Don't run away - carbs aren't your enemy!
In fact, if you shift how you include carbs in your diet, they can actually help you not only lose weight, but also strengthen your body and help your overall body composition, especially when it comes to your hormones!
Most people turn to carb cycling as a tool to reduce body fat while simultaneously improving muscle tone and strength.
The benefits of carb cycling include:
- Lean muscle mass growth/retention
- Encourage weight loss
- Increase plant food intake
- Help reduce hormone fluctuation
- Help reduce blood sugar swings
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Endocrine stimulation
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is simply a dietary strategy where you alternate between high carb and low carb meals/days. It is more of a general concept versus a strict diet guideline. With carb cycling you intentionally choose when and how you are going to eat carbs in order to help your body burn fat and build muscle.
There will be some days where you eat more carbohydrates and some days where you eat less carbohydrates. You can choose to leave your protein and fat intake the same each day, or you can choose to adjust them to help encourage the body to burn more fat.
The main motivation for carb cycling is to decrease body fat ratio by increasing metabolism and encouraging it to burn fat for energy instead of carbs. Although carbs are a source of energy for the body, they are also a culprit in hijacking the metabolism to store fat instead of use it.
Your body is going to take what you eat and turn it into energy before it will work to break down fat stores for energy. It’s simply easier for the body to do it this way. If carbs are a large portion of your diet, this is what your body is going to use first for energy.
When you have low carb days it forces your body to turn to those fat stores and use them for energy. This is also a big reason the ketogenic diet has brought so many people astounding results! When you deprive the body of carbs, you teach it to use fat as its primary energy source.
How To Use Carb Cycling To Boost The Metabolism
There are two main ways to approach carb cycling.
#1. Cycle Carbs For Specific Days
You pick 3 or more days a week that will be your high carb days. You could do two low carb days followed by a high carb day or alternate on a daily basis. A sample schedule may look like this:
Monday: Low Carb/High Fat
Tuesday: Low Carb/High Fat
Wednesday: High Carb/Low Fat
Thursday: Low Carb/High Fat
Friday: High Carb/Low Fat
Saturday: Low Carb/High Fat
Sunday: High Carb/Low Fat
This can be a great method to start with if you have never used carb cycling before.
#2. Partition Carbs Post Strength Workout
You eat high carb meals only after strength training workouts, 2-3 times a week. After a strength training workout is when your your body will use carbohydrates the most effectively to refill the muscle glycogen stores.
In my opinion this is the most effective way to use carb cycling. It does take more planning and commitment because your diet (except for 3 meals a week) will be low carb.
How Low Is “Low Carb?”
Of course, I don’t suggest you entirely eliminate all carbs from your diet on low carb days. I would research your specific body type to determine exactly the numbers you should follow, but here is my general recommendation:
For the first method:
High-carb days: 200-300 grams carbohydrates
Low-carb days: 75-150 grams carbohydrates
For post-workout method:
High carb meals: .25-.4 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
High Quality Carb Sources
Although you could go grab a krispy kreme doughnut for your high carb meal, I don’t recommend it! Choose high quality carb sources that will give you the most benefits:
- Sweet potatoes
- Mixed greens
- Black beans
If you're looking for a new way to construct your diet, carb cycling has proven to be simple and effective. It also doesn't deprive you of the carbs your body has become to accustomed to! It simply helps encourage your body to use them more efficiently.
Have you tried carb cycling before? What were your results? Do you have any additional tips? Share with us in the comments below!
And remember, we’re in this together.