Carb cycling is a popular dieting method used by bodybuilders to prepare for contests and shows and athletes to assist in meeting a particular weight category.
Athletes even use carb cycling as a maintenance diet or a body recomposition diet. But what exactly is carb cycling and how does it work?
In simple terms, carb cycling is nothing more than varying your day-to-day intake of carbohydrate, where on some days you consume more carbs than you do on others.
So what’s the difference between carb cycling and a low carb diet then? The key to burning fat is to keep your metabolism high. Following a low carb diet is a good way for someone who has too much excess body fat to initially start to lose fat. But over time, following a low carb diet might actually just do the opposite – it will slow down your metabolism.
Leptin is a hormone that is responsible for reporting your nutritional status to the brain. Your brain recognizes higher leptin levels as an indicator that you don’t need to worry about food. Following a low carb diet can lead to a drop in Leptin levels up to 54% in just one week. This drop of Leptin will slow down your metabolism and create an environment where your body thinks it’s low on energy resources, so it responds by trying to get you to save more energy by storing fat.
Carb cycling solves this problem as it keeps your metabolism from slowing down and it also makes dieting much easier mentally.
How does carb cycling work ?
The cornerstone of carb cycling is reducing your carbohydrate intake for a certain period of time (3-days is common). It’s then followed by increasing your carb intake for a day. Instead of just keeping your carbohydrate intake low throughout the whole duration of your dieting phase, you alternate your intake going from low carb days to high carb days.
To give you an example let’s assume that you need 3000 calories per day for maintenance at a weight of 90kg (200 lbs). If your goal is to lose fat, you obviously need to create a calorie deficit. Between 500-800 calories a day would be a good start.
For muscle mass maintenance it’s recommended that your protein intake is kept high or 1.3-1.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. This means that your protein intake should be 117 to 162 grams of protein per day.
It’s important to have your high and moderate carb days on workout days for energy and recovery. You can have your low carb days on rest days and cardio days.
If we use this Upper/Lower split as an example, carb cycling would look something like this:
- Monday: Upper Body (Moderate Carb Day)
- Tuesday – Rest/Cardio (Low Carb Day)
- Wednesday – Lower Body (Moderate Carb Day)
- Thursday – Rest/Cardio (Low Carb Day)
- Friday – Upper Body (High Carb Day – Refeed)
- Saturday – Rest/Cardio (Moderate Carb Day)
- Sunday – Rest (Low Carb Day)
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 15th July, 2020.