We talked a bit the other week about intermittent fasting, and tried to break it down into simpler terms and figure out if it is worth trying. This time we’re looking at Carb cycling, another fitness industry term which has become very popular of late. Again, were going to look at what it is, whether it works and how we go about doing it. If this is something you’re interested in, then take a look at this article.
what is it?
It’s a process which has been used by bodybuilders for quite a long time, usually when in competition mode and trying to shed that final layer of fat. More recently it’s become more popular amongst the fitness community as trainers and fitness professionals have caught on and had some success with their clients.
It might have a fancy name but it’s actually fairly simple, throughout the week you rotate through high/moderate/low and no carb days and everyday is high protein. Some also follow the rule that your fat intake is the inverse of your carbs (so high carb day = low fat day).
what does it do?
The low and no carb days are the days where you’re in a calorie deficit and trick your body into burning fat at an accelerated rate, this is due to insulin levels being low. Insulin is a muscle building and fat storing hormone. These are the days you will lose weight. Your moderate carb days keep your glycogen stores well stocked but you are not in a calorie deficit so not much weight loss happens on these days.
The high carb day refuels your glycogen stores and also floods your body with insulin, which means preserved muscle tissue, maintained training intensity and minimal impact to metabolism. It is recommended that you do your hardest workout on the high carb day.
Does it work?
Yes it does work, it has been proven with much scientific research and evidence. Although, we also know that any diet which has you on a calorie deficit will make you lose weight/fat, so the real question is..
Is it better than traditional dieting?
We know that it works, but it’s not for everyone. Everyone is different so if you know that your body is particularly sensitive to carbs then it may be for you. The appeal is the fact that you don’t need to calorie count, but follow the low/no carb rules. Many people swear by it as they find it easy to follow because you get to eat lots of carbs on certain days which can be psychologically easier to deal with than a traditional diet. However, it can be complicated and quite strict to stick to so it depends how you like to meal plan.
The answer is it works for some people, but not for others as some people do not process carbs very well.
Day 1 – Low carb (0.5g of carbs/1.5g protein/0.35g fat – per lb body weight)
Day 2- Low carb (as above)
Day 3- Low carb (as above)
Day 4- High carb (2-2.5g of carbs/1g protein/fat minimal – per lb body weight)
Day 5 – No Carb (<30g carbs/1.5g protein/0.8g fat – per lb body weight)
Then repeat cycle again.
Plans to Try
Chris Powell’s – The Classic Cycle has had proven results on a high number of people. This plan alternates between high and low carb days with a reward day as a day off, which is very appealing for some people.
Things to remember
Stick to complex carbs, such as legumes, whole grains, bulgar, quinoa, starchy vegetables and potatoes. You need to pay close attention to your meal planning and adhere strictly to it, as per the example above.
Whats your take on carb cycling? Have you tried it? Let me know in the comments below.