Recommendations for carbohydrates
General Nutrition • • 1 minute to read • By Praveena Kuchipudi, INFS Faculty
Author- Praveena Kuchipudi
We understand that, carbohydrate is an important macronutrient that is necessary for the body to generate energy and help perform various functions. Eating healthy across the lifespan helps to promote health and devoid of diseases.
How much and what type of the carbohydrates should be consumed for the general population is based on age and activity levels. According to Institute of Medicine (IOM), of the total daily food intake, 45-65% of the food energy should be from carbohydrates. Most foods that we consume have some form of carbohydrates, except the milk and milk-based, poultry and seafood.
What type of carbohydrates are most recommended?
We know the two main categories of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are not just processed, but are also found naturally in fruits and milk products. So, it doesn't mean they have to be avoided or reduced. Foods that naturally contains simple sugars are nutrient-dense and have antioxidants.
Complex carbohydrates are those that should be most included compared to the simple carbohydrates such as sugars, fructose corn syrup, and other processed-foods. Complex carbohydrate foods are those which has nutrients and fiber which provide adequate energy, nutrition and proper health. Carbohydrate-rich foods include vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, seeds, nuts, and dairy products. The dietary fiber also comes from these foods.
How much of carbohydrates are recommended?
According to the IOM, the daily recommended intake of carbohydrates is 130 g/day for adults and children (≥ 1 year). The quantity is the amount of simple and complex carbohydrates together that is required to provide energy. The adequate intake (AI) of the fiber that comes from carbohydrates is 14 g per 1000 Kcal intake (25 g per 2000 Kcal daily intake). To provide the AI of fiber, one has to consume the carbohydrate-rich foods as mentioned above. Though milk and milk-based products doesn't contain fiber, they are important because of their contribution of calcium and protein to the diet.
|General healthy population****Age group (years)||RDI (grams/day)|
|Carbohydrates (digestible – broken down and absorbed)|
|9 - above 70 years (males and females)||130|
|18 - 50 years (pregnant women/lactating women)||175|
|Total Fiber||Adequate intake (grams/day)|
|1 - 3 years||19|
|4 - 8 years||25|
|9 - 13 (males)(females)||31****26|
|14- 18 (males)(females)||38****26|
|19- 50 (males)(females)||25|
|50- 70 and above (males)(females)||30****21|
|18 - 50 years (pregnant women)(lactating women)||28****29|
Table 1: Carbohydrate recommendations as mentioned in USDA dietary intake
There is no fixed upper limit or tolerable upper intake level (UL) for carbohydrates, as it depends on the quantity of overall calorie intake depending on the goal of the person. However, a recommendation for maximal consumption of carbohydrates that comes from added sugars in the packed foods is set as 10% of total calorie intake.
Carbohydrate recommendations for Athletes
Compared to general population, the carbohydrate intake for athletes or those who involve in variety of sports vary differently. We know that during any exercise, the glucose in the blood is being utilized, keeps lowering as it generates energy and slowly leads to fatigue. To delay the onset of this fatigue for these populations, there is need to maintain the blood glucose levels by consuming carbohydrates (simple) before, during or after the event. The timing and type of carbohydrate consumed is dependent on the intensity and duration of the event, which leads to better performance by the athlete. The current recommendation of carbohydrates for athletes (endurance and strength) is between 5-12 g/kg body weight per day, depending on the intensity and duration of training or more depending on other exercise-related symptoms during the training (Kerksick, 2018).
Remember, carbohydrates are not the cause for the major health problem, obesity, but it is the nutritional and metabolic disturbances that occur in the body due to overconsumption of unhealthy, simple and processed carbohydrates, and also more than the recommended intakes of overall calories.
- Slavin, J. and Carlson, J. (2014) ‘Carbohydrates’, Advances in Nutrition, 5(6), p. 760. doi: 10.3945/AN.114.006163.
- USDA Dietary Macronutrient Intake Recommendations
- Slavin, J. L. (2013) ‘Carbohydrates, Dietary Fiber, and Resistant Starch in White Vegetables: Links to Health Outcomes’, Advances in Nutrition, 4(3), p. 351S. doi: 10.3945/AN.112.003491.
- Burke, L. M. et al. (2001) ‘Guidelines for daily carbohydrate intake: Do athletes achieve them?’, Sports Medicine, 31(4), pp. 267–299. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200131040-00003.
- Kerksick, C. M. (2018) Requirements of Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats for Athletes. Second Edi, Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance: Muscle Building, Endurance, and Strength. Second Edi. Elsevier Inc. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-813922-6.00038-2.
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