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do women need more carbs?

by (45)
Updated about 20 hours ago
Created February 25, 2013 at 3:42 PM

For about a month now, my diet has been 80% Paleo/20% Primal (occasionally add yogurt to my smoothies, a small glass of whole milk maybe once or twice a week). I've noticed some big, awesome changes (no 4pm brain fog, consistent energy levels during the work day, and NO CRAMPS during my last period, for the first time in my life).

One change I'm not too happy with---my energy during my workouts seems pretty diminished from before (when I didn't pay any attention to refined carbs like whole wheat toast, fries occasionally, etc).

My normal exercise routine is a 40-minute circuit training session about three times a week, and a nice long yoga session twice a week. My energy seems low during the cardio portions of my circuit training, my quads feel week when doing lunges or running up stairs, and I'm actually finding it hard to rouse myself early enough to do my exercises.

Some background: I'm 38 years old, with a three year old daughter. I gained 60 lbs during my pregnancy, and lost all but the last 10. I'm 5'4", 142 lbs (and the weight HAS NOT BUDGED in over a year, even after a bout with the flu when I barely ate a thing for three days).

Should I be adding more carbs, like sweet potatoes and the occasional white rice bowl? I'm not avoiding all carbs as is---definitely eat at least three servings of fruit a day.

Thanks!

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26172 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Dragonfly, when you say tanning you mean outside in natural light -- not in a tanning bed right?

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4181 · February 26, 2013 at 12:11 AM

Just beware of low carb, after a while it really stresses your body out

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM

Interesting reading, thanks for the link! I love that I fall into the "athlete or regular exerciser" camp (NOT true for most of my adult life!).

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:11 PM

I'm definitely not changing my lifestyle *just* to lose weight--I ate like shit and got no exercise for most of the first 35 years of my life. I was depressed and basically just looking for ways to pass the time until my life was up. I feel amazing now and hope never return to who I was before. That said, I would like to get back to the weight I maintained for much of my adult life. I also want to make sure my weight doesn't inch up over the years until it's really a problem. It's frustrating to see no changes in that particular marker of health, despite the changes I've made.

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:04 PM

I've been worried that I might have to do just that---cut back on exercise in order to lose weight. I've been weighing that for a while now--is the weight loss more important than the incredible feelings I get from vigorous exercise? I'm still not sure.

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26172 · February 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

I would suggest upping calories first. Good luck!

7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0
4181 · February 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

I hope I got the downvotes for my sarcasm, not for advocating low carb ...

5f678ffff153bfc8a17ac1ee438c054f
1405 · February 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

If she is looking for more energy and better performance in the gym, getting completely rid of carbs won't help. Yes, it may help weightloss, but carbs are needed to be burned quickly during exercise.

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3
5802 · February 25, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Yeah, I know there's some debate on what to eat when. I find that I can't exercise on an empty stomach, or I burn out. Some people take animo acid supplements to help this, but I would rather not. I usually eat my cup of blueberries, and a small amount of protein (like 2 meatballs). I also eat the same small amount of protein after the workout. I'm still toying with the starches at dinner. One source of info on it is here: http://natemiyaki.com/i-feast/.

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:38 PM

I definitely need more sunlight! I do most of my exercising indoors these days. Thanks! Already eating lots of eggs and salmon. I've been perusing liver recipes to find one I think I can handle.

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:36 PM

I exercise first thing in the morning, usually on an empty stomach. Adding rice or a tuber to my dinner would probably help, huh? Thanks!

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM

My circuit training program is similar to Crossfit (I think), except that I'm not lifting heavy weights. All my strength training is body weight (push ups, frog squats, air squats, calf raises, lunges, tricep dips, plank holds).

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Interesting---I have wondered if I'm getting enough calories, but since I'm not "counting" them, I have no idea. Just trying to go by hunger level. Since so much about my body feels different now, I think my cues have shifted. "Feeling full" after a meal now feels so different from feeling full after a carby, starchy meal (in which I'd feel more stuffed than full). I'm also trying to get comfortable with the idea that hunger is OK occasionally (and not something I have to instantly quelch).

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32518 · February 25, 2013 at 4:19 PM

sunning = outside, tanning =inside

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · February 25, 2013 at 4:18 PM

There are some tanning beds that are optimized for UVB. Mercola.com sells them; there may be others available. http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2012/08/11/a-closer-look-at-sunbeds-and-melanoma/

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c
10255 · February 25, 2013 at 4:00 PM

it might be easiest to up your calories for a couple of weeks without adjusting the macros. if that doesn't do it, then try 2 weeks at your current caloric intake with the macros adjusted to be higher carbs from tubers?

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6 Answers

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26172 · February 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

  1. Women do not need more carbs than men. Both men and women need carbs to meet their activity levels. Carbs are not a necessary nutrient, nor are not something to avoid.

  2. You did not post details of your 40-minute circuit training program. If it is fairly anaerobic (Think Crossfit intensity or similar), you may be depleting your glycogen stores (not completely but enough that you will benefit from adding carbs to your diet). If it is more aerobic, then maybe not as significantly.

  3. Adding carbs back? Won't hurt, start with tubers and see if that helps.

  4. my quads feel week when doing lunges or running up stairs, and I'm actually finding it hard to rouse myself early enough to do my exercises. -- Personally this sounds more like inadequate caloric load than a macro imbalance. You may also want to consider upping your total calories -- But without knowing your lifestyle, exercise, and daily intake, it is impossible to tell.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7
26172 · February 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

I would suggest upping calories first. Good luck!

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:34 PM

My circuit training program is similar to Crossfit (I think), except that I'm not lifting heavy weights. All my strength training is body weight (push ups, frog squats, air squats, calf raises, lunges, tricep dips, plank holds).

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:26 PM

Interesting---I have wondered if I'm getting enough calories, but since I'm not "counting" them, I have no idea. Just trying to go by hunger level. Since so much about my body feels different now, I think my cues have shifted. "Feeling full" after a meal now feels so different from feeling full after a carby, starchy meal (in which I'd feel more stuffed than full). I'm also trying to get comfortable with the idea that hunger is OK occasionally (and not something I have to instantly quelch).

B4e1fa6a8cf43d2b69d97a99dfca262c
10255 · February 25, 2013 at 4:00 PM

it might be easiest to up your calories for a couple of weeks without adjusting the macros. if that doesn't do it, then try 2 weeks at your current caloric intake with the macros adjusted to be higher carbs from tubers?

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
2
32518 · February 25, 2013 at 3:54 PM

No. Women in general don't need more carbs, but some women, due to metabolism or activity levels do better with more.

Since you've only been Primal a month, you may simply be experiencing a temporary drop in energy as your body gets used to the lower carb level. This will pass.

You may not need to increase your overall carbs too much, since you are already eating dairy & fruit, but you may do better trading out starchy carbs for 2 pieces of the fruit (and thereby reducing fructose.)

Re:energy: Make sure your Vitamin D blood level is dialed in via sunning/tanning or supplements (50-60 ng/ml.) Also, focus on nutrient-dense foods like liver, bone broth, salmon, oysters, eggs, etc to make sure you are not missing out on any micronutrients.

3ce6a0d24be025e2f2af534545bdd1d7
26172 · September 07, 2013 at 1:28 AM

Dragonfly, when you say tanning you mean outside in natural light -- not in a tanning bed right?

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:38 PM

I definitely need more sunlight! I do most of my exercising indoors these days. Thanks! Already eating lots of eggs and salmon. I've been perusing liver recipes to find one I think I can handle.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · February 25, 2013 at 4:19 PM

sunning = outside, tanning =inside

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · February 25, 2013 at 4:18 PM

There are some tanning beds that are optimized for UVB. Mercola.com sells them; there may be others available. http://blog.vitamindcouncil.org/2012/08/11/a-closer-look-at-sunbeds-and-melanoma/

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3
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5802 · February 25, 2013 at 4:06 PM

I have found that using my carbs wisely counts more than how many carbs I consume. I always try to eat some fruit (usually 1 cup blueberries) about an hour before a cardio workout. (I toyed with the timing, and this worked best for me). I also eat a starchy tuber (or white rice) with dinner, as I work out in the morning. Overall, my carb consumption each day varies from 60-100 g (depending on if I am working out or not).

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:15 PM

Interesting reading, thanks for the link! I love that I fall into the "athlete or regular exerciser" camp (NOT true for most of my adult life!).

32652cb696b75182cb121009ee4edea3
5802 · February 25, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Yeah, I know there's some debate on what to eat when. I find that I can't exercise on an empty stomach, or I burn out. Some people take animo acid supplements to help this, but I would rather not. I usually eat my cup of blueberries, and a small amount of protein (like 2 meatballs). I also eat the same small amount of protein after the workout. I'm still toying with the starches at dinner. One source of info on it is here: http://natemiyaki.com/i-feast/.

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 4:36 PM

I exercise first thing in the morning, usually on an empty stomach. Adding rice or a tuber to my dinner would probably help, huh? Thanks!

Daee038b2da136bc8e817e3889c746c5
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139 · February 25, 2013 at 10:51 PM

I would say try to add more carbs if you feel the need for it. Personally, I keep carbs at an absolute minimum during everyday - even during heavy training. I don't think we should be afraid of carbs, nor should we include it if we feel that a low carb diet works for us.

I'm always saying: If something is broken/ doesn't work: Make changes, try something new until it starts to work.

If everything feel optimal and works fine why change anything?

The only time I "need" carbs is right before I compete or similar. A very wise person once told me that if I work fine with fat as a fuel that is great, but why not take advantage of it and use a double powered engine (carbs + fat) when you can? I feel like it have given me a great advantage since I'm totally fat adopted so when I run of of carbs during a long race the body just goes back to burn the fat when it runs out of fuel without any problem.

But I think that since you've only been eating paleo/primal for a month your body might not have been gotten fully adapted to take it's energy from the fat yet and therefore you might feel tired. Give it another month and if you still feel tired try to make a change in your diet.

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4400 · February 25, 2013 at 7:16 PM

I would say your workout load may be a bit much given your carb level. You might try throwing in half a sweet potato post-workout. It might stoke your appetite and increase weight. Of so, stop! But it also might also replete glycogen for your next workout, which would be good.

For some people, as low carb as possible is necessary to lose weight, even if you have to work out less as a result. For others, though, a low/moderate carb and low/moderate protein approach, a la Jaminet's Perfect Health Diet (great book), works well. Alas, nobody knows the answer for you, but some experimentation will lead you there. Paleo gets you healthy, but tinkering may still be required when you have goals beyond that.

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:04 PM

I've been worried that I might have to do just that---cut back on exercise in order to lose weight. I've been weighing that for a while now--is the weight loss more important than the incredible feelings I get from vigorous exercise? I'm still not sure.

7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0
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4181 · February 25, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Health is all about losing weight, that's why carbs are so terrible

The thinner you are the better, don't eat carbs, they're super bad for you, especially if you are over weight

You've probably come to paleo seeking weight loss so you're in for a treat, just stay away from those deadly carbs, especially if you care at all about your mental health, metabolism or thyroid function et al

Try to go as low carb as possible and spend your day thinking about how much like a cave man you are; cavemen were the pinnacle of health

7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0
4181 · February 26, 2013 at 12:11 AM

Just beware of low carb, after a while it really stresses your body out

33d508b09cc22b95807ae027a0ac3473
45 · February 25, 2013 at 9:11 PM

I'm definitely not changing my lifestyle *just* to lose weight--I ate like shit and got no exercise for most of the first 35 years of my life. I was depressed and basically just looking for ways to pass the time until my life was up. I feel amazing now and hope never return to who I was before. That said, I would like to get back to the weight I maintained for much of my adult life. I also want to make sure my weight doesn't inch up over the years until it's really a problem. It's frustrating to see no changes in that particular marker of health, despite the changes I've made.

7cf9f5b08a41ecf2a2d2bc0b31ea6fa0
4181 · February 25, 2013 at 7:55 PM

I hope I got the downvotes for my sarcasm, not for advocating low carb ...

5f678ffff153bfc8a17ac1ee438c054f
1405 · February 25, 2013 at 7:28 PM

If she is looking for more energy and better performance in the gym, getting completely rid of carbs won't help. Yes, it may help weightloss, but carbs are needed to be burned quickly during exercise.

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