There are SO many ideas and philosophies around weight/fat loss. Carb cycling is one of those ideas, and one that I think isn’t too “out there”. Carbs have been the black sheep of the macro nutrient family. But let’s get clear about carbs. Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy in your diet/fitness/weight loss plans. A large consumption of PROCESSED carbs will affect hormone levels thus allowing the body to store extra fat. In order to perform at our best and build muscle, carbs must be consumed. However eating the proper carbs at the proper time is the answer in achieving long-term results you can be satisfied with.
Carb Cycling is as easy as alternating between high carb days and low carb days. When I was at my most lean physique, I was doing this and didn’t even realize it. Every other day was a big cardio day in my workout schedule, so I would be sure to start the day off with a carb heavy breakfast consisting of oatmeal, fruit, and lean protein. On the other days I would be sure to eat eggs, an omelet, or some sort of protein rich breakfast. If I planned a dinner that was mostly protein and veggie heavy, I would eat more complex carbs throughout the day knowing I had the room for them. If I was making stir-fry, or a dinner consisting of complex carbs such as rice, sweet potato, or pasta, I would watch my carb intake throughout the day eating more veggies, hummus, beans, nuts, or lean meat. I didn’t even realize what I was doing, but looking back I recognize that I was very thoughtful, disciplined, and prepared in my food choices, alternating high and low carbohydrate days, and not even realizing it. It worked! But why does carb cycling work?
On the days you are eating a higher number or carbohydrates you are storing your calorie burning furnace so that on your lower carb days you are burning fat…lots of it! This pattern tricks your body into burning tons of calories. That’s why cheat days/meals have been proven and recommended in fat loss diets. We probably all work in a cheat meal and don’t even realize it! I know from my personal experience, the more strict I was with my diet, the harder is was to see the scale budge or the reflection in the mirror change. How frustrating! Especially when you are working out and eating to a “T”! However, when I mindfully indulged in date night pizza and red wine, a handful of M&Ms, or Sunday pancakes, I was looking and feeling my best! This is good news, right?!
How to get started:
Chris Powell from TV’s Extreme Weight Loss has several plans I have reviewed and feel great in recommending to you!
Easy Carb Cycle
Classic Carb Cycle
Turbo Carb Cycle
The Fit Cycle
Another easy way to go about this may look like this:
Day 1: No Carb
Day 2: Low Carb
Day 3: High Carb
Day 4: No Carb
Day 5: No Carb
Day 6: Low Carb
Day 7: High Carb
No Carb- 25 grams
Low-75 grams or below
High Carb-150-200 grams
Be sure to take a look at all of these programs before trying one that may suit you.
Carb cycling is more a hormonal stabilizing strategy than a calorie restricting one. The science of this has to do with insulin, the fat storing hormone. Insulin is released into the bloodstream and stored in the liver to be used later for fuel or for the muscles as fat storage. If we eat too many carbs we just don’t need the fuel, and the supply is stored as fat. This strategy also affects Leptin levels. Leptin, the hunger hormone, is one that science is learning more and more about these days. We can develop Leptin resistance with diets that are high in carbs and calories. If we are eating a low carb/low-calorie diet, Leptin signals the body to be hungry, eat, slow down, and conserve. By participating in carb cycling, we are becoming Leptin sensitive rather than resistant, allowing the hormone to reset on our high and low days. Serotonin is also affected. This is our sanity hormone. Low carb diets can make you crave sugar and chocolate. (Been there!) Carb cycling regulates serotonin and helps fight cravings! Lastly, Coritsol is positively affected in this method. Excess Cortisol production and muscle catabolism is avoided. No muscle loss as which can happen in a low carb diet.
Check out more from Livestrong.com if you are itching for more details to understand this program further!
Carb cycling does require some planning, counting, and discipline. But after a while, I am sure it can become second nature in your eating style. Whether you are prepping for a special event, need to lose some lb’s, or have an itch to try something new, be sure to give this a fair shot and pay special attention to how you feel. Rate your hunger, energy, and cravings, along with weight loss and pant size changing!
Be sure to let me know if this is something you have tried and what you thought of it. I also want to hear about your results once you give it a try!