What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a diet plan that switches between a period of low and high carbohydrates. During the low carb phase, the body depletes its stores of muscle glycogen – which is the storage form of carbs. After the body depletes its glycogen, it has no choice but to switch to alternate forms of energy – such as fat. On the high carb phase, you refill lost muscle glycogen, which helps stimulate the insulin response, and delivers lost nutrients to the muscles where they can be stored and utilized once again. This constant switch between low and high carb phases helps to up-regulate the metabolism keeping both fat burning and muscle building hormones responding.
How Do You Use Carb Cycling?
The first step to carb cycling is to determine how many calories you should be eating, and then determine the amount of each macronutrient you need to eat during the low and high carb phase. Generally speaking, to lose weight use a caloric intake that is 10 to 12 times your current weight.
For low carb days set your protein intake to 40 to 50% of your calories, carbs should be set to 20% or less, and fats will make up the remaining. On high carb days your macronutrients will change. Protein intake can be set to 30 to 40%, while carbs should take up at least 50% and fat will be set to less than 20%. This shift can create a super compensation of glycogen causes an increase in muscle anabolism.
These macronutrient ratios and the number of days in your cycle can shift based on your metabolism, how active you are and how your body responds to carbs. Start by performing a one high carb day every 4 to 7 days for the first 4 to 8 weeks, then shift to performing one high carb day every 3 to 5 days.
What Can You Expect?
Traditional low carb diets do work for fat burning, but can often cause severe cravings, depleted energy levels and strength. Not to mention, long periods on a low carbohydrate diet plan can result in metabolic slow down, a decrease in thyroid activity and a decrease in anabolic hormones that can stimulate muscle protein synthesis and growth.
Cycling between a low and high carb diet helps to stimulate the metabolism, decrease cravings and keep energy levels where they need to be. While low carb days promote fat metabolism, encouraging fat utilization, high carb days promote the anabolic response, encouraging muscle building. High carb days can also make you feel more energetic, and psychologically give you the stamina to keep on going until your high carb day.
What Supplements Should I Use While Carb Cycling?
Keto supplements are a great option when you are going through the low cycle of your carb diet. These supplements can help your body reach a state of ketosis, in other words, fat-burning, faster.
Don’t like being limited to the foods you eat? Then a flexible diet (also known as if “if it fits your macros”) may be the diet for you – and that’s Part 4 of the Fat Loss Diets series!