Carbs have been given a bad reputation over the years, undeservingly. Like all food, carbs can work really well for some people, and not so great for others. It really depends on the person, your body type, how many carbs your body can handle, and what your hormones are doing. This includes your insulin hormone, as well as your sex hormones. All vegetables and fruit have carbs in them to some degree, so carbs can’t be the devil; Mother Nature would not have got that so wrong!
There are three types of somatic types that all people fall into. Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. A somatic type is your body’s skeletal and muscular structure.
Has long thing muscle fibers and bones and tend to handle higher levels of carbs than any of the other somatic types. A typical ectomorph has a similar frame as say a marathon runner. Their shoulders tend to be wider than their hips.
Can usually handle 50-60% of total calories as carbs.
Has medium length muscle fibers and bones and tends to handle an even distribution of all three macros (protein, fats and carbs). A typical mesomorph has a similar frame as say a sprinter. Their shoulders and hips tend to be even width with a smaller waist. Think hourglass.
Can usually handle 30-40% of total calories as carbs.
Has short muscle fibers and bones and tends to handle much less carbs than the other somatic types and actually does better with higher fats than carbs. These people tend to do amazing on a high fat low carb or Keto diet. Think Olympic lifter frame. Their shoulders, waist and hips all tend to be the same width.
Can usually handle less than 20% of total calories as carbs.
The first thing to take into consideration is your somatic type. Where do you fall when measuring your shoulders, waist and hips?
This is not an exclusive assessment. This is part of your assessments in determining your level of carb intake. Let’s have a look at a few other things to consider.
Ladies, your age needs to be considered:
When I talk about age, I am mainly referring to where you are in your menstrual life span in line with your age. That is, are you in your childbearing years, perimenopausal, premenopausal or post-menopausal?
You will tend to need higher levels of carbs than the other stages to help with the extra energy you need for raising young children. Your somatic type at this stage of life, will play a bigger part on whether or not your body can handle carbs and how many. As will your activity levels.
Tends to start from about 35 years for some women, though more commonly around 40, and lasts about 10-15 years.
At this stage of your life, you will need around the same level of carbs as you will in your childbearing years as you are still able to child bear at this stage. The carbs will also help with maintaining your thyroid function and adrenal function, which can often start to have dysfunctions during perimenopause. This is due to the fluctuations in your sex hormones at this stage of life.
As such, allow your somatic type to help guide you more when determining what level of carbohydrates your body can cope with.
Pre and Post Menopause:
Premenopausal is the stage where your period starts to come further and further apart. This is usually around 1-5 years before menopause.
Menopause, or post menopause, is the stage where it has been at least 12 months since a period.
During both of these stages, your body will perform better on less carbs. This is because your progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone are reducing vastly, until they drop completely in menopause. The drop in these hormones increases stress on your body causing an increase in production of the hormone insulin. Insulin’s role is to remove glucose from your blood. When your body is stressed for whatever reason, your cells secrete glucose out of the cell into the blood to be used as a quick source of energy. Stress for your body is when your body goes into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means it prepares to either fight a predator or flee from them. Therefore it needs energy.
If this glucose is not used, since you are not really fighting or fleeing, it is then either returned to the cells as stored glucose or converted to fat and stored around the body.
When your hormones are fluctuating and dropping as they do at this stage of life, you are in constant stress. Add to that the extra stresses of life, you will find your insulin levels elevating more and more. This increases the risk of insulin resistance and possibly even diabetes type 2.
Furthermore, your metabolism tends to also reduce at this stage in life, as does your energy levels and mood. This means you tend to burn less energy and so require less energy.
Put all of this together, and it results in the need for far less carbohydrates than you once needed and could cope with. As such, it is ideal then to determine your somatic type and then consume carbs in line with the next somatic type that has the lower level of carbs.
For example, if you are an Ectomorph, then consume carbs as though you were a Mesomorph. If you are a Mesomorph, consume carbs as though you are an Endomorph. If you are an Endomorph, you will tend to need even less carbs, so generally under 10% of total calories.
Carbs are not the devil. Some people cope better than others with higher levels. It is however important to determine what you can handle to help you with your body composition goals, your fat loss goals and your health.
For an accurate assessment on how many carbs your body can handle, participate in our Nutrition Coaching Program, where we assess a variety of things including the above, amongst a few others. We will then be able to give you a breakdown of your required macros for your specific body. If you would like more information on this, send us a message.
- Coach Terri