Most middle aged women need to maintain a carbohydrate intake somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 to 700 grams per week if they want to see body composition results. One of the main off shoots of the A to Z study out of Stanford is testing the importance of individualizing carb intake based on insulin sensitivity for weight loss. This limitation in carbohydrates tends to be a constant struggle for most of my female clients in their 40s. When you combine our current carb biased environment and husbands who don’t have to be nearly as stringent, it is harrrrrd! You know what I feel for you, it is not fair, but it is the truth. From a scientific standpoint this is because women are not as big as men (most primates have sexual dimorphism), have less muscle (not as much storage space for sugar), and all of our metabolic rates slow as we age.
Thus, if Sally eats a piece of cake and some crackers at a party with 150 grams of nearly pure sugar she has just used up 20-40% of her carb allotment for the week, let me repeat that – for the week! This doesn’t even take into account blood sugar dysregulation, it is just pure math. These comfort foods also light up our reward pathways and give us a little dopamine pop. Maybe we even get some opiods from the dairy and/or gluten. But we have to create systems that help us maintain a long view of what we want, instead of trading in potential long term success for immediate satisfaction. I am not saying that it is not hard to avoid sugar and empty carbohydrates, what I am saying is that these hyper-palatable foods will derail the most thoughtful of programs and thus we must be constantly vigilant of wants vs. needs.
Men can lose weight and see results and cheat a little bit. I will never tell them this in consults. Women can’t. They have to be damn near perfect week to week and it is so easy for things to slip and wine and chocolate to come rushing back in when life gets hard. I don’t have the perfect solution, all I can do is let them know that I understand and give them as much data and information to be successful.
*These numbers depend on lean body mass and activity levels, there are exceptions to every rule. In order to really know what, when, and how much you should eat, we need data and experimentation over time. That goes for everyone.