You might have heard of 'Carb Cycling' and you may have even wanted to give it a go; but what actually is it and what does it entail? We know that a no Carbohydrate diet isn't everyone's cup of tea and we also know that not everyone wants to be eating chicken and rice or pasta for every meal - so, if you're one of these people then Carb cycling could be the perfect happy medium for you!
Carbs tend to be the black sheep of the nutrition world and a lot of people are lead to believe that they're all bad and will make you gain mass amounts of weight coupled with an ever expanding waist line. If your diet consists of processed carbs then yes, this will be the case but they're not all bad! Every diet should consist of carbs of the healthy variety - in fact, they're a necessity.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb Cycling is a type of meal plan that involves planned increases and decreases of your carbohydrate intake. It consists of 3 different days:
> low carbohydrates
> high carbohydrates
> no carbohydrates
Your High Carb day tends to be your highest calorie day and typically consist of around 2 - 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Even though this is your high carb day, it's best to ensure that the majority of these come from clean sources, but if your diet consists of a cheeky cheat meal then we'd suggest whacking those in on your high carb days.
Your Carb intake on Low Carb days will usually drop to around 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight - these days can be a bit of a struggle to get through, especially if it's a training day. Veggies high in fibre can be eaten freely on your low carb days and you can even add in a few servings of starch. This can come from clean carb sources such as brown rice, oats and sweet potatoes. When we mention 'clean carbs' we are talking about hypoallergenic ones, so the carbs that are free of gluten, soy and dairy.
Your no carb days can usually consist of around 30g of carbs as well as being your lowest calorie day. These are certainly the toughest out of the 3 to get through! Your no carb days will usually consist of vegetables high in fibre which can include foods such as leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli along with lean protein. You can also ensure you get a good dosage of your healthy fats in on your no carb days too.
How does it work?
We've forever been told that when the body need energy fast, we need to consume Carbohydrates. This is because when they're consumed they break down into sugars which is more commonly known as glucose. This glucose is then used to fuel the cells that helps our organs function correctly.
Carb Cycling sounds pretty fancy but it's pretty simple, really! In a nut shell you eat more carbohydrates on High Carb days (this helps to promote muscle growth) and eating less carbohydrates on your Low Carb Days (on theses days you're helping to promote fat loss) and that's it.
Your High Carb days work by taking the Carbohydrates that you consume during this time and using that to replenish glycogen stores within your body that help to fuel your muscles. Your High Carb days also enable your muscles to grow as they stimulate an insulin spike that then goes on to fire nutrients into your muscles - giving them all the goodness they need to grow.
Your Low Carb days, as i'm sure you're aware, are the complete opposite. When your body is suddenly 'starved' of the carbs its been so used to having, it will automatically burn your fat for fuel. This is because when you eat carbs, your body would normally burn fat for fuel from the sugars it gets from Carbs.
Facts of Carb Cycling:
✔ You've probably figured this out from reading up to here, but the first fact you should be aware of is that your training days are best suited to your High Carb days - especially when you plan on training hard. This is because after your workout out if/when you eat carbs it will fire the nutrients to the muscles helping them to recover much quicker than normal.
✔ If you notice slight weight gain on your High Carb days - don't panic! This is absolutely normal and is known as 'water weight'. Water weight occurs on your High Carbs days as for every gram of Carbohydrates that you will intake on these days, you will also store the water for and as on your High Carb day you will be consuming more Carbohydrates, your body will consume more water - thus making this more noticeable. You will lose the water weight the next day when you're back on your Low Carb day, so try not to get too hung up on this.
✔ We know that there are plenty of good fats out there that we should be implementing into our diet, but this fact is very important - decrease your fat intake on your High Carb days. As we've mentioned previously, when eating Carbs, your body produces Insulin which is a pretty bad mix when you team it with fats as the potential for fat storage is very high - and we don't want that!
✔ When choosing your Carbohydrates, choose those highest in Glucose or Complex Carbs. This includes foods such as sweet potatoes or brown rice and behaves in a completely different way to 'bad carbs'. Bad Carbs are those that contain high-fructose corn syrup and when consumed there is a much greater chance that your body will convert this into fat due to the fact that these kind of Carbs won't get stored into your muscles as readily.
✔ Finally, the last fact that we are going to give you is to always ensure that you stick to your calorie intake - this is very important! Lets say, for example you're currently maintaining your body weight at 2400 calories per day this then mounts up to 16800 calories per week. In order to lose one pound a week you will have to create a calorie deficit of 3500 calories per week and take in 13300 calories per week rather than the 16800 that you're currently sitting at. This deficit would then take you to 1900 calories per day however as you're carb cycling - it's a little more complicated. Since you're using some of your days to increase your Carbohydrate intake you will need to increase your Calorie intake for those days - and those days only! As we mentioned, you absolutely need to stick to your new deficit-ed weekly calories so this means that your Low Carb days will contain even less calories than before due to them being taken up by the Carbs on the High Carb days. You won't really mind this too much, though, as your body will get used to your High Carb days and your new lower Calorie intake will be enough to suffice.
There you have it! Everything you need to start your Carb Cycling journey! It will take a little more work than normal, particularly with your new meal prep but it will certainly be worth it.
Let us know how you get on: