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Carb Cycling for Weight Loss
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling has been used by serious athletes and bodybuilders who want to drop body fat, get more muscle mass, or store more carbs for long-haul exercise like a marathon. However, it’s becoming more popular with people who want to kick-start weight loss, even though a lot of the weight you may lose would come from water.
Carb cycling for weight loss involves going back and forth between high-carb days and low-carb days. There may even be “no-carb” days.
Theoretically, You would usually have a high-carb day when you plan on exercising hard. On those days, your body needs more fuel, so you might eat 2 to 2.5 grams of carbs for every pound of your body weight. You eat fewer calories on days when you’re less active. On low-carb days, you might eat .5 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight. You may include a “no-carb” day, when you have fewer than 30 grams of carbs for the entire day.
You’ll want to keep a journal so that you can make sure you are eating the right amount of carbs on the right days in relation to where you are in the cycle and with your workouts. Here is a great journal and the same one that I’ve used in the past.
Who would Benefit from Carb Cycling?
There are two main groups of people that carb cycling can be helpful for: endurance athletes and active people on low-carb diets.
For those who focus on endurance sports like running, cycling, and swimming, “preliminary evidence suggests that varying carbohydrate throughout the year-specifically lowering carbs during
high volume, pre-season training-may be helpful for increasing muscle glycogen stores and performance when carbs are reintroduced. Basically, lowering your carb intake before you go into your main training season (say, prepping for a marathon or triathlon), may help your body to better utilize carbs when you reintroduce them right before you need to hit your peak performance level.
For those more interested in weight control or fat loss, carb cycling can also make sense. “For some individuals, consuming a lower-carb diet can be helpful for weight maintenance and optimal health,” Clark says. That’s probably why keto is so popular at the moment. You can read more about the Keto diet here
That said, research indicates that “carbohydrates are the predominant fuel for working muscles during high-intensity exercise, and consuming carbs before and after a tough sweat session is critical to get the most out of it.” It’s generally accepted that a low carb intake will reduce power output during high-intensity exercise, so carb cycling could help if you’re eating a low-carb diet but want to complete a HIIT or weightlifting workout, for example.
Carb cycling may also be beneficial to women with PCOS. You can learn more about PCOS and weight loss here.
How to Carb Cycle
A simple way to cycle carbohydrates is to eat low carb for three days followed by two higher carb days. The low carb days will help with weight loss and insulin sensitivity. The high carb days aid in reco
very, replenish glycogen, and support muscle growth. Don’t count fibrous vegetables into your total carb count for the day. They are low in calories and carbs, are a good source of fiber, and won’t affect your carb cycling. Only count starchy complex carbs (like sweet potatoes or rice).
To determine just how many carbs you should eat on your highest day on the plan, start with 1-1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Begin using 1.5 grams and adjust according to your results.
Some tweaking will probably be necessary, as some of us are a bit more “carb sensitive” than others. Activity level, training intensity, age, and even sex, will determine how many carbs you need, but as a general rule a maximum of 200 grams of carbs per day is a good place to start for men trying to lose weight. For women, I would recommend no more than 150gm of carbs per day unless you are an elite athlete. Women tend to be more sensitive to carbs due to our lovely female hormones.????♂️
Here’s an example of how to do the 5-day carb-cycling method using 200 grams of carbs as the highest amount on a high day for men found on Bodybuilding.com.
- Day 1: 150 grams
- Day 2: 100 grams
- Day 3: 50 grams
- Day 4: 125 grams
- Day 5: 200 grams
Here’s an example of how to carb cycle over a 5 day method using 150 grams of carbs as the highest amount on a high day for women.
- Day 1: 100 grams
- Day 2: 75 grams
- Day 3: 30 grams
- Day 4: 100 grams
- Day 5: 150 grams
You’ll drop 50 grams of carbs each of the first three days, then increase by 75 grams for the next two days. Some people prefer to raise their intake of healthy fats on lower carb days or rest days to make up for the lost calories. That’s fine to do, but it can interfere with weight loss since fat is a calorie-dense macronutrient.
If you don’t increase your fat intake, you’ll burn more fat as fuel on the low-carb days, especially if you’re training hard, doing cardiovascular workouts, and cutting calories.
How Carb Cycling Burns Fat
Carb cycling can work great for weight loss. On your low carb days, you’ll lose fat. Lowering your carbohydrate intake also increases insulin sensitivity, which is associated with better body composition
High carb days cause your body to burn more calories. They also increase leptin, the hormone that keeps you from being hungry. These two effects prevent the low-carb days from stalling your metabolism and leading to a binge, so you can keep losing weight.
Eventually, you will likely reach a fat-burning plateau and will have to change things up a bit. When that happens, have 3-4 high-carb days in a row, or have a cheat meal one day. This will jumpstart your metabolism, enabling the fat burning process to resume ????
Another way to turn your weight loss back on is to go to zero carbs for three days. This is the only time to take fibrous vegetables into consideration, as no carbs whatsoever should be ingested during the three zero-carb days.
What Carbs Should I Eat while Carb Cycling
These are the best sources of clean carbs to include in your meal plan when dieting in general, and when you carb cycle:
- Baked p
- Sweet potatoe
- Cream of wheat
- Rice cakes
The only time to eat simple carbs is at the post-workout meal to replenish your glycogen stores. Add these carbs into your daily total, because even though they’re utilized efficiently by the body at the post-workout feeding, they’re still carbs.
Carbs are not our enemy. When utilized correctly and at the proper times they are extremely beneficial. This is just one way to assist with weight loss if you’ve reached a plateau or have tried everything else. I’ve used carb cycling for weight loss while prepping for shows and can tell you first hand that it works! And God Bless those high carb days lol.
If you want more information on creating a carb cycle nutrition plan, click here and I can create a plan that is easy to follow and will help you reach your goal.