What is Carb Cycling – How to use it for Weight Loss

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You’ve heard about carb cycling, and how it could be benefitial for weight loss. But you have no clue how it works and IF it actually works. But no worries, I am going to explain eveything in this article. I am going in-depth into the science behind it, and I’m giving you an example carb cycling diet for weight loss so you don’t waste any time fooling around with this method.

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What is Carb Cycling

Let’s start off with what carb cycling diet is. Carb cycling is very simple; it works like this:

  • Throughout the week, you rotate through 5 low-
    carb days and 2 high-carb days.
  •  All days require a high protein intake.
Carb cycling is often used among bodybuilders and high-performing athletes. Generally, carb cycling revolves around a person’s training schedule. For the days that they are training is more intense they would consume more carbohydrates. For example, when it’s time to train legs, the biggest muscle group the body has. Low carb days would be for the days where the training would be less intense, or even when it’s restday or only cardio. 

So why do it? ” The main reason for using the carb cycling method is for the fat loss benefits. When your body receives limited carbs, it relies on fat as the primary fuel source. This can be helpful for weight management, body fat loss, and boosting carb storages when carbs are reintroduced.

The Science Behind Carb Cycling

To put it simple, carb cycling is meant to regulate your endocrine system (and thus metabolic rate). When you are on an aggresive energy deprivation (dieting for fat loss), your body compensates by lowering it’s demand for energy (metabolic rate slows)

Lowering your metobolic rate is a basic survival mechanism in many organisms: it would be
counterproductive for an organism to be burning
through energy rapidly when nourishment is
restricted. A lower metabolic rate means your
metabolism is actually becoming more
efficient…yes, MORE efficient.

On the contrary of what people belief, is that if your goal is fat loss then it is not favorable to be metabolically efficent. If something is to be more costly energy-wise, it means one needs to be more metabolically inefficient, not more efficient.

Example: A good way to go about this is to think of your metabolism as a vehicle and food is your fuel source. You want a less effecient vehicle as it will need more gas to travel the same distance then a more efficient vehicle. if you want to eat more (e.g. maximize the amount of gas you need to get from A to B), you better decrease your metabolic efficiency…or start shopping for a Hummer.

carb cycling

Metabolic Reactions

The most notable chronic endocrine adaptation associated with dieting for fat loss are the lowering of thyroid hormones and the fat-secreted hormone leptin.

This effects your metabolism in 2 ways:

  1. The main role for leptin is to regulate the metabolic expenditure and also the caloric intake. Both have obvious significant implications reagrding bodyweight.
  2. Thyroid hormones play a role on almost every cell in the body to increase the bodies the metabolic rate.

That’s where carb cycling comes in because carbs have shown to significantly stimulatory effect on the metabolic rate, thyroid function, and leptin production.

Therefore, the logical solution would be to avoid-and-exercise induced metabolic slowing is to acutely increase energy intake (especially carbohydrates) to
help revive hormonal and metabolic factors.

High-carb days

  • High carb days stimulate an insulin response that blasts nutrients in your muscle cells, causing them to grow!
  • Replenish glycogen stores that fuel your muscles
  • Make you feel good and energized

Low-Carb Days

  • Stimulates fat loss through tricking your body into burning fat for fuel. (instead of the carbs it would usually get)
  • More receptive to insulin, improving your body’s muscle-building response.

Carb Cycling Diet Example

For some individuals, consuming a lower-carb diet can be helpful for weight maintenance and optimal health. That’s probably why keto is so popular at the moment.

If you think carb cycling is for you, here’s how to get started. Because you’re limited on carbs on carbs most days, it goes without saying that you need to track your food intake. The number of daily carbs can vary on several factors, such as weight, age, sex, and the intensity of your workouts. 

But there are some general guidelines you can use to figure out a starting point. On high carbohydrates, people often consume about 60 percent of their calories from carbohydrates. On low carb days, individuals will switch out some of their carbs for healthy fats.

Your week could look something like this:

Day 1: 50 grams carbs – (Low-intensity workout)

Day 2: 100 grams carbs

Day 3: 150 grams carbs

Day 4: 200 grams carbs – (Leg session)

Day 5: 125 grams carbs

Day 4 would be your most intense training day (heavy weightlifting like a leg session, HIIT, or a long run), and day 1 would be your least intense (light cardio, mobility work, or a rest day). Then, you’d cycle back to day 1.

carb cycling diet

Final Carb Cycling Tips

Fiber intake: I suggest eating higher fiber on your low carb days. With any lower-carb eating approach, getting adequate fiber is a concern, as whole-grain carbohydrates are a rich source of this important nutrient.

Quality is KEY: Don’t stuff your face with pizza or fries on your high carb days. See, as mentioned earlier, look at your body as a vehicle that requires fuel, and you obviously want the best fuel so it runs at the best of its abilities.

Make sure to consume whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain bread/pasta as they are healthier choices than more refined options such as sugar, cakes, cookies, and soft drinks,

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Vincent Sorel

Vincent Sorel

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