If you’ve been following my Facebook and Instagram feeds you’ll know that I’ve just started experimenting with carb cycling as part of my mission to get some abs for summer. Ha! Questions have been flooding in about what it is and how it works so I thought I’d do a mini blog to explain a bit about it.
As I’m just starting out with my studies in nutrition I’ve been planning it all with advice from my coaches but here’s some very basic information to help answer some of your questions.
So what is carb cycling?
Put simple, it’s a dietary tool alternating higher carb days with lower carb days alongside rigorous exercise to help stimulate your metabolism and promote fat loss. It’s designed for short-term use, requires fairly strict adherence and has a higher success rate where the aim is to lose fat (to enhance lean muscle that has already been built) compared to weight loss. Experts suggest starting with a calorie-controlled diet if your goal is to lose weight (which might involve lowering carbs initially and upping your protein and fat) – I can do a separate post around this is there’s interest.
How does carb cycling work?
Very basically, it manipulates the insulin levels in your body through eating alternating levels of carbs. When carbohydrates are digested, they’re stored as glycogen – which is a primary source of energy for our bodies. When the body is depleted of glycogen it turns to using fat and protein stores for energy instead. The aim here is to lose fat rather than muscle so protein levels are kept high during carb cycling to promote fat loss instead. Alternating the low carb days with the re-feed/high carb days also helps prevent the body from going into starvation mode where the automatic response is to store fat.
It involves working out the exact number of calories that your body needs based on your height, weight, age and exercise levels and then breaking that down into quantities of fat, protein and carbohydrate measured in grams (macros). Bit techy but there are tonnes of apps and online calculaters to help. You then eat a strict weight of protein, fat and carbohydrate each day, manipulated so the carbs are higher on some days and lower on others. My Fitness Pal is a great easy way to plan and track it all. There are different types of cycling but a common method is to keep fat and protein levels consistent and just manipulate the carbohydrates which in turn leads to a manipulation in calories on those days.
Let me know if you’ve tried it before and what your experience was!
I’ll be back with a blog on my experience and what I think of the results (if any) when I’ve finished the initial cycle…Keep your questions and comments coming – I love hearing from you guys!