intake. A study published in a 2012 edition of “Physiology and Behavior” reports that the "high-protein" component of high-protein, low-carb diets determines weight loss success, not the carb content.
Eating 1,600 calories per day could help you lose or maintain weight, depending on your age and activity level. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that active overweight women and women who weigh more than 164 pounds can lose weight following 1,200- to 1,600-calorie plans. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 estimate that sedentary women over 50 require about 1,600 calories per day to maintain their body weight. If you’re currently eating a 1,600-calorie diet, you need 180 to 260 grams of carbs per day, which is 45 to 65 percent of your calorie intake.
The majority of women within a healthy weight range need about 2,000 calories per day to maintain their physique. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, a 2,000-calorie diet is appropriate for sedentary women ages 19 to 30, moderately active women ages 19 to 50 and active women over 50; active women ages 19 to 30 need about 2,400 calories a day. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, aim for 225 to 325 grams of carbohydrates, which is 45 to 65 percent of your calorie intake.
Carbs in Foods
To help meet your daily carb goals and keep lost weight off for good, choose healthy carbs and avoid the bad carbs. Nutrient-rich, healthy carbs are found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, nuts and seeds. Eating too many bad carbs—otherwise known as refined sugars and refined grains—can lead to weight gain, according to PubMed Health. Examples of carbs to limit or avoid include table sugar, sodas, other sugary drinks, candy, desserts, pastries, white bread, white rice and foods made with white flour.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- Physiology and Behavior: Relatively High-Protein or 'Low-Carb' Energy-Restricted Diets for Body Weight Loss and Body Weight Maintenance
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- PubMed Health: Carbohydrates
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.