This is definitely one of our most common questions - and rightly so! There is so much conflicting information out there, it's important to know the right numbers and how those numbers vary for different body types.
There is research showing that the human body needs about 130 grams of carbohydrate a day to carry out standard metabolic functions. (Here's an article explaining exactly what a carbohydrate is.)
Although some medical practitioners are pro-low-carbohydrate, there is also evidence showing that if carbohydrate intake is extremely low, then the beta cells (insulin producers in the pancreas) can be more rapidly damaged. Therefore, from a longevity perspective, it's important to eat the right amount of carbohydrate. After all, carbohydrate is the quick fuel we use to operate our brain and entire body.
Without it, our bodies burn a tiny amount of fat and then quickly turn to our own muscles as a fuel source. Most of us do not want to lose muscle. Additionally, when very low carbohydrate diets are followed, the likelihood of negative consequences like kidney stones can (and do) frequently result.
According to The American Dietetic Association, for non-athletes, 1.8 to 2.3 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day is typically recommended.
This number is very flexible depending on the individual. Age, sex, weight, activity level, and medical diagnoses are taken into consideration when determining just how much an individual needs. A physician and/or dietitian can be instrumental in helping you adjust your range of carbohydrates to best meet your lifestyle. Balance with other nutrients like fat, protein and fiber is important to consider.
Using the 1.8 to 2.3 grams per pound formula for a variety of sized individuals, you get the following:
As a practicing Clinician working alongside Endocrinologists, I rarely educate the average patient on carbohydrate intakes above 225g/day, regardless of weight or adjustments in caloric need. This is because they've usually already cut themselves to an extremely low number of carbohydrates and the 225g of carbohydrates is a big increase. In other instances, a physician may already be closely supervising a strict weight loss program.
People will often start out with lower carbohydrate counts when they've been entirely avoiding carbs, or if they've been eating excessive amounts of simple carbs already. The important takeaway here is that balance is key! Too many carbs are bad, but none at all can be bad, too.
Work with your healthcare professional to figure out your sweet spot and build on a plan that will be most beneficial to you.