Sample Carb Cycling Routine
Like any other fat loss or strength-building strategy, there are different ways to carb cycle. However you want to tackle it, you must know how many calories you burn on a given day. This can take a lot of trial and error, but if youre serious about body composition and carb cycling appeals to you, theres no escaping it.
That means you have to find out your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. You also use the calorie calculator below to find a rough caloric starting point. Once you find that out, consider the following carb cycling options as potential starting points.
Top 5 Facts You Should Know About Carb Cycling And Fat Loss
In today’s fat loss diet arena, carb cycling is becoming more popular! Before you jump ahead with this superior nutrition plan, make sure you know the top 5 facts about carb cycling for fat loss.
If you’ve been reading a variety of the fat-loss diet literature that’s available, you’ve very likely come across a technique called “carb cycling.” Essentially carb cycling is a program where you mix higher carbohydrate days with lower carbohydrate days in the effort to lose weight without suffering some of the negative consequences of a pure low carbohydrate diet plan.
Some of these negative side effects include a drop in exercise performance, increased hunger and craving levels, lowered metabolic rate, and difficulty focusing and concentrating at work or at school.
Here’s what to know.
Can It Help You Lose Weight
Anecdotally, carb cycling may be able to help people lose weight. However, there is currently no scientific research that suggests carb cycling is more or less effective for weight loss than other diets.
If people consume enough calories for their body weight, if they are a moderate weight, or have a slight calorie deficit if they have a high BMI, carb cycling may help them lose weight or maintain a moderate weight.
there is no significant difference in weight loss between diets that restrict one form of macronutrient, such as protein or carbs, over another.
A 2018 study suggests diets that allow people to tailor food consumption and the type of food to their individual needs and preferences tend to experience better diet adherence and weight loss.
Carb cycling does not restrict a personâs consumption of types of food as much as some other diets. Some people may find this approach more suitable for their needs and therefore may find this diet helps them with weight loss.
There is some evidence that low carb diets, such as carb cycling, may be beneficial for muscle gain and sports performance.
A 2017 study suggests that competitive bodybuilders who utilize carbohydrate refeeds, which are periods of times where they consume more carbs, do so because they believe it enhances fat loss.
However, researchers need to conduct more studies to investigate the safety and effectiveness of carb cycling within the sports fitness community.
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Carb Cycling For Athletic Performance
Carb cycling for athletic performance may look different depending on whether an athletes goals are competing on an elite level, competing with friends on the weekend, or just striving for a personal best.
Carb cycling may also be different if you are most concerned about body composition, endurance sports , or sports with short bursts of activities .
Before we jump into talking about carb cycling, the first question we need to ask is: do athletes need to eat more carbs?
There is a fair amount of evidence showing that athletes on a low-carb diet can efficiently burn fat for fuel and improve both their body composition and exercise performance without carbs.12
Other studies show that in the short term, low-carb diets can hurt athletic performance.13
A still greater number of studies have shown no effect of a low-carb diet on performance at all . Although many studies even the negative ones have shown changes in certain metabolic parameters like increased fat oxidation, these apparent advantages to a low-carb diet have not always translated into better performance.14
With respect to carb cycling for athletic performance, there is mechanistic evidence for how this strategy might work.
Because there is so much more fat available than carbohydrate, the body increasingly relies on fat oxidation for energy production during submaximal exercise. This is what is meant by becoming fat-adapted.
So What Is Carb Cycling
Before diving into the benefits of carb cycling, it’s crucial to understand exactly what carbohydrates do in your body. One of the three main macronutrients , carbs are broken down into glucose when consumed, which your body uses as its main fuel source, according to the American Council on Exercise .
Once this glucose gets into your blood, your body produces insulin, a hormone that moves the glucose from your blood and into your cells. Your cells then convert the glucose into energy or store it in your fat cells.
Carb cycling involves strategically manipulating your daily carbohydrate intake to get the biggest benefits from the energy for exercise, competition or fat loss, per the ACE. Generally, an athlete will eat more carbohydrates and less fat on particularly difficult training days, whereas he or she may consume less total carbs on recovery days.
“Carb consumption might depend upon your level of activity or your ability to control your blood sugar,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, registered dietitian, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.“Some people cycle carbs, meaning that they adjust the quality and quantity of carbs throughout the course of the day, with particular attention to carb intake before or after exercising.”
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What Does Carb Cycling Do Exactly
In theory, it can do quite a few things. So well give you a rundown of the top five potential benefits of carb cycling.
But before we do, its important to know: Theres hardly any human research on carb cycling.
Mostly, we have anecdotal reports about how carb cycling works, along with a few hypotheses based on biochemistry.
Those are valuable, but on a 1 to 10 scale of scientific confidence, carb cycling ranks closer to a 1 than a 10.
So keep that in mind when you hear or read claims about carb cycling.
Okay, enough with the disclaimers. Heres what carb cycling might do.
How Carb Cycling Can Support Your Fitness
Because carbs can be a source of immediate fuel, they can play a crucial role in supporting your workouts – depending on the type of training you do. However, carbs are not the only source of energy your body relies on, and exactly how many carbs you need to fuel exercise is commonly misunderstood.
In other words, just because you are exercising or moving around a lot, doesnt automatically mean you need more carbs in your diet. The type of workouts you are doing and the intensity, most strongly affect your daily calorie and macro needs.
In basic terms, here’s how your level out output can impact your carb cycling needs. For the ultimate results, consider adjusting your macros each day based on your fitness regime.
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What Is Carb Cycling And 5 Reasons It Helps Your Diet
EMMIE SATRAZEMIS, RD, CSSD February 17, 2021
Youve probably heard of cutting carbs for weight loss, but what about cycling them? Fine-tuning carb intake has long been used by endurance athletes to optimize their fueling and recovery, however, this nutrition strategy might have some serious perks for fat loss as well.
Ready to get serious about your macro intake and fine-tune your carbs for optimal results? Heres your go-to guide: what is carb cycling, why it works, and how to do it right.
How Many Carbs Should I Eat While Carb Cycling
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.
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Wait So Is Carb Cycling The Same As Keto
Not exactly. Keto is very low in carbs, moderate in protein, and high in fat, with the goal of burning fat for fuel . Carb cycling is usually higher in carbs that the traditional keto diet and does not involve the same high fat intake , explains Hillary Pride, RDN, LD, NASM-CPT, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in Portland, Maine.
That’s not to say they don’t have their fair share of similarities. After all, at their most basic, both diets place an emphasis on managing carb intake. And because of this, some people loosely combine the two regimens and do something called keto cycling.
“Keto cycling involves following a keto protocol most days of the week with one or two re-feeding days of higher carb intake,” Pride says. “The re-feeding days are said to ‘break’ ketosis and offer dieters the benefits of carbohydrates, such as fueling athletic performance,boost fiber intake, and increase variety in the diet.”
Also, just as you count macros in keto , you do the same in carb cycling.
Who Can Benefit From Carb Cycling
Athletes are the individuals most likely to benefit from carb cycling. But as we will discuss later in this article, the science regarding this issue is all over the map.
Another type of person who may benefit is someone who sees a lifetime of limiting fruit, bread, pizza, and other favorite high-carb foods as depressing and a significant barrier to committing to a low-carb diet. Knowing they can temporarily return to their higher-carb favorites for a week every couple of months might increase their long-term chances of success.
Yet, people who dont do moderation well may find the opposite to be true, so it is essential to know how you will respond. Will relaxing your carb restriction trigger unchecked cravings or binges? We address this further in our section about who should not try carb cycling.
Lastly, some may want to mimic our ancestors dietary patterns as closely as possible.1 As Seattle physician, Dr. Ted Naiman says: I think that with the exception of the past few hundred human generations, our species particularly those living at higher latitudes has always been on a cyclical ketogenic diet and I think it makes a lot of sense to cycle carbs if looking at diet through an evolutionary lens.2
Todays society has erased any need to eat seasonally. You can get berries shipped to Alaska from South America in the dead of winter, and hydroponic gardens can even redefine the definition of eating locally.
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Adjusting Your Carbohydrates Based On Your Activity Level May Help You To Bust Through Plateaus
Weight loss and strength plateaus will happen at some point during your fitness journey, no matter how diligently you work on your goals. Some people might tell you to eat fewer carbs to achieve one goal and eat more to attain the other. But what if we told you that doing both otherwise known as carb cycling is actually the answer?
Carb cycling which, sadly, doesnt involve eating bread on a bicycle is a more advanced fat loss and strength-building technique not meant for beginners or those struggling with obesity. Rather, its a tactic recommended for relatively lean people who have hit a fat loss or strength plateau.
While it might sound complicated at first, a little know-how on how to track your calories and macronutrients is all you need to see if this technique is right for you. Below is a research-based article that covers everything youd want to know about carb cycling.
Carb Cycling Meal Plans For Fat Loss
So for this example, we will set him up with 3 high carb days at his maintenance intake and 4 low carb days 600 calories below maintenance.
If you need ideas for training, check out my workout plans article for some ideas.
Since hes training 3 days per week, well make those his high carb days. His off days will be the low carb days.
Training Day Intake | 2,850 calories
190g protein65g fat
Rest Day Intake | 2,250 calories
190g protein100g carbohydrates120g fat
Total weekly deficit: 2,400 calories . This should net him just less than 1 pound of fat lost per week.
Now I know what youre thinking
Hes only going to lose 3-4 pounds of fat per month. I want to lose faster!
It seems enticing to aim for fast fat loss, but its not the ideal situation because the faster you lose fat, the more likely you are to lose muscle, which is the exact opposite of what were trying to achieve.
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What Is A Carb Cycling Diet How It Can Boost Weight Loss Efforts
Perhaps youve heard that your metabolism is a lot like a fire: If you fuel the fire with the right ingredients it keeps burning hotter. On the other hand, not adding enough fuel for too long will cause the fire to weaken and fizzle out.
Carb cycling eating more carbs only on certain days of the week is believed to be one of the best diet plans to lose weight fast and gain muscle because it stimulates certain digestive and metabolic functions that positively impact weight control. Eating enough carbohydrates at the right time resets your metabolic thermostat so to speak, signaling your body to create enough beneficial hormones that keep your appetite in check and metabolism high. However, as we all know, too many carbs can have the opposite effect and cause weight gain.
Whats key about a carb cycling diet that makes it different from other plans? Carb cycling increases carbohydrate intake only at the right time and in the right amounts. While other long-term diet plans might seem overly restrictive, daunting and overwhelming, many find that a carb cycling diet is easy to follow and even fits into a hectic schedule.
Setting Up Your Carb Cycle Program
We are going to assume that you already have your Macro Blueprint and know what your specific macros are. When it comes to adding carb cycling to your approach, there are many ways that you can go about things and it all comes down to your goals, preferences, and you may have one or two very high carb days on your plan and the rest be lower carb days.
Or, if you are engaging in exercise multiple times per week, you might have two high carb days, two moderate carb days, and three very low carb days each usually you will want to ensure that your highest carb days coincide with your hardest workouts of the week. This ensures that you have the fuel availability to do those intense workouts and can make the most of them.
Then youll typically want to place your low carb days on the rest days you have scheduled since you just wont need that much energy during these days. Some people who are seeking maximum fat loss may keep their dietary fat intake relatively constant throughout the week as its not all that high, to begin with.
Those, on the other hand, seeking moderate weight loss or who may be seeking body recomposition benefits, may choose to keep their fat intake much lower on the high carb days, and then use a higher fat, lower carb intake on their lower carb days.
Check out our Macro Calculator.
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How To Lose Weight Through Cycling
At face value, weight loss is a simple formulaeat less and move more. Dig a bit deeper, and its much more complicated than that. Not only do hormones play a significant role, but so does the mental aspect. Its important to re-establish a healthy relationship with food. Here are just a few of the things that helped me on my journey.
Motivation and Weight Loss
Before embarking on a weight loss journey, you have to determine the reasons why. Is it for performance or body image? Too often, our bodys view revolves around a perception of should and the thought that I dont look like a certain type of athlete. No doubt, I was concerned about a certain body image, but honestly, I just wanted be get healthy and be a faster cyclist. For this article, were going to focus on chasing performance instead of hitting a specific number on the scale.
Start with a Goal
My goal was to be fast enough to hang on my local drop ride, and I used that goal as my decision matrix. Will this make me faster? Having a central goal simplifies your decision making when you are trying to lose weight. If it helps you achieve your goal, do it if not, avoid it.
Aim for Consistency
Consistency helps you avoid the crash diet cycle. You go crazy, lose weight, burn out, then put the weight back on. Ive been there many times. The worst part is that not only do you gain more weight, but it can wreck your body composition. You end up with more fat and less muscle.
Measure Your Cycling and Weight Loss Success