What’s the dish on carb cycling? Today we’ll cover everything you need to know to make carbs work for your diet and fitness goals.
In the world of health and fitness, it can be difficult to keep up. After all, it seems like every day there’s a new diet, a new superfood, a new exercise regimen that’s supposed to change your life and get you fit. One of the latest and most talked about is carb cycling.
If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably asking yourself – what is carb cycling?
Think about it for a second. How do you think your body responds to a hardcore routine of low calories or calorie cycling? Same thing for cutting carbs – how does your body feel when you do it?
These can seriously take a toll on your body, especially if you’re doing these methods for long periods of time.
How to use these methods without sacrificing strength or stamina in your workouts is critical to your success.
And the reason why the carb cycling diet is becoming such a hot button topic is because it can help solve the problem of your body suffering from lack of nutrients.
So let’s take a look into how to carb cycle.
What Is Carb Cycling?
To put it simple, carb cycling is a planned-out alternative to cutting your carbs in order to stop a plateau.
Plateauing is when your body gets too used to a certain regimen and stop responding in terms of fat loss or muscle gain. Plus, with carb cycling, this method can help you maintain your metabolism as well as boost your performance for workouts.
But it isn’t the right strategy for everyone.
First, you should be conscious of the types of carbs you are eating. Are you aware of any Gluten Allergy Symptoms in your body? If so, how you manage your carbohydrate intake could have much deeper health implications.
Carb cycling is known to be extremely strict and aggressive, because it’s a higher level of nutrition strategy–you’ve got to work for it, but you get out of it what you put in. In order words, reasonably fit athletes who are already focused on their fueling and engaging in regular physical activity will benefit most from carb cycling.
If that’s not you, and you’re just getting started with really taking steps towards your health and fitness goals, don’t worry! This just means that you need to figure out the Best Diet for YOUR Body. This also means it’s time to start training. If you’re new to the gym, try out our Ultimate Bodyweight Workout that you can do from home.
Plus, these types of people need a more meticulous approach to their nutrition, as they may need to get past a plateau or need a little boost even with already tuned dieting habits.
Carb cycling allows fit athletes to balance cutting carbs for fat loss, and maintaining enough nutrients for peak performance.
And here’s something everyone should take away – carb cycling is designed for and should only be used for short-term periods of time. This isn’t for anyone looking to conservatively manage his or her body fat in the long run.
In fact, when this type of diet is used for too long, the effects and results can actually be pretty unpleasant. So keep that in mind!
In order to make sure you can distinguish between the two, we’ll get deeper into it. First, let’s take a look at your goals.
There’s a big difference between needing immediate results (short term) and chronic (or, long term) results, especially when it comes to restricting your carb and calorie intake.
You can’t cut out all carbs forever, you would eventually die. However, if you’re looking into Low Carb Dieting Strategy, here’s an idea of the goals of a long term plan. It looks more like the following.
Long Term Low Carb Strategy:
- Limit or abstain entirely from bleached starches like white bread and pasta.
- Get as much as possible of your carbs from fruits and vegetables rather than grains.
- Focus on avoiding excess carbs as a rule; this is a change of habits not an installation of hard set rules.
The plan above aims for changing the principles around which carbs enter your diet. Instead of zero carbs, you reduce the total amount by eating higher value foods. In terms of your health, Web MD’s Stance on Carbs reminds us how important fiber is to our diets.
- Men 50 or below: 38 grams of fiber per day.
- Women 50 or below: 25 grams of fiber a day.
- Men over 50: 30 grams of fiber a day.
- Women over 50: 21 grams of fiber per day.
Carb cycling is much more rigid and is intended for short-term strategy.
The body is fully capable of handling most things if they’re deprived for a short amount of time, keeping this routine up for the long haul (whether it’s low carbs or low calories) can be seriously hard on your body.
This will ultimately have an impact on your energy levels in the gym. So this means that quality of calories is a concern when you are restricting any portion of your diet. You’ll need to make sure your diet is rich in protein and you’re using the Best Post Workout Meals.
So if you forget to eat breakfast one day and dinner the next, or decide you’re going to go low-carb for a few days, it isn’t going to be terrible, because it’s short term.
And you’ve got some research to show that this can actually be good for you. Research data gives a thumbs up for very brief and not often periods of Intermittent Fasting or even carb-restriction – it can be beneficial to not only your health but your body composition, too.
To prove this, take a look at a recent study that was published in the American Journal of Cardiology. The study pointed out that short and infrequent stretches of fasting (this was based on 24 hours) boosted the indications of heart diseases.
Now, on the other hand, restricting carbs and/or calories long term (aka athletes that do it for months at a time) can negatively affect your metabolic rate.
Since endocrine systems are interrelated, the effects of this can be pretty wide.
So let’s say someone is doing a longer-term restriction of calories or carbs. The dieter could experience several things, including a decrease in leptin levels, reproductive hormone output, metabolic rate, sympathetic nervous system activity, and even thyroid hormone output.
Needless to say, this can take a serious toll on not just your overall health but also your overall body composition.
This could be frustrating news for a lot of dieters who think low carb or low calorie is the solution for them. But don’t worry – that’s why a lot of people turn to carb cycling.
Carb Cycling Diet Plan
So, if a person plans out their day and decides to take in a high level of carbs at regular times, their body won’t get anywhere near starvation mode.
Now, they can still lose some fat while they’re taking in fewer calories than they expend. If your goal is to lose fat while gaining muscle, you’re in luck.
On the days where they eat higher levels of carbs, you should expect to see a big jump in their thyroid output. They will also be better at controlling their hunger.
And manipulating these carbs in such a way can help you with specific anabolic hormones, such as insulin.
What does insulin do? It keeps track of amino acids and glucose that enter into the muscle cells. So if your insulin never really increases, you won’t ever get the anabolic benefits.
Now, if someone decides to plan on increasing their insulin levels at certain times with a scheduled carb intake, they could take advantage of insulin’s full potential.
Before you jump headfirst into carb cycling, there are a few things you should know.
First of all, there are a lot of different methods when it comes to carb cycling. But the most common idea behind each method is that both fat and protein intake should remain constant, even when the carb intake is being manipulated.
Sometimes, it isn’t just carb cycling you’re getting into. Often times, calorie cycling branches off of carb cycling, too. And, because carbs have about 4 calories per each gram, altering your carb intake while keeping your protein and fat consistent will obviously change your calories intake, too.
The days when carbs (and therefore, calories), are increased are lovingly called “refeed” days. Makes sense, right?
Dr. Berardi defines these days as a planned and thought out increase in calories. He states this usually lasts about 8 to 12 hours and therefore also includes a surge in carbs too. For optimal health, make sure that the foods you consume include resistant starches.
Not painting a clear picture for you just yet?
Well, here’s what a re-feed day looks like: For five out of seven days, the dieter will eat a seriously strict diet of 1,500 calories a day.
Then, on the other 2 days, the dieter will eat 2,500 calories of clean foods, with the extra calories coming from carbs.
Carbs generally have a type of protein-sparing effect so you don’t really need as much protein. However, if you’re training to increase muscle size and strength we don’t recommend dropping your protein intake but rather just increasing carbs.
Many of these principles can be applied to your every day diet and carb cycling. Just be sure to take in omega-3 fats, lean proteins, fibers, veggies, and eat often.
Here are some other methods a lot of people try when it comes to carb cycling.
Big re-feed days, not often
These dieters eat a higher level of carbs every 1 to 2 weeks during a fairly low carb intake period.
Medium re-feeds, often
You can expect a higher carb intake about every 3 to 4 days during a lower carb intake period.
Planned carb cycling
This is a little bit more planned out. Basically, you’ll be structuring various types of foods with a medium carb intake. All of this will be done during strategic intervals and during a period of lower carb intake. Now this approach doesn’t go near a higher carb intake because the foods are constantly changing. It gives your metabolism some time to catch up with whatever foods you’re eating.
Carb Cycling to Gain Muscle
Looking to gain some serious muscle? Then you’re probably hauling in a lot of extra calories. Now, if you eat too many for long periods of times, you’re going to see a big jump in your body fat. If your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle together, carb cycling can help you get there.
Of course, at the core of this plan MUST be a powerful Muscle Building Training Plan.
It’s pretty close to the planned out carb cycling method. You plan out your menus based on the schedule for the week. Your goal is to create a temporary boost in calories in order to get more lean mass and increase your strength.
We aren’t going to leave you stranded without a sample menu! We’ve got it all set up for you. Check it out. Before we get too deep into carbs, you should make sure you know the real deal on sugar.
Meal Plan For Cycling Carbs
Day 1: Your lower carb day:
Eat a small portion of veggies or whole grains after your workout and only after your workout. Skip the fruit today. Whey protein as a post workout shake is recommended. For the rest of the day, stick with healthy fats, greens, veggies, and lean proteins.
Day 2: Your lower carb day:
Same as day one – a small portion of veggies and whole grains after your killer workout. No fruit. Spend your day eating the lean proteins, fats, veggies, etc.
Day 3: Moderate carb day:
You’re probably ready for a change today! So get ready. Eat a smaller portion of veggies and whole grains for breakfast as well as following your workout. Treat yourself to 1 piece of fruit. You can fill yourself with veggies, greens, healthy fats and proteins for the rest of the day.
Day 4: Lower carb day:
You’re back to the same routine as day 1. Stick with mostly veggies and natural fats, with plenty of lean protein to support your muscles. Whey protein as a post workout shake is recommended. Surround yourself with healthy fats, veggies, lean proteins, and greens for the rest of the day. You can do it!
Day 5: Lower carb day:
Day 6: High carb day:
You made it!
You’re going to have a good day today. At every single meal of the day, eat a veggie and/or whole grains.
Enjoy 2-3 pieces of fruit. And, like every other day, fill yourself up with healthy fats, lean proteins, veggies, and greens. Your body is going to be feeling good.
Day 7: Start back at Day 1 and keep going!
So you’ve got your routine ready to go! Here’s what we suggest. Decide your own approach to dieting based on your basal calorie needs and your overall activity.
In order to prevent the dreaded “hangry” syndrome, pick out your re-feed days ahead of time. You don’t want to make a mistake or get discouraged. On your non-re-feed days, stay on track. It’s a temporary feeling and the results will be so worth it.
If you’re having trouble deciding on which method to take, do trial and error. If you want to gain a better understanding of how specific foods affect your body, you should consider Elimination Dieting.
Various re-feeding methods work different for different body types. It’s perfectly okay if it takes some time to figure out what works for your body.
Take before and after pictures and measurements to discover which method works best for you and your individual body. This’ll keep you on the right track and help keep you extra motivated!
And in order to get the best results, push yourself extra hard in the gym on your re-feed days. Use the extra energy to build muscle. You’ll be amazed at what a boost this gives your results! This extra workout intensity helps speed up your metabolism, too.
We can’t stress that enough. On higher carb days, put the calories to work and push yourself harder in the gym. Your metabolism will thank you.
Finally, remember that on your re-feed days, your body tolerates carbs at its best first thing in the morning.
The other time is does great with carbs is when your physical activity is high, as mentioned. This means right before you go to the gym and after!
Remember, a clean whey protein supplement along with lean cuts of grass fed organic meats are the healthiest ways to keep your protein levels optimum for muscle growth.
Again, find the method that works best for you.
Oh, and a word of the wise – don’t use this carb cycling as a chance to totally gorge yourself. After all, eating too many carbs or calories will definitely result in weight gain. Keep your eyes (and your stomach) directed toward healthy choices. Put down the chips and reach for the fruits or proteins instead.
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