Low Carb foods are the new big fad and you’re probably starting to notice the appearance of ‘low-carb’ stickers and notifications on food packaging. Similar to the big ‘low-fat’ food trend of the past few years.
Carbs aren’t quite the evil monster the media would have you believe; we use carbohydrates as a fast acting source of energy and for those involved in regular exercise or sports, they are crucial. The truth of the matter is, it mostly comes down to timing.
In a nutshell, carb cycling is the continuous manipulation of the amount of carbs in your diet across a set time period. It’s often used as an alternative to simply going on a ‘low carb’ diet.
Issues with Low-Carb Diets
Using a low-carb diet for an extended period of time will likely lead to a severe drop in physical energy as well as the feeling of being mentally drained. Not to mention the effect all of this is likely to have on your mood.
The other con to going regularly low-carb is the dual effect on your muscles. Firstly, low energy is likely to hinder your workouts, particularly on the intense workout days. This usually leads to downgraded performance.
Couple this with the fact your muscle tissue is receiving less immediate energy sources and you also run the risk of your body turning to the breakdown of your muscle tissue for energy. Put simply, you’re likely to lose some your gains.
Burn fat while Keeping your Gains
So this is where carb cycling comes in. For those who want a new technique for burning body fat but want to hold on to their hard earned muscle tissue, give carb cycling a try.
There are two common ways to incorporate carb cycling in to your lifestyle. One is to build the approach around your training schedule, the other is to simply keep a weekly/daily routine.
Carb Cycling matched up to your workout schedule is a case of changing your daily carb intake dependant on whether or not you’re working out that day and how intensely.
For example, the basic approach here would be to have your lowest carb days when you’re resting, as those days will require less energy.
Then on days you are training such as an arms workout, have a medium carbs day. And inevitably when you have really intense workout days, for example leg day, have these as your highest carb intake days.
Examples of Carb Cycling
|Day of Week||Workout||Carb Level||Carb Intake|
|Monday||Arms Day||Moderate Carbs||150g|
|Wednesday||Rest Day||Low Carbs||75g|
|Thursday||Leg Day (Intense)||High Carbs||250g|
|Friday||Rest Day||Low Carbs||75g|
Carb cycling on a basic schedule works a little differently. The typical approach is a reoccurring structure based on high and low days which you simply follow as a schedule. You amend your training to fit around this process. E.g. three days low and two days high.
|Day||Carb Level||Carb Intake|
You can of course schedule based on the days of the week if you find this easier. Some will find that having an approach by which carbs are lower during the week and higher at the weekend suits them better vs their social lives, allowing dinner with friends to be an easier and less restrictive experience.
Final Word on Carb Cycling
Carb cycling is a great tool for manipulating your carb intake so that your body is forced to start using fat as fuel while ensuring you have higher energy and recovery ability when you need it.
Do keep in mind that carb cycling is still based around having as clean as possible source of carbs. Regardless of how well you plan and stick to your overall carb cycling intake, you should still be looking to get these carbs from cleaner sources. Junk food is still junk food regardless if it is a high carb day or not.
You also can’t neglect your other macros, try to be smart and consistent with your protein and fat intake which should ideally remain consistent throughout your plan so that the only variable is your carbs.