Episode 61: How To Adjust Your Macronutrient Percentages When Increasing Carbohydrate Intake

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Thanks for joining us for episode 61 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show!

Today we are answering the following question from a listener:

“Hey Laura and Kelsey. In a recent podcast you mention trying a higher carb diet for a bit to improve symptoms and possibly even encourage weight loss. If you have someone who’s been on a lower carb diet, where do you typically recommend starting with macro percentages? I know the point is simply to not be so afraid of carbs, but if you were diving deeper to see if mixing up macros would help, where would you start?”

You’ve most likely heard us talk about the benefits of switching from a low carb diet to a moderate or higher carb diet. But you may be left wondering how to start making what may feel like pretty significant transition. Often there’s uncertainty about how much carbohydrate to add back in to your diet as well as concerns about the physical and mental adjustment involved.

If you are working with clients, or are somebody who is are unsure about transitioning yourself from a low carb diet, you’ll definitely want to listen to today’s podcast.

Join us today we discuss the importance of individuality in determining macronutrient ratios, give general guidelines of how to make the adjustment to eating more carbohydrates, and share why it’s important to allow your body to acclimate to any significant dietary change.

Here’s what Laura and Kelsey will be discussing in this episode:

  • General recommendations for percentage of calories from carbohydrates based on Laura and Kelsey’s experience increasing carbs in their client’s diets
  • The importance of individualization when it comes to calculating appropriate macro percentages
  • Pros and cons of either slowly increasing carbs in your diet or quickly making the switch to a higher carb diet
  • Importance of giving your body time to acclimate to significant changes in your diet
  • The double standard involved in switching the percentage of carbs in your diet
  • The physical and mental challenges associated with the transition to increasing carbs in your diet
  • The importance of adjusting fat percentage along with carbs when the goal is weight loss
  • Why it can be helpful to work with a nutrition professional to guide you through transitioning to a higher carb diet
  • Sources of carbohydrates that will allow you to reach your carb goals on a whole foods diet
  • How a moderate to higher carb diet tends to work better than a low carb diet  for the majority of people

Links Discussed:

  • – Use the code AncestralRDs for a 15% discount off your first order of Kettle and Fire bone broth!


Laura: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 61 of the Ancestral RDs Podcast. I’m Laura Schoenfeld and over there is Kelsey Marksteiner.

Kelsey: Hey guys.

Laura: So Kelsey, I hear that you have recently joined a different gym than you were working out at the last time we talked about it. So how’s that been going?

Kelsey: It’s been going great actually. So just a little bit of background for those who haven’t been keeping up with my life details, I was in Massachusetts in the earlier part of this year and when I was there I started working pretty much one on one with a coach in the area to learn how to start power lifting. I’ve never really done any of it before so that was a really experience. It was awesome to work one on one with someone who is looking at my form and all that good stuff.

Then when I came back to New York, I was actually having a fairly difficult time finding a place to do power lifting because a lot of the places that have the type of equipment I needed were more like CrossFit gyms. There weren’t just gyms that had the equipment but were open to people doing other stuff other than CrossFit. For me I just wasn’t super interested in doing CrossFit. So that’s what I was looking for.

I ended up just doing an open gym membership locally to me where I just went in and did stuff on my own. And I did that for a month and I kind of realized that I really needed more help than that because granted it was only a month, but I didn’t feel like I was necessarily progressing and I was just kind of like doing whatever I thought I should be doing. But in truth I had no idea what I should be doing.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: In the last couple weeks I’ve been at a new gym which opened up recently actually in my area. I think it’s been open maybe for two months. I wish I had discovered it earlier, but I recently discovered it and joined. It is kind of a team atmosphere, so there’s a weight lifting group and a power lifting group. At least for now I’m in the power lifting group. Weight lifting is a little frightening to me at the moment.

Laura: Wait. Weight lifting is frightening?

Kelsey: Yes, like Olympic weight lifting.

Laura: Oh okay.

Kelsey: Sorry.

Laura: I was like wait, I’m confused.

Kelsey: Yeah, so that is a little too gymnastic for me at the moment. But it looks fun. Maybe I would do it at some point in the future, but for now I’m sticking to power lifting.

So there’s two groups and there’s an eight week program for people who are kind of just starting, AKA me. That was really appealing to me because I definitely feel like I know some stuff and my form is pretty good on all of these things, but I certainly feel like I can use a lot more help in improving my numbers on these lifts that I’ve done and just consistently working on form. Because for me, I can hyper extend a lot of my joints really easily, so I tend to be over extended in a lot of my lifts and I need someone to tell me that because I can’t feel it. That’s been helpful to just have someone there to tell me that I’m doing that or just little fixes that you would never know yourself.

It’s been nice to have a community as well to work with. And there’s other women, which is awesome. It’s not like a total meat head gym either, which is exciting. And it’s great to see people who are way better than me too. The weight lifting group, the Olympic weight lifting group, will come in a little bit later than my group comes in and I kind of see them warming up and doing some of their lifts, and I’m like wow! You guys are awesome! I only hope that I can be like you someday. It’s just really inspiring to see that. I’m a competitive person by nature, so it helps me to kind of get motivated to get to that level at some point in my future, even know it’ll probably take me a long time to get there.

Laura: That’s cool.

Kelsey: Yeah, it’s been really fun to have that community, and have people to talk to in between lifts because you have a good amount of down time as you’re resting, and get to know people that live close to me and are interested in the same kind of things that I am, and then have a great coach who’s like been really, really helpful for me in terms of making sure my form is good and that I’m on a good progression to get where I want to be.

Laura: Yeah, it’s funny, my trainer has been out of town the last week, and he’ll be out of town for three total weeks.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: Yeah and then it’s like July 4th is when he’ll be back around that time. So I think we’re actually going to be off for like a full month.

Kelsey: Wow.

Laura: Which it’s funny, I already feel like I’m like slacking already with my workouts because I don’t have as much motivation because I don’t have somebody else telling me what to do. But I can totally understand what you’re saying when you said that you were kind of just going in there a little aimlessly doing whatever by yourself.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I’ve noticed that even though I know exactly what I could do, and it’s not that I don’t do stuff, I just definitely don’t have the same level of focus and intensity as I would with my trainer. So on one hand, yeah, I can stay healthy and keep moving and stuff on my own. I don’t need a trainer to do that. But on the other hand as far as making significant progress and hitting PRs or doing things like chin ups that I wouldn’t have thought I could do, all that stuff I don’t think on my own I would’ve been able to accomplish.

I defianatly understand the benefit of having someone there to kind of give you a plan and also make sure that you’re doing things in a way that’s safe because I think when you get into some of this heavier stuff and form becomes really important, you don’t want to be risking an injury just because you’re trying to do something that’s not in the right manner to keep yourself safe.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Knock wood, I’ve only had one moderate injury…well only actually one injury while I’ve been training for the last year. Honestly, it wasn’t even from the workout. It was from me slipping a little bit when I was doing some TRX stuff and my head bobbing and basically reactivating my whiplash injury that I got in my car accident last year. So had it not been for that car accident, that movement would have not injured me. I literally just like bounced a little bit and it just for whatever reason made my head go forward in a way that totally re-strained all those muscles.

Kelsey: Yikes.

Laura: Which that stinks, but I will say the fact that I’ve done so much other pretty intense exercise while I’ve been there indicates to me that the level of safety involved in the workouts that I’m doing with a trainer because he’s making sure I’m not doing anything either poor form, or just not correct as far as what the movement is, or not pushing myself to do something that’s too hard, it’s allowed for a lot of progress without injury which I think should be a primary goal for a lot of people to get more athletic without hurting themselves.

Kelsey: Sounds so simple when you say it like that, Laura.

Laura: I know, it’s amazing that that’s not on more people’s minds when they’re working out. But it sounds like you’re in a really great spot where you don’t necessarily need the one on one stuff, which you saying that you’re competitive is funny because I am very self-competitive. So If I’m in a group, I start to feel really bad about my abilities if I’m with people that are a lot better than me.

Kelsey: Oh really?

Laura: Yeah, and then I’ll end up pushing myself too hard and getting injured because I’m like trying to keep up with people who are better than me.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: So I actually really like the one on one environment because then I can just worry about my own progress, and my own challenge, and thinking okay what’s challenging for me? Not what’s challenging for other people. It’s just a good example of where different environments can be good for different personality types because maybe for you being around other people is inspiring whereas for me being around other super fit people makes me feel like I need to be that fit.

Kelsey: Right. I can definitely see that. There’s definitely a piece of me that sort of has those thoughts as well. Well it’s kind of weird because I’m the only beginner that’s like started really recently because there’s a group that I’ve been working with who are at the end of their eight week progression. So they’re doing their mock meet next week, which is exciting.

But it’s amazing to just kind of see even what just eight weeks can do because I was talking to one of the women that was there, and I’m like man, I’m not doing anything near where you are, and she’s like it’s kind of amazing how far you come in eight weeks. I’m looking forward to that and it just is a testament I think to really only worrying about yourself and kind of looking to other people as what is possible and not necessarily thinking, oh my God, I need to be there now.

Laura: I know.

Kelsey: But you have to remind yourself of it all the time. It’s really easy to fall into like, I should be doing that right now, what’s wrong with me?

Laura: Yeah, and I used to be an athlete in college so my level of fitness has been…well I don’t know…I think fitness is a difficult term to define. I feel like I was more fit in college because of the amount of exercise I was doing. I probably was better, well I was certainly better at volleyball when I was on the volleyball team. I mean I do think that my fitness level right now is pretty good. It’s not as high as I’d like it to be, but part of that is just priorities. But it is something that when you’ve been that fit in the past as an athlete, it’s almost like you’re like I used to be that fit, I should be there again.

I want to say it’s been almost like ten years since I was on the volleyball team so I should really be giving myself a break because considering I’m ten years older and I’m sure even if I was exercising for two hours a day, six days a week, I would not be as fit as I was when I was 19. But it can be a little discouraging when you feel like not only are you comparing yourself to other people, but you’re comparing yourself to what you used to be. That’s something I definitely struggle with is comparison-itis where I’m just like I need to be…I don’t need to be the best, I just need to feel like I’m as good as I should be.

Kelsey: Right, right.

Laura: Which I guess is a difficult…there’s not much of a line between those two goals.

Kelsey: Yeah, definitely.

Laura: But I do think being able to make progress consistently, and seeing the progress that you’ve made, and realizing that things are working and moving in a good direction that it takes some of the pressure off of being at a certain destination and it makes you feel like okay, this is worth it, I’m seeing progress, I’m not just puttering around in the gym not knowing what I’m doing.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So it can be very helpful.

Kelsey: What I’ve learned is there’s definitely something to be said for programing, having someone come up with a plan for you to move forward and make sure you’re actually progressing. Whereas for me, I don’t know anything about that stuff. So going into a gym for a month I’m like okay, I guess I’m going to do squats and deadlifts today, and we’ll add a little bit of weight from last time. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. That’s the general gist of course of what you’re always going to be doing. There’s different numbers of reps and numbers of sets that make a difference and I don’t know any of that crap.

It’s really great to have somebody else kind of know what’s worked for other people and be able to work with me to make sure that I’m always moving forward. Whereas on my own, I mean like I said, I just felt like I wasn’t really moving in a good direction necessarily.

Laura: Or you’re just stagnating.

Kelsey: Yeah, exactly.

Laura: Yeah, I’m hopefully going to get to the gym today and I’m thinking we’ll see if I can push myself to a normal workout level. I mean I don’t know, it’s kind of good to have some time off I think here and there from heavier training amounts, but a month is a long time.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Hopefully I don’t lose all my fitness because I’m also going to be out of town for part of that and I don’t think I’m going to be able to work out other than walking and maybe some yoga when I’m there. So we’ll see if I lose all my muscles by the time my trainer’s back.

Kelsey: Oh boy. You’ll be fine, Laura. I think it’s probably good like you said to get that, even if it’s not a full break, but it’s easier than usual. I think that probably makes sense every once and a while.

Laura: Yeah, a little bit of a deload.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Usually you don’t do a month long deload, but whatever, I can handle it as long as I don’t lose a lot of fitness. I’m sure I won’t be making any significant progress while my trainer is out of town, but I think I can maintain.

Kelsey: Yeah. That’s all you can ask, right?

Laura: We’ll see how it happens.

Kelsey: Cool. Well before we jump into our question for today, here is a word from our sponsor.

Alright. So our question for today is:

“Hey Laura and Kelsey. In a recent podcast you mention trying a higher carb diet for a bit to improve symptoms and possibly even encourage weight loss. If you have someone who’s been on a lower carb diet, where do you typically recommend starting with macro percentages? I know the point is simply to not be so afraid of carbs, but if you were diving deeper to see if mixing up macros would help, where would you start?”

Laura: This is great question and there’s no perfect answer because every single client is going to be different, and actually the woman who asked this question is a Dietician who I’m friends with. So I know that’s she’s been working with some patients trying to increase their carb intake, especially ones that are doing lower carb for weight loss and not seeing the weight loss that they were hoping for.

There’s a lot of different types of people that might want to increase their carb intake for a variety of different reasons. When I’m working with someone who’s pretty active and they’re either stuck with their weight loss goals, or they’re performance is dragging, or whatever reason that we think that carbs might be helpful for them, maybe they’re a woman who’s not menstruating. There’s a lot of different reasons why increased carb intake could be helpful for someone.

Just as like a ballpark percentage that I would start with with a lot of my clients, normally I’m going to go about 40% of calories from carbs. It’s very arbitrary, there’s no magic to the number 40% and honestly I don’t know if 40% is a place I would have somebody stop at either.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But, generally when someone’s been on low carb diet for a while, going up to higher than 40% is really, really hard especially if they’re eating Paleo type carbohydrates, like vegetables.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: And when I say vegetables I mean like root vegetables, not broccoli or something. Or fruit or maybe some natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. Or some gluten free grains like rice, or buckwheat, or even quinoa, or something like that. I generally start at about 40% as the goal. What about you?

Kelsey: I tend to go a little bit lower and that’s probably because I’m working with a different population than you are. I usually start somewhere between like 30 and 35, but again, totally arbitrary. It’s just a starting place and oftentimes that’s the sort of initial goal, but it takes us a long time to get there anyway because some are starting from a way lower point than that. And I don’t typically, especially with digestive clients, have them jump from 15% or whatever to 30 or 35 because that on an already sensitive digestive system can feel like way too much of a change. It has nothing to do really with like them being sensitive to carbohydrates or something like that. It’s just that there was a huge change and their gut couldn’t handle it. So I find that that jump can kind of scare people off of a higher carb diet sometimes, especially if they are a digestive client. I typically give them that goal number to start with and just say let’s kind of get you there first and then we’ll move from there.

But typically, I mean really what it ends up being is just starting from where you are, slowly working your way up over time until things start to not feel good and then you know you’ve kind of gone a little bit over board, or there’s something else going on that we need to take a look at, or something. That makes it sound super simple, and it’s not for a lot of people. But in general, there’s no perfect number for anybody. Like you said before, it’s going to be really different for everybody depending on what they’re doing, what conditions they are dealing with, etc. Really it’s just a matter of slowly increasing overtime until things don’t feel good.

Laura: Yeah. Well, just to play devil’s advocate, I’ve actually worked with some clients…and these are ones that don’t have gut issues, so just keep this in mind…that we actually don’t do any sort of slow transition. We just do a light switch kind of approach.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: And we’ll go to a 40% carbs diet immediately and not do any sort of transitional period. The only reason for that is a lot of these people that I am having do this are people that are pretty active and I find that if you’re starting to increase carbs to slowly and you’re super active, you can actually kind of cause blood sugar issues. Because if you go up from really low carb to a little bit of carbs so that you’re getting enough of an insulin response that you’re kind of getting out of the ketosis or fat burning zone, but you’re getting enough carbs to really replace the amount of energy or the glucose you’ve used for the workout, then they end up having issues with low blood sugar, or just feeling hungry all the time, or whatever kind of symptoms would come from that.

If somebody doesn’t have a gut issue that’s preventing them from tolerating carbohydrates in that way, honestly I just go right for it, assuming that they are willing to do that.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Which I’ve had some people who have been better about it than others.  I have a client right now who I have never seen someone so incredibly accurate with their food diary and also hitting macros. It’s astounding. I’ve never ever seen someone, she’s within like one gram of each macronutrient every day.

Kelsey: Wow!

Laura: I’m like that’s insane, I don’t know how you do that. That’s crazy.

But she just went straight for it and didn’t have any problems making the transition. She didn’t see the benefits immediately, but I think it took her body some time to get used to the different fuel sources that were available.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But now her performance is starting to improve, she’s starting to see some benefits in her workouts. One of her goals is fat loss and she hasn’t seen any change in her weight yet, but I actually think that’s kind of a good sign.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: If you go from almost a no carb diet to I think her goal is like 250 grams a day of carbs, and she just made that switch, a lot of people will gain a little bit of weight from that. Maybe it’s because she’s so incredibly precise about not eating too much fat and eating carbs instead.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Her calorie intakes hasn’t really changed necessarily. But I was sort of surprised that her weight didn’t change at all on that level of switch. Now we going to try to tweak okay, do we need to go down in calories? Up in calories?

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: What’s the story with not losing any body fat yet as far as we know. Of course the question is did she gain glycogen and lose body fat, is her weight stagnant?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Hard to tell sometimes. But I think the fact that her performance is improving and her weight hasn’t changed is actually a good thing. That’s an example of someone who was able to just, like I said, almost like flip a light switch over to a higher carb, lower fat diet.

Kelsey: Yeah, and I mean I would say digestive clients are probably the minority here. If you have anything else going on other than digestive stuff, you probably can just make that quick switch, and like you mentioned, it’s probably a better idea to do that if it’s possible, if there’s not kind of mental blocks preventing you from making that really quick change. But for digestive people, yeah, definitely…or at least maybe work with someone to help you determine if a quick switch is going to be okay or if you should take it slow.

Laura: Yeah and it’s funny because I feel like when people recommend doing like a Whole 30 or a Paleo challenge, or something, nobody…I mean I shouldn’t say nobody…I feel like going from a higher carb to a low carb diet immediately is never really given that same level of caution.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: I know people will say oh you’re going to have the low carb flu, or you’ll feel like garbage for a week or something, or longer. I’ll say this to clients, I’m like how come it’s okay to feel like crap when you’re switching from high carb to low carb? But if you’re going the opposite direction and you don’t feel 100% percent perfect, everyone thinks that’s a sign that you don’t tolerate carbs.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s a little bit of a double standard when it comes to switching macronutrients and why dropping carbs and feeling like crap for the first two weeks is normal, but coming back onto a higher carb approach and having any sort of issues is, like I said, a sign.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I don’t know. I feel like maybe that’s just because people are so aware of the health effects of a short term switch over to the low carb approach.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But I think people need to kind of be willing to stick it out when they’re making these changes because a lot of times any time you radically change your diet, you’re going to see some weird symptoms potentially.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Unless you have an iron stomach, and in that case you probably don’t need a dietician to be helping you. So it’s just something to remember that it’s a process of picking a somewhat arbitrary, like Kelsey and I were saying, 30-40% of calories from carbs is kind of an arbitrary starting point.

And also, okay, are you starting at a diet that’s 20% carbs and you‘re going up to 40? Or are you staring at like 7% of your calories are carbs and you’re going to 30? Where you’re starting is going to make a big impact on where you’re going to switch to if you’ve been on a really, really low carb diet and you just want to get to like a moderate carb diet, whereas some people are just lower carb and they want to be on a moderate to high carb Paleo type diet. That’s going to really impact where the starting point is.

I think we were talking earlier about the process of adding carbs back in as being not only sometimes physically challenging, but it can also be mentally challenging for a lot of people.

Kelsey: Definitely.

Laura: It just depends why they were on the low carb diet in the first place as to what prevents them from wanting to add carbs in. I know for a lot of my clients, it’s that they lost weight on a low carb diet and they’re terrified that they’re going to gain all this weight back if they start eating carbs again. I’d assume your’s are more digestive related.

Kelsey: Yeah, mostly when they at least first started doing Paleo, or first started doing GAPS, or something like that, they noticed some benefits. But then over time things have gotten a lot worse, but they’re afraid to go back to carbs because that was part of what helped them in the beginning to take those out. Or they tried some carbs in the meantime and their digestive system doesn’t respond kindly to it, which is somewhat to be expected.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: We’ve talked about that before and you really do need to just give your body some time to acclimate to different sources of fuel coming in. So, yeah, mostly digestive related.

Laura: Sometimes blood sugar though, I’ve seen that happen before where people…and it’s funny because sometimes I think things that are completely normal are actually pathological. So they’ll say well, I was never hungry before and now I’m hungry like two or three hours after eating. I’m like that’s normal!

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You’re supposed to be a little hungry if you haven’t eaten for three hours. Which I think in the Paleo community, especially low carb Paleo, it’s like hunger is some sign of your diet not being normal, or good, or something.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But, yeah, I mean there is the potential for, especially if they’re under eating and they’re also switching to higher carb, that can be a big problem. I’ve seen it happen for a lot of my clients where they’re already kind of struggling with the idea of adding more of everything back in, like calories, carbohydrates, that kind of stuff. So maybe they’ll add carbs in but they’re still restricting total calories. I find that it’s easier to maintain an under nourishing from a calorie perspective diet if you’re low carb because you don’t have that hunger the way that you do when you’re eating more carbs.

Kelsey: Definitely.

Laura: Which I think is actually probably a good thing if you’re under eating and your body is suddenly like, actually, we want more food.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: But it can be kind of hard and that can be a little bit scary for people who are hoping to see improved health with the switch. But I work with a lot of people who have this thought in their head that carbs are what make people fat and if they’ve either lost weight on low carb, or they want to lose weight, the idea of eating more carbs can be really aversive. I mean it’s almost like the way 20 years ago telling someone who wanted to lose weight that they need to eat more fat would be like you’re crazy.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s just one of things that we don’t just hand someone a meal plan and eat 40% of your calories from carbs and then come back to me in two weeks. It’s more like where are they at? What are they willing to do? What does that transition look like? What’s reasonable for them to switch to right now? Because like I said I had that one client who is incredibly disciplined and will just eat whatever I tell her to eat, and has absolutely no…or as far as I can tell…has no emotional issues with making the switch, and is just looking to experiment.

Then I’ve had other clients that the thought of adding carbs back in is just terrifying and it’s a process to even get them to try it. That’s something that you definitely have to think about if you’re working with a client. And if you are the person that’s struggling with the concept of eating more carbs, then trying to jump up to a 40-50% of calories from carbs diet immediately may not work so well for you.

Kelsey: Right, and you also have to think about…and this depends on your goals of course…but especially if you are thinking about weight loss, it’s not always only about adding carbohydrates. Other things will need to change often as well.

Laura: Yes.

Kelsey: And that if you’re eating a generally calorically appropriate diet at the time. If you’re under eating, yeah, you can just add carbs and that can bring you up to the right amount of calories that you’re supposed to be eating. But if you’re eating around the amount of calories that you should be and your goal now is to just increase the percentage of your calories coming from carbohydrates, there’s got to be a decrease in, and this is usually how it works, decrease in fat that you’re eating. What percentage of your calories are coming from fat in your diet?

That’s really, really easy to overlook, especially if you’re coming from a super low carb diet or a Paleo type of diet. Because most people that have been doing that for some amount of time, it’s just super easy to eat fat especially when now you’ve kind of been ingrained that fat is really good, you don’t have to worry about calories from fat because your body will just tell you magically when you had enough. But a lot of times that’s not necessarily true because we were talking about before how when you’re on a low carb diet that message with your appetite signaling and everything anyway.

There’s just a lot of factors that go into what your body decides is enough calories, and when you’re full, and all that. So it can be a little hard when you’re now switching those macronutrients ratios pretty significantly. And if you’re used to eating a lot of fat, or just not worrying about fat in general…and I guess I don’t want to say not worrying about it, but just not concerned with how much you’re eating of it at all…it can be very easy to then over eat on fat a little bit as you increase carbs and then start to think about decreasing your fat intake.

Laura: Yeah, and if somebody is trying to lose weight and they’re eating enough calories but they’re just super low carb, and they’re not seeing progress, and they want to switch, then just adding carbs is probably going to send them in the other direction as far as their weight is concerned.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It can be hard, because again, if you’re making that slow transition, then it’s almost like an science experiment of dropping fat a little and adding a little more carbs, which is one reason that I like the light switch approach where you’re just like okay, here’s your new carb goals, here’s your new fat goals. And the fat is usually like half of what they were eating before and they’re just like, what? Which I mean honestly most of that comes from added fat.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: A lot of people, like you said, are just adding coconut oil, or butter, or whatever to everything including hot liquids or beverages.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: If you cut out a couple tablespoons of fat from you’re coffee in the morning and your salad if you do one tablespoon of olive oil instead of three or something, you’d be surprised how quickly you can drop the amount the total amount down. But like you said, if it’s a habit of adding fat or if you have bacon and sausage every morning because you love it, which is definitely a higher fat meat, that’s where some of these things need to be adjusted while you’re also increasing your carbs.

It’s not just add carbs and that’s high carb. It’s like if you’re talking about percentages and you’re increasing the percentage of your calories from carbohydrate, either protein or fat has to come down to accommodate the increase, and generally most people don’t need to reduce their protein intake.

Kelsey: Right. Yeah. I mean it’s really ingrained a lot of times, at least in my clients. And I agree that that light switch approach can be useful if you can do it because then you don’t have to worry about that transition phase which can be super confusing. You’re just like, okay, I’m increasing carbs a little bit and then I’m supposed to decrease fat like sort of the same amount I’m increasing carbs. I mean it’s hard, you know?

Laura: Yeah.

Kelsey: You have to really kind of track things pretty closely, which in the case of your client I guess wouldn’t be a problem. But a lot of times it’s just easier from a practical standpoint to just kind of jump to the levels that we think we should at least start from.

Laura: And I only use that client as an example as being like that is the most accurate I’ve ever seen anyone ever be in my entire life.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: So it’s almost like a standard, but it’s not normal as far what most people can do.

Kelsey: Right, of course.

Laura: So I wouldn’t want someone to think that they have to be as completely accurate as this one client of mine is to have progress. I’ve had a lot of people that simply just aimed for certain amount of carbs, and maybe they were like 20 grams off of what the goal was, but they went from having 120 grams a day to 200 grams a day, and that can make a really big difference for people.

I think for most people it’s some kind of mental transition. Usually there’s some level of concern, or confusion, or old habits that need to be broken when they’re making the change. But it really just depends on the person whether the slow increase or the 100% change to the higher carb intake is going to be a better choice for them.

Honestly there’s no perfect answer there. I think it really depends on the mental state of the person doing it, the reasons that they want to switch, the reasons that they went off carbs in the first place, because people just go low carb accidentally.

Kelsey: Yep.

Laura: And they didn’t even mean to. So it’s like they didn’t have a reason to be on low carb in the first place, and now they’re like actually I think this is a problem.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: Really just understanding what the reasoning is for the low carb in the first place was, and then making the switch however is appropriate, and making sure that some of that fat calories are being replaced by the carb calories. And it’s not just like I’m going to have bulletproof coffee and I’m going to have two sweet potatoes for breakfast or something like that.

Kelsey: Right, right. Exactly. I’m like giggling to myself a little bit because this question is looking for some specific numbers and it’s just so hard to give specific numbers for something like this because like we’ve been talking about, everybody’s different. Everybody’s goals are different too.

If you’re an athlete and you’re trying to improve your function as an athlete, you may do awesome with well over like 50% of calories coming from carbohydrates, whereas somebody else probably simply doesn’t need that amount if they’re not doing that amount of work that you are. And so if your end goal is somewhere like 60% calories coming from carbs, I mean 30% of the starting point is really low. You would probably start higher, if not just do the light switch approach and go straight to 60%.

You really do have to, especially it sounds like this person is a Dietician so they’re working with clients, you really do have to assess what this person is all about. What is their lifestyle? What’s going on with them? And make an educated decision based on that.

And if you are the client yourself, or if you’re trying to figure this out for yourself, I don’t want to say it’s difficult because it doesn’t have to be. You can just sort of continuously increase your carbohydrates and see what feels good. But if you do need help, if you feel like there’s some mental anxiety around carbohydrates, it can be hard to figure out on your own what feels good because you’ve got this negative view of carbs in general.

Laura: Yeah. I mean with this client that is doing really well as far as following the guidelines, there was period of time where she was feeling concerned because some of her friends were questioning what she was doing. I think she was like mentally on board with it and now I feel like she is way more on board than it was in the beginning. But there was a period of time there that she was like I don’t know, should I really be doing this, are you sure?

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: Doing it on your own, it’s not just that you don’t know how to do it, it’s also just like having somebody to guide you through the process and also reassure you that yes, this is normal. Because sometimes, like I said, you might have some negative symptoms at first that you’re like, I don’t know, is this a sign that I’m not supposed to be eating high carb? Or is this just a short term adjustment period? Is it normal that I’m feeling more tired after my meals?

It’s like, I don’t know, it’s almost like what we were talking about with the update about the exercise. It’s like yeah, you can kind of do stuff on your own and figure it out or whatever, but you’re not going to necessarily make as good progress and you may not really feel comfortable doing things that are a little scary because you don’t know how it’s going to turn out if you don’t have somebody there that’s like, no, you’ll be fine, just do it.

Kelsey: Right. It’s like having a spotter when you’re lifting weights.

Laura: Exactly.

Kelsey: You just feel more comfortable taking that risk, and a lot of times just taking the risk, like you’re able to do it, but because you have that mental comfort of knowing that there’s someone there to catch you if things go bad.

Laura: Yeah, exactly. So with adding carbs back in, if you’re doing it on your own, we’re not saying you can’t do it on your own. There’s plenty of people that are able to manipulate their dietary intake very easily by themselves. But if you’re struggling with either fear around it, or confusion, or feeling like I don’t know if this is normal that I’m experiencing this as I’ve been adding carbs back in, or if you don’t even know if you’re a person that needs to add carbs back in, that’s where having someone to help you can be really important. I can’t even tell you how many people I’ve talked to that had absolutely no idea that they were not eating that many carbs.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Which is sometimes hard to believe, but I think there’s just this huge misunderstanding in the Paleo community that certain foods are high carb, that if you have one sweet potato a day, it feels like oh I’m eating a lot of carbs.

Kelsey: Right. I know. I’ve asked people that, of course I try to get a sense of how many carbs people are eating. They’re like, oh I feel like I eat a good amount of carbs, I eat like a half a sweet potato four times a week. I’m like, what? But you’re right, it’s just this skewed view of what is a lot of carbohydrate.

Laura: Yeah. I mean it’s almost if somebody says, oh I eat a high fat diet, I have one egg yolk every day and I use a tablespoon of olive oil when I’m cooking.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: It’s like, no, that’s not high fat. So it’s just weird because it’s like on one hand I hate that we have to be so scientific about this stuff and that we even have to think about our macronutrients. But on the other hand, there’s just so much confusion and people tend to latch on to more fad diet type approaches and those diet approaches sometimes, well I shouldn’t say sometimes, its’ almost always over simplify things.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s really easy to avoid carbs, and if somebody tells you that carbohydrates make you fat, or cause diabetes or something, then you have a lot of motivation to avoid them.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: So if somebody comes in and says no, they’re not going to cause either of those things, and they’re actually really good for you, and you need them to help deal with this health issue you’re struggling with, if you’re super open minded, then yeah maybe it’s an easy switch. But if you’re like most people and you already have a dietary philosophy that you’ve been bought into for a while, even if you know deep down that it’s not working, it’s not like oh, of course I’m going to eat more carbs, easy peasy.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: I mean I even struggled with it when I was trying to transition to a higher carb approach and I think sometimes I still will accidentally go low carb if I’m not really making an effort to include carbs.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: It’s not like a night and day change where it’s like, oh I’m on high carb diet now and now I’m just eating carbs. There’s a lot of habit involved, and there’s a lot of background noise from all the Paleo blogs, and all the nutrition philosophy, and all that stuff that can impact your decisions even if you’re not purposefully choosing to be low carb.

So just being aware of what you’re doing, and being able to experiment with the higher intake, and just seeing okay, how does this affect how I feel, or how I’m performing in the gym, or how I’m sleeping, or what my energy levels are, whatever the parameters that you’re trying to see progress in. And just give yourself time. Don’t expect to see massive shifts within days of starting this new diet.

Kelsey: Right. Remember when you started a low carb diet, maybe you experienced that “low carb flu,” or you just didn’t feel as great when you first started that. Not that you’re necessarily going to not feel as great as you currently are when you increase carbs, but your body is responding to something that’s really different from what you’ve been doing for a long time. So it’s to be expected to have some amount of transition time, and that’s totally normal, and it’s not something that you need to be worried about.

Laura: Yeah. I feel like we should call this the Carb Dieticians’ podcast or something as opposed to the Ancestral because sometimes I feel like it’s all we talk about. But on the other hand, somebody’s got to be talking about it, so I guess that’s us.

Kelsey: Yeah and that’s what we get questions on to from a lot of you guys all lot of the time.

Laura: Right.

Kelsey: Obviously people aren’t sick of hearing it quite yet.

Laura: No, and I think there’s probably a lot of people out there that don’t quite feel bought into the thought of eating more carbs yet.

Kelsey: Definitely.

Laura: Hopefully the more we do these kind of podcasts, the more they’ll feel confident that’s it’s a good option for them to try and experiment with. I mean I don’t want people to think that we’re like fully anti-low carb. I mean obviously we’ve had conversations about low carb diets, we had a ketogenic diet expert on here. I’m not anti-low carb. I think there are people who low carb is better for than a higher carb diet.

But to tell you to the truth, I feel like the percentage of people who high carb or moderate to high carb would work better for compared to the percentage that would be better on a low carb diet, I actually think there’s probably more people that would benefit from a moderate carb diet in the long run.

Kelsey: Yeah, I have to agree with you.

Laura: I’m not saying short term therapeutic low carb isn’t okay. If you think about people with like diabetes, or obesity, or something where a short term like maybe six months to a year of a very low carb diet is fine.

Kelsey: Mm hmm.

Laura: But ultimately I think for a lot of those people the goal should be to get back on to a moderate to higher carb whole food diet. So when we say higher carb, I’m not saying go eat a box of Twinkies for a dinner, but eating sweet potatoes, eating bananas, eating berries, eating plant based carbohydrates that could make up a large percentage of the calories that somebody’s eating and not worrying that that’s going to cause them to get back into a metabolic syndrome type situation.

Kelsey: Right. And I’m going to even throw in legumes and some gluten free grains. A lot of people don’t necessarily need to be scared of those kinds of foods either.

Laura: Mm hmm.

Kelsey: Especially if you’re on a really pretty high carb diet, you’re going to need to tap into those at some point, or else again, risking kind of eating the same things over and over again like we’ve talked about last time. At a certain point, you may need to branch out from the Paleo versions of carbs.

Laura: Paleo approved.

Kelsey: Yeah, right. And that’s okay too, provided that, again, you tolerate those things and maybe you need to work with someone to really determine that. But for most people those things are going to be fine.

Laura: Yeah, so moral of the story is there’s no magic carb percentage that everyone should be shooting for. As far as an upper limit of carb intake, honestly I’d probably say like 70-80% of calories from carbs would be about the upper limit. The only reason for that is it would be really hard to go 20-30% of your calories from protein and fat.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: You’d probably have to do like 10-15% from protein and then around 15% from fat and that would be pretty challenging on a whole foods diet. I don’t want people to think that 50% is the ceiling or even 60%. It’s just as you get more extreme with any sort of diet as far as the percentage of calories is concerned, the harder it’s going to be to maintain that diet.

Kelsey: Right.

Laura: But I do think that sometimes getting stuck in that middle ground of not really low carb, and not really low fat either, and just kind of eating equal amounts of fat and carbs, depending on what you’re goals are, sometimes that can be a problem too.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Laura: Don’t assume that you wouldn’t benefit from a lower fat, or a lower carb, or whatever macro percentage you haven’t tried yet if you’re not seeing the results that you’re looking for.

Kelsey: Well there we go. Not complicated, right? Wink.

Laura: No, not at all.  Nutrition is so easy you guys.

Kelsey: Well, I hope that was helpful. I know it can be kind of confusing and especially if you’re used to a low carb, or coming from a low carb diet, or if you’re working with a lot of people coming from a low carb diet, it can be tough to get people to go up from a mental standpoint and then just from a practical standpoint as well. But it is worth it. It’s at least worth trying. Like Laura mentioned, there are certain people that, yeah, low carb might work better for. But I agree, for probably of the majority of people, a moderate or higher carb diet tends to work a little bit better.

Laura: Great. Well, hopefully that’s helpful for Catherine who asked this question as a Dietician, but also anyone who’s not a Dietician that’s just still confused about carbs, which is super common. And maybe one day we’ll all understand how this stuff works, but until then we’re going to keep talking about it.

But if you have other questions you want to ask us about anything including carb questions, then feel free to get in touch with us on our website You can click the contact tab and submit your question that way. We like talking about this kind of stuff, so if you’re not tired of it, then we’re not tired of it either. But we will look forward to seeing you guys here next week.

Kelsey: Alright, take care Laura.

Laura: You too, Kelsey.


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