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Q&A: Count Carbs or Calories?

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Q: Is it more important to count carbs or calories?


A: It’s more important to count overall calories versus just carbohydrates, or any one nutrient for that matter.

A surplus of calories—any calories—means that your body will store those extra calories as fat. Besides, if you’re just focusing on carbs, what happens to protein and fat? Instead of becoming myopic with your diet, try this: 

  • First determine how many calories you’re aiming for every day.
  • Then try to balance high fiber carbs, fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats to fulfill your calories. (Tip: Including a fruit or veggie with every meal makes this much easier.)

A good balance is 40-50 percent of your calories coming from carbs, 20-30 percent from protein, and 20-30 percent from fat. There may be some times where you have to focus more on making sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, like when you’re preparing for an endurance event (half marathon, marathon, triathlon) or when you’re in an intense training phase. But you’ll still want to get enough carbohydrates to fuel your performance and enough protein to support muscle growth and recovery.

About The Author

Amanda Carlson-Phillips – Amanda Carlson-Phillips is the vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS. As a registered dietitian, she has provided educational seminars and individual counseling to a variety of professional and elite sports organizations.

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Tags: Energy, Weight Loss, Calories, Q&A, Food, Carbohydrate