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!