health and fitness

Diet Talks: Carb-cycling

10:30 AM

“Carb cycling?

What’s that?”

Carb cycling does not involve riding a bike while eating a sandwich. Or running gear whilst eating any carbs you like. Rather, it’s a way of manipulating your carbohydrate intake on different days of the week and can potentially have the benefit of speeding up fat loss.
To get these effects though, you have to do it right and realise that while it may work for some, it isn’t a magic cure-all.

What is Carb Cycling?
If you set your macros at –
"180g protein, 160g carbs and 50g fat";
And ate that amount every day, you’d be following a linear style diet.

If, however, you set your macros at –
"180g protein, 160g carbs and 50g fat for five days each week, and had two days at 180g protein, 250g carbs and 50g fat";
you’d be following a non-linear/ carb cycling diet. Carb cycling really is as simple as consuming a slightly different amount of carbohydrate day to day. What isn’t so simple though, is figuring out exactly what your carbs need to be.

Is it Any Good?

Before delving into the nuts and bolts of how to lay out carb cycling macros, let’s talk about the potential benefits.

Firstly, you can get a massive psychological and motivational boost by implementing carb cycling.

Those higher carb days definitely give you something to look forward to and can keep you driving forward when dieting just seems to be getting harder and harder. After all, who doesn’t like carbs!? The lure of a day filled with more donuts, pasta and chips is enough to keep anyone on track with their diet.

It also makes socialising and eating out easier, as typically when you go out with non-fitness folk, meals will be carb-based and alcohol may be involved.

From a physiological standpoint, the benefits are a little up in the air.

Carbs are muscle-sparring and can boost levels of metabolism-boosting hormones such as leptin and T3, but whether just one or two days of higher carbs is enough to do this is still up for debate.

What is certain though, is that most people do have more energy when eating more carbs, so you’ll likely be able to train harder and lift heavier on higher carb days, hence why I recommend taking your higher carb intake on your hardest training days, or on days you train a muscle group you wish to improve.

Work Out Your Week

The most crucial factor in setting macros for a carb cycling diet is that over the course of a week your calories and carb intake still need to be the same as they would be if you were linear dieting.

Take the example from earlier for instance –

Leaving aside protein and fat for the moment (as they remained consistent at 180g and 50g respectively) our theoretical person had a daily intake of 160g of carbs on a linear diet.

160g x 7 days = 1,120 grams of carbs per week.

Regardless of whether you carb cycle or not, you still need to hit this number over the course of seven days.

This could give you figures of –

160g 7 days per week

140g 6 days per week and 280g 1 day per week

120g 5 days per week and 260g 2 days per week

100g 4 days per week and 240g 3 days per week

The actual numbers don’t matter THAT much, rather the weekly intake is important.

A lot of it has to do with how you personally respond to carbohydrate, and, ultimately, what you prefer.

When planning out your carb cycle numbers, there are factors you must consider –

How often do you train?
If you only train two or three times per week, then two or three bigger carb load days may be more beneficial for you.

If you don’t really feel you get a huge performance boost when upping your carbs, then more moderate re-feeds may be better. (Note – “re-feed” is simply another way of saying high-carb day.)
Your overall carb intake.

Are you the kind of guy or girl who really has to cut carbs to drop body fat, or are you one of the lucky “macronators” out there who can keep carbs high while getting shredded?

With a higher total carb intake, more frequent, but smaller high-carb days might be best, as simply doing one big weekly re-feed could lead to bloating, discomfort and digestive issues.

What About Protein and Fat?

In the examples here, I’ve kept protein and fat intake constant to keep things simple.

However, you can change protein and fat intake if you wish.

The most common way of doing this is to lower one or both by 10-20%.

The reason for doing this is to allow yourself a higher carb intake while keeping within your calorie allowance. There’s no need to, but if you do find you respond particularly well to bigger higher-carb days, this may work better for you.

Take someone with high-carb day macros of –

180g protein, 260g carbs, 50g fat, this comes to 2,210 calories.

We could go to –

150g protein, 40g fat (960 calories) and 312.5g carbs (rounded to 315g for simplicity.)

Calories are the same, protein and fat are still adequate, but you get a whole lot more carbs … Happy Days!

It really is personal preference, so provided you stick to the basics, you can’t go wrong.
  • Stop putting in a sub-par performance.
  • TRACK your macros.
  • Be ACCOUNTABLE for what you're feeding your body.
  • Fit those treats into your numbers & give yourself EVERY chance of succeeding, LOSING FAT & KEEPING IT OFF by cycling your carb intake.
  • And DON'T FORGET to TRACK your progress.
- original article is by Nick Cheadle Fitness

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