Carbohydrates play a key role in any weight loss plan or lean body regime. The timing you consume your carbs, in addition to the carbs you choose also play a major role in your body fat composition and aesthetic appearance.
Carb cycling is often adopted when you have hit a weight loss plateau or you simply need to shed some weight faster. To really understand what it is, and when and why you may need to do it, lets take it one step at a time…
What Actually is Carb Cycling?
Ok, the phrase ‘carb cycling’ is one that often leads to a lot of confusion. It shouldn’t have to because it really is simple when you know what it is. Carb cycling means nothing more than eating more carbohydrates on some days (your high carb days) to help promote lean muscle growth and eating less carbohydrates on other days (low carb days) to help promote fat loss. That, in a nutshell is carb cycling.
How and Why Does it Work?
Carb cycling can be an extremely effective form of weight management, especially when you are looking to get lean and reveal your muscle. In essence it trains your body to better utilize carbs and burn body fat more effectively.
The great thing about carb cycling is that it allows you to consume clean carbs from clean sources, without adding excess body fat. The actual ‘cycling’ of the carbohydrates enables your body to better utilize fat for burning as fuel, as opposed to burning carbs and muscle tissue for fuel. Eating clean carbs (such as sweet potato and basmati rice) on certain days kick starts your metabolism. Sticking to mostly protein and vegetables on days in between keeps your insulin levels low enough that you can burn fat without losing muscle. So, what does a typical low carb and high carb day look like?
A Typical Low-Carb Day:
7 a.m: 1 scoop of protein with unsweetened almond milk
10 a.m: Tuna with light mayo and green salad
1 p.m: 1 chicken breast with 1-cup of asparaus
4 p.m: 20g of oats with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter
7 p.m: 1 salmon fillet with 100g of green beans
A Typical High-Carb Day:
7 a.m: 1 scoop of protein with 30g oats and unsweetened almond milk
10 a.m: 1 large apple with 2 tablespoons of almond butter
1 p.m: 100g whole-wheat pasta and 100g of turkey breast
4 p.m: 1 scoop of protein with 30g of oats
7 p.m: 1 salmon fillet with ½ sweet potato
Why do People Choose to Carb Cycle?
More than often women find that they have reached a bit of a fat burning plateau, and this is the time where it is a good idea to add in some carb cycling. Your body likes to be resistant to change and it will eventually adapt to any stressors put on it. Over time, you may stop burning fat as fuel on your current weight loss plan or regime. Introducing carb cycling will rev up your metabolism again and shock your body into playing ball.
Many women who train regularly and are looking to shed some body fat again choose to have little to no carbs on their rest days. The argument behind this choice is that they don’t need them on rest days as no exercising takes place. When carbs are consumed again on non-rest days, the body will soak them up having been deprived of glycogen and this promotes fat burning for fuel.
Don’t Forget the Cheat Meals
Cheat meals should be part of your carb cycling ritual, especially if you are on a calorie restrictive diet. In fact, cheat meals are metabolic re-activators that allow you to obtain consistent results for a longer period of time. The goal of a cheat meal is to stimulate leptin. Leptin is a hormone that plays a central role in the regulation of energy homeostasis.
If you are looking to give carb cycling a go, try not to guess work it. Use the help of a qualified trainer or nutritionist to work out your macros correctly so you do it safely and effectively.