Carb Cycling is a low carbohydrate diet with intermittent periods of high or moderate carbohydrate consumption. Essentially you are cycling your carbs to achieve your desired result – reduction in body fat whilst maintaining lean muscle tissue. Most people have the misconception that consuming low carbs on a day to day basis for long periods of time is good for them – this is often perpetrated by the media as the ‘Holy grail’ of fat loss. The main problem with low-carb diets is that they are meant as temporary diets; they deplete your energy and strength and are not the best method when attempting to lose body fat and retain muscle. You cannot eat that way forever. Your body needs carbs for daily functions. You will feel tired most of the time and training sessions will inevitably be cut short due to lack of motivation and enthusiasm. Overall not a great way to function! There are individuals out there who preach high carb diets too. While high carb diets help to speed your metabolism, they are not ideal for weight-loss or reduction of body fat as there is not a sufficient deficit to help you shed the pounds. Carbs are easily consumed and due to this fact overconsumption is easy.
This is where carb-cycling comes in. Carb cycling is a method that will give you the benefits of both a low and high carb diet which allows you to hold on to the muscle you already have and shed body fat. This type of diet will also help you maintain your mental strength, physical strength, and endurance through the entirety of your training schedule. Carb cycling works by giving your body the fuel it needs to increase your metabolism and create a calorie deficit to increase fat loss. Days are rotated between high-carb days and low/moderate-carb days and in some cases no carb days.
There are typically three types of days when carb cycling. Please note some will not go “NO carbs” but instead follow a low to moderate and then high rotation. Generally, if you do three days the three days are rotated, or cycled, equally. Generally the most common carb cycling approach used is where you will place higher carbohydrate days on your heaviest training days and then lower carb days on-off/low-intensity training days. This plan is usually based on eating six times per day (including snacks). Adjust your plan according to your goals and training schedule.
Protein is the foundation of a carb cycling diet. Assuming you are eating six meals each day, regardless of which type of day, you will eat a minimum of 1/6 of your total daily minimum requirement for protein at each meal. High carb days aim for around 1g per lb of body weight, and moderate to low carb days 1.2-1.5 and up to 2g per lb of body weight.
Keep dietary fats consistent throughout your plan. You will raise your fats on your low carb days and lower them on high carb days. The high carb day is established using the same method, only this time, increasing your protein and carbohydrate intake while decreasing your fats. To determine the grams of carbohydrates, a woman will multiply her weight (in lbs) by 1.4 and a man by 1.7. You’ll want to focus the majority of these calories right around the training period since this is when your body needs them the most. Plus by doing so, you’ll find that the rest of the day stays quite similar in terms of meal planning to your low carbohydrate days.
The no carb day is the simplest, yet most physically and mentally challenging day. It is exactly what it says it is, quite literally, no carbohydrates. You will get some carbs from the greens you eat, but not enough to affect your results.
Be aware that low and no days aren’t exactly going to be easy, some people tolerate low carbs better than others. If you find you are struggling with energy then you need to increase carbs and miss out the no-carb days.
Remember this is only given as guidance and any change in the dietary intake should be carefully considered and sanctioned by a doctor.
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