What is carb cycling? Find out here and determine if it’s right for you!
I get so many messages from women asking me about carbs. Should I be eating carbs? Should I be on a low-carb diet? Are carbs bad for me? Can I lose weight and still eat carbs?
There has been a lot of talk about carbs over the past few years, and I have seen a trend towards low-carb diets lately. However, I’m not convinced that a low-carb diet is the way to go when you want to lose weight.
First off, your body needs carbs to function properly. They are the preferred fuel source for your muscles and organs. Healthy carbs are also crucial for burning calories, and since they break down more slowly than unhealthy carbs, they keep your calorie-burning furnace HOT so it burns more calories.
I’ve personally tried going on a low-carb diet, and I failed miserably. I was cranky all the time, had zero energy, and I actually gained weight. This just proves that every body is different! You can check out my article about how to determine the right macronutrient percentages for your body type HERE.
Just because I failed at a low-carb diet doesn’t mean I only eat carbs. In fact, I like to rotate between high-carb days and low-carb days.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about Zig Zag Dieting for Fat Loss. This is when you rotate between high-calorie days and low-calorie days. But Carb Cycling takes this a step further and alternates between high-carb AND high-calorie days as well as low-carb AND low-calorie days.
WHAT IS CARB CYCLING?
Carb cycling is an eating plan that alternates high-carb and low-carb days. Yes, it’s that simple!
So why alternate high-carb and low-carb days? On high-carb days, your stoking your calorie burning furnace so that on low-carb days, your furnace burns FAT! This pattern tricks your metabolism into burning a lot of calories, even on your low-carb days. (Source: HeidiPowell.net)
BENEFITS OF CARB CYCLING:
Some of the benefits of carb cycling include:
- It’s easy to fit into any lifestyle
- You get to eat more of the foods you love
- You’ll build lean, strong muscles
- You burn more fat
- You have more energy
- You’ll feel more empowered
There are some things you should know about carb cycling before you try it:
HIGH-CARB DAYS SHOULD BE ON YOUR HEAVIER TRAINING DAYS
In order to see your best results, your high-carbs days should be on your heavier training days. For many, that would be on leg day! It could also be on a total-body workout day.
Your body needs carbs on these heavier training days. Carbs will help your muscles recover better and give you more energy for your workouts. Having a high-carb day on a heavy training day also assures that those carbs won’t turn into fat.
MAKE SURE TO CHOOSE COMPLEX CARBS
Just because you are eating more carbs doesn’t mean you want to be choosing unhealthy carbs like cookies, cakes, chips, etc. When it comes to choosing your carbs to eat, think complex carbs (i.e. sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, oatmeal, vegetables, etc.)
When you choose complex carbs, your body burns them differently – they are stored in your muscles and therefore NOT converted into fat. But if you choose simple carbs like foods containing white flour and white sugar, your body will likely convert these carbs to fat since they aren’t stored in the muscles as readily.
DECREASE FAT INTAKE ON HIGH-CARB DAYS
Don’t forget to decrease your fat intake on your high-carb days. When most people increase their calories, they tend to increase both their carb AND fat intake for the day. But when you increase both your carbs and your fats, your body is going to turn that excess into fat, and that is NOT what we want.
For example, on my high-carb days, I aim to eat 45 – 50% carbs and 20-25% healthy fats. On my low-carbs days, I aim to eat 35-40% carbs and 25-30% healthy fats. My protein ALWAYS stays the same (around 30-35%.)
YOU MAY EXPERIENCE SOME WATER WEIGHT GAIN
Expect to experience some water weight gain on your high-carb days. For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, you’ll store four grams of water (Source: Bodybuilding.com)
Don’t get alarmed over this! It’s a normal process and you aren’t gaining fat. On your low-carb days, you’ll notice that this gain will decrease. So my advice: STAY OFF THE SCALE!!
FIND THE RIGHT FORMULA
There are many different carb cycling schedules. The classic carb schedule alternates between high- and low-carb days six days a week with the seventh day used for reward meals. However, depending on your objectives, you may want to alter this schedule.
For example, to lose weight, you may want to aim for five low-carb days and two high-carb days. Or, if you want to gain or maintain muscle mass, you may want to include four or five high-carb days. Just make sure not to put all your high-carb days back to back, you should space them evenly throughout the week.
No matter which plan you choose, be sure to monitor your progress and consider adjusting your schedule to see what brings the best results for YOU!
Here is an example of a carb cycling meal plan (Source: dailyburn.com)
Make sure to stock your fridge and pantry with healthy foods first. Keep in mind you can still enjoy your favorite foods – just in moderation.
So now that you have the information about carb cycling, do you think you’ll give it a try? Let me know in the comments!