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Carb cycling for fat loss

Posted on February 1, 2016

Carb cycling, although it sounds like a magical method of dieting, is much more simple than you would think.

What is carb cycling? Carb cycling is simply done by spreading your weekly carb intake out in different amounts on different days to give the effect of a re-feed on a certain day/s. (Meaning you could have low days, moderate days, high days)

Who should carb cycle? 

-Anyone who is in a calorie deficit and is struggling mentally to stick to a low calorie intake for 7 days of the week.

-Anyone wanting to have more energy to train on certain days of their training program. (When in contest prep I will plan a high-carb day either the day of or the day before I train legs so that my glycogen stores are higher for that session)

-Anyone who is look to break through a fat loss plateau

Benefits:  Some benefits of carb cycling include:

-It’s mentally refreshing knowing you have a high carb day or days to look forward to throughout the week, making it easier to push through the tough (Lower calorie) days.

-Allows you to plan a high-carb day for a social event, enabling you to enjoy yourself a little bit more by having more calories to play with.

-A high-carb day can lead to greater/faster fat loss as your energy expenditure is usually high in the days following.

-May assist you in maintaining strength on certain lifts while in a deficit and losing body fat/weight. This will also help to maintain muscle.

-For someone competing in a physique/bodybuilding show it can be a perfect way to test out how your body will respond to certain amounts of carbs. This can give you a good idea as to how you will set up your peak week leading into a show or photo shoot etc.

How do I implement carb cycling?

Example:  On a normal day, Bob’s carbohydrate intake is 250g per day, meaning he eats 1,750g of carbs per week. If Bob wanted to implement carb cycling with 1 high-carb day per week he could take 50g of carbs from 6 days of the week (meaning for those 6 days he would be eating 200g per day) and then add them into the 7th day (Meaning on the 7th day he would be eating 550g of carbs).

If Bob wanted 2 high-carb days for the week he may take 50g from 5 days of the week (Meaning that on those 5 days he would be eating 200g again) and then add them into 2 days of his choice (Meaning on those days he would be eating 375g of carbs if he chose to spread out the buffer evenly).

What should I do with my protein and fat intake on high-carb days? For myself and all of my clients, I simply leave protein and fat as it is. If you feel you would like more carbs on any given day you may take calories coming from fats and add them to your carb intake if you wish. E.g. Taking 5g of fat (5 x 9=45 calories) would give you an extra 11g of carbohydrates (45 calories / 4 calories = 11g).

Does is matter how far apart the higher carb days are? No it does not, as long as by the end of the week Bob has had his 1,750g of carbs and he is in a calorie deficit then it will not make a difference. I have found that mentally I prefer to go with 2 high-carb days where I will space them out like this: L L L H L L H.

Things to look out for: The day after a high-carb day you will most likely be heavier and slightly watery/bloated from the higher glycogen/carb intake. Remember carbs hold water so don’t stress, just keep drinking plenty of water and go about your business as usual. I always found that I looked a lot leaner and sharper 2 days after a high carb day as my glycogen stores were still fuller and my body had flushed out the excess water.

Summary: Carb cycling can be effect for some, and for others it can be a mathematical and mental disaster seeing their body and weight change so often. Give it a go, see how your body responds and whether your training/mentality towards training while in a deficit improves and decide for yourself whether this method of dieting is for you.

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