Click here to WATCH video: “Carb Cycling explained”
What is Carb Cycling? It is a method employed of alternating carbohydrate intake to break through plateaus and ease fat-loss.
With Carb Cycling you will alternate between high, medium and low carb days to manipulate hormones and increase the bodies fat burning ability while trying to hold on to your hard-earned muscle mass.
With carb cycling the body never goes into “famine” mode (an occurrence so often happening when too little carbs is consumed over extended periods. Such a famine mode usually results in severe muscle loss).
An interesting fact is that carb cycling is controlling the ghrelin hormone levels, the hormone responsible for feeling hunger. Because of this many people find carb cycling relatively easy because they do not feel hunger.
HIGH CARB DAYS – spike the insulin levels and fill the glycogen stores, firing up the metabolism and prevent a catabolic environment.
A dieter’s insulin levels needs to be spiked to reap the anabolic benefits of the insulin hormone. (insulin allows one to burn fat while protecting the muscle).
The low carb days can be very taxing on the body when training hard. But even with traditional carb restricted diets it has nearly the same effect. The big plus for the Carb Cycling is that the dieter can hold out one day of “starvation” with the knowledge of tomorrow he will feed carbs again.
Carb cycling is NOT considered a long-term solution but a short-term strategy to just help you break through plateaus or to get your body stage ready.
Many different methods of carb cycling exists.
The more common approach is a high, medium and low carb day – 3 days in a cycle. During all three days fat and protein consumption stays roughly the same with a slight increase in protein and fat on the medium and low carb days.
An example is 300g – 400g carbs on the high days and on a low day about 50g of carbs.
Also which must be noted here is that especially in first 2 weeks there should be twice as many high and medium carb days than low carb days. Typically something like this: high, medium, high, medium, low, high, medium, high, medium, low, etc…
After about 2 weeks you can go the normal high, medium and low days as a regular 3 –day cycle.
Some people shift their training intensity to be max on the high carb days but many others ignore this and train hard no matter if it is a high, medium or low carb day. Both approaches produce good results.
How to structure your approach?
HIGH CARB DAYS (divided into 6-8 meals)
- 6 – 6.5g carbs for every kg bodyweight
- 2 – 2.2g protein per kg bodyweight
- 0.3 – 0.4g fat per kg bodyweight
- Insulin must be spiked on the high carb days and thus high GI sugars best (sweets, fruit, etc…)
- As the diet progresses in time you can experiment by dropping the GI content of the carbs to the lower end of the scale.
- Perform the heaviest workouts on these days (back/chest/legs)
MEDUIM CARB DAYS (divided into 6-8 meals)
- 2g carbs for every kg bodyweight
- 5 – 2.75g protein per kg bodyweight
- 0.3 – 0.4g fat per kg bodyweight
- Typical muscle groups suited for these days: shoulders, abs, biceps, etc…
LOW CARB DAYS (divided into 6-8 meals)
- 1g carbs for every kg bodyweight
- 3 – 3.5g protein per kg bodyweight
- 0.5 – 0.7g fat per kg bodyweight
- Perform the lightest workouts on these days (preferably cardio)
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Just some key notes
- Try and keep on all the days the majority of carbs before/during/after training.
- Water intake must be directly proportional to your amount of carbs. If you eat twice as many carbs you must drink twice as much water.
- Keep a journal and monitor the effects closely on your body in terms of high GI carbs and low GI carbs, how your body react to the amount of carbs, etc… This is by now way a fixed one for all solution and you need to carefully monitor and adapt the carb cycling to best suit your body.
- Carb Cycling is best done under close supervision of a skilled coach. It is not impossible to reach success on your own, but the slightest miss step might do significant harm. So educate yourself VERY WELL before venturing this route.
Wish you all happy training!
6 thoughts on “CARB CYCLING explained”
Hey Gert. Thank you for your videos and plans and suggestions. I just turned 50 this year. I always wanted 6 pack abs but never really worked for them. You have inspired me brother. No way around controlling what goes in one’s mouth haha. Good luck on all you do and keep the advice coming.
Yours in Christ
Yeah Darren the diet part is the most challenging for many people. Because of the the clouds of death over me I had to put EVERYTHING into it to make it work and as such the decision caaried so much more weight and actually made it easier to stick to the diets. What I do suggest is that you do building phases and cutting phases and alternate every 3 month. Look at my diets for those phases. http://gertlouw.com/2014/08/16/cutting-diet-challenges/ and http://gertlouw.com/2014/10/27/muscle-building-phase-sample-diets/ The cutting phase is a strict diet but the building phase more relaxed, and at higher bodyfat levels. Such an approach is very good for muscle growth and joint and tendon health as well. And it gives a 3 month break from punishing your body with fat shredding diet. But alas it still is a challenge! Just went yesterday for photoshoot and be glad you don’t have to, the 2 week diet leading up to it is sever and NOT NICE!
Thank you for your feedback my friend much appreciated.
Keep close to Christ and grow those muscles!
Dear Gert, I hope that you are doing fine. Thanks for all your emails and sharing of your knowledge. I have a TV interview on this coming Monday and need to talk about 10 tips of toning the body. Please suggest some thoughts of yours. Will appreciate . Also a friend of mine will be launching his supplements in Delhi . Is it possible for you to travel to delhi and what will be the charges . We will be doing a launching and also will introduce you to two fitness academy . Thanks once again Richhard
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Hi Richard – timing is a bit bad – got an important photoshoot scheduled this coming week.
It would have been awesome to do a Delhi trip!
About the tips on toning your body…please view: http://gertlouw.com/2015/06/04/5-biggest-bodybuilding-mistakes/
Then also the following
1. When you plan a body makevoer – make it much more than just about the outside of the body. Make it something where you change the inside as well. Make it so that after you’ve been trhough this transformation that you like both the inside and outside of the person you see looking back to you in the mirror. Such a holistic approach make it so much more worthwhile and more important. Through the whole process you literally become a better person.
2. NOTHING, but nothing comes close to diet. The correct diet will determine 80% of your success in building muscle or transforming your body.
See the following: http://gertlouw.com/2014/08/16/cutting-diet-challenges/
3. A training partner with the same focus and goal as you help you to stay dedicated – because it is someone depending on you and vice versa to BE THERE at the gym.
4. LEARN FROM OTHER MISTAKES – again I give you: http://gertlouw.com/2015/06/04/5-biggest-bodybuilding-mistakes/
5. Have a solid approach from day one – 3 month building phase with 1 week rest and then 3 months cutting phase with 1 week rest and the repeat. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojEOFG5KSs8
6. TRAIN TO FAILURE on each set during building phase. This is KEY for growth. If you do not train to failure your body will not respond sufficiently for growth.
7. Be wise and allow your body a few months to adapt to training – u cannot rush headlong into it. See: http://gertlouw.com/2014/06/02/how-do-i-start-a-body-transformation-from-scratch/
8. Stay away from anabolics – it is not the answer and when someone is not knowing exactly what he is doing it WILL do more harm than good.
9. Forget initially about supplements and focus your diet and training. Supplements makes a small contribution to your success in comparisson to the correct diet and training. When you become a more skilled bodybuilder (after 6 months) then start investigating the options.
10. Visualize yourself regularly on how you want to look and who you want to be. Imprint these images in your brain and do NOT let anyone interfere with your focus.
Hope this help my friend…?
Thanks for this interesting post, Gert. I am personally struggling a bit with weight because, during the 2 weeks pause between the building and cutting phase, I have gained about 4 kilos (plenty of which on my belly). Any recommendation on this or on how to deal with diet during the pause weeks? Thanks, Andrew
Hi Andrew – appreciate your feedback!
That is a problem and I have struggled with that 2 week break as well. When one is inactive it just adds on very quickly.
There are many ways of skinning a cat but things you can try during the 2 week “break” is
– Cut back about 10% on your total daily calories
– NO ALCOHOL! (it goes straight to the tummy)
– 2 weeks of moderate cardio
But if the 4kgs is just before building phase then all not bad – that extra weight will make muscle building easier and it will show when u cut down again.
Either way – wish u success bud!