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Carbohydrate Cycling! What Is It? How Does It Work?

Updated on September 29, 2019
BodystrongBen profile image

I have a masters degree in sports science and around 10 years experience in personal training and sports research.

What is Carbohydrate Cycling?

Hello and thank you for reading. Carbohydrate Cycling or Carb-Cycling for short is a relatively new diet that has since been implemented by numerous professionals from your famous to celebrities up to professional athletes.


Carb-cycling essentially is the cycling of how much carbohydrates you ingest from day to day. Usually people trying to cut down on fat or 'Shred Up' would recommend going to a low carbohydrate diet. This is due to the fact that carbohydrates are a macro-nutrient meaning they are one of the three main ways the body obtains energy or calories. In the body carbohydrates are converted to glucose which are then used for energy, if the glucose is not needed for energy immediately it can then be stored in the body as glycogen. However once glycogen stores are full, carbohydrates then start getting stored as fat and this is why people believe a diet with low carbohydrate in-take will help you lose fat.


The problem with low carbohydrate diets is that if you cut down too much you are then at risk of burning muscle as well as fat. This is due to the fact that if you take part in physical activity with a low amount of nutrients/glucose to burn then your body will begin to act quickly and burn what it can for energy, which could include muscle. Another negative of a low-carb diet is that it can often leave you feeling drained and run down, which can drastically effect your performance physically and mentally.


This is where the beauty of carb-cycling comes in. Carb-cycling involves varying the amount of carbohydrates you intake from day to day. Some days you have a low-carb day which helps in the aid of burning fat, other days you have high-carb days which helps to maintain muscle and on some days you will go extremely low on carbs which we like to call 'fasting days'. The fasting days are used to shock the body into a state of fasting to really help you burn fat.

Basic Carb-Cycling Method.

Now onto how I have used it myself and what i would suggest. Firstly i would recommend to anyone to Carb-cycle over a 5 day cycle. Day 1 and 2 would be low-carb days, day 3 a high carb day, day 4 a fasting day and day 5 a regular day. Although you can change this to suit your goals and your own body as we're all different. For example somebody who is looking to gain mass and usually struggles to gain weight, they would take away the fasting day and replace with a high-carb day. On the other hand if you are looking to lose more weight then you could change the regular day into another low-carb day or even change the high-carb day into a regular day.

Source

How to Effectively Use Carb-Cycling.

Firstly i would like to say that through my own research i have found carb-cycling ,out of all the diets i have tried for retain muscle while losing fat, to be the most effective! However this does not 100% guarantee that it will work for you and your body type but should you try it and stick it out, then there is a high chance you will get the desired results.


The most basic way i can explain my teaching is that I give my clients a certain target number of carbohydrates for the 3 different types of days. A general rule of thumb is low-carb days I would recommend around 50-70 grams of carbohydrates, depending on gender and body type. High-carb days I would usually recommend anywhere around the 300+ mark, which once again will vary for different body types and genders. Finally the fasting day I would recommend having less than 25 grams of carbohydrates and probably only 25-50% of the calories that you would eat on a regular day. Another tip on the fasting day, would be to not eat until 6:00pm onward so that up until that point your body will fall into a state of fasting.


Using the numbers that i have just provided along with my 5 day cycle plan that I mentioned earlier i believe this could be a useful diet for a majority of people. Once you get into a routine and start seeing results you can start to play around with it to suit your wants and needs. To do this you can try and alter the amount of carbohydrates you eat on each day as well as changing which days you want to follow in your cycle. Also remember that any diet takes time to effect your appearance so stick it out for atleast 8-10 weeks before you make any altercations or judgements.



Things to Remember When Carb-Cyling.

Just because this can be an extremely effective, there are a few things you need to follow to make it the most effective diet as possible. The first important detail to remember is to work your carb-cycling days around your training. For example i would say not to train or perform very low-intensity training on your fasting days. While fasting you won't have enough energy mentally or physically to perform to a standard that would be effective for you. I would also recommend that you perform high-intensity workouts and big muscle groups such as leg day when you are on a high-carb day. This is simply because you will need enough carbohydrates to fuel your muscles while performing workouts of a high-intensity.


Another main point is to re-iterate that just because you keep an eye on your carb-intake it doesn't mean you can forget about other nutrients and foods you put into your body. Along side this diet I would always say to keep your protein intake high (around 2 grams of protein for each 1 kilograms of body weight). I would also recommend to keep high-sugar foods down to a minimum or not at all! Saying all of this though remember not to take focus off your carbohydrate intake as that will be the main focus of this diet.


My third and final point is to STICK IT OUT! Too many people try certain diets and training methods but lose interest when they don't get a quick fix. Trust me after many years around health and fitness there is no such thing as a quick fix. Things take time and as I have found that the slower you burn the fat off, then the more likely it is to stay off in the long run. My usual guidance would be give at least 8 weeks to see results but even then I would say around the 12 week mark should be when you see conclusive results.

Source

Carb-Cycling Conclusion.

In conclusion I would definitely say for somebody who is wanting to get ripped but not lose too much muscle then this is the ideal diet. It's easy to stick to and allows you to carry on any physical activity to the same intensity that you normally would. If you decide to try this diet i hope it works out great for you and if you have any questions i'm always free to answer.

Thank you for reading.

© 2019 Ben Smith

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