Carbohydrates have a constant up-down relationship with society at large. Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients and are the body’s most accessible source for energy in the form of calories. Carbohydrates can be easily turned into glucose and glycogen, which are used by varying parts of your body to fuel basic cellular processes. At the same time, eating too many carbohydrates, particularly sugars, can contribute to excessive fat storage, which equates to weight gain.
Where many diets aim to limit or eliminate carbs altogether, carb cycling offers a unique solution for making sure you get all the carbohydrates you need without overloading and putting your weight and health at risk.
What is Carb Cycling?
The concept behind carb cycling is simple: some days you eat more carbohydrates, while other days you limit or cut carbs entirely. This generally means a boost in calories on high-carb days and reduced caloric intake on low-carb days.
The idea involves your metabolism. If you think of your metabolism like a fire, it requires the ingredients for fuel. Without enough fuel, the flame actually slows down and eventually burns out. The right amount of carbs at the right time stokes the fire and encourages the production of various enzymes that are beneficial to keeping a healthy weight. Plan to consume your carbs on training days for better workouts and more energy throughout the day and lower your carb consumption on rest days.
Carb cycling diet plans differ from person to person, and you will have to customize yours based on your weight loss and muscle gain goals and your daily calorie needs. Most carb cycling diets comprise about 1 to 3 days of carb loading per week. Some people who use carb cycling diets even fold in cheat days that allow them to eat foods that wouldn’t normally fall into their diet plan.
Why Try Carb Cycling?
Unlike old-fashioned dieting, carb cycling offers a wider range of advantages, including:
- Improved muscle recovery after workouts
- Maintained metabolic rate
- A greater flexibility and variety of foods you can eat
- A boost in energy
- Improved balance of hormones
The main advantage of carb cycling is that it expedites weight loss without interfering with your muscle mass. In fact, some people experience lean muscle mass gains. This not only improves your overall look, but also improves your metabolism in the long term.
What to Eat While Carb Cycling
What and how much you eat depends on your own goals and caloric needs. Many people who practice carb cycling generally aim for about 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates on high carb days and 75 to 150 grams of carbs on low-carb days. Some people even take it down to just 50 grams on low-carb days. A more accurate method would be to calculate your macronutrient targets for the week and then determine your high-carb days. From there, spread your allowed carbs throughout those high-carb days.
Thanks to the general flexibility of the diet, you can still eat basically everything you love, though that does not mean you can eat just steaks on non-carb days and pasta on carb days.
During high-carb days, you should generally focus on complex carbohydrates. This includes fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes. You will probably find yourself naturally leaning toward complex carbohydrates as they keep you fuller for longer while giving you plenty of energy to get you through your days. Good carbs that you should eat include:
- Brown rice
If you want something sweet, aim for whole fruits and fruit smoothies. Use honey and other natural sweeteners in moderation.
For your low-carb days, focus on lean protein sources, including fish and chicken, as well as tofu, eggs and leaner cuts of beef. You should also supplement these proteins with non-starchy vegetables (even though they are technically carbs) comprising essentially anything leafy and green. Avoid corn, peas and potatoes. Round your low-carb days out with avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and other healthy fats.
Foods to Avoid
Regardless of low or high carb day, avoid processed foods and foods with added sugars, which is a good rule for any diet. Processed high-carb foods are high in calories, loaded with unhealthy additives and generally devoid of actual vitamins and nutrients. These include:
- Products made with white or wheat flour
- Conventional dairy products
- Bread, pasta and other processed grains
- Sweets, like cookies, cakes and ice cream
- Most boxed cereals
You should also try to avoid drinking your calories. You should generally only be drinking water, herbal teas and plain coffee. Definitely avoid soda and juice from concentrate. This will help limit your intake of empty calories and sugars.
Pro Tip: Try to do most of your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store. This generally gives you more of the fresh, healthy foods you need and can help you avoid the processed, box foods that tend to hurt your health.
Understanding Cheat Days
Cheat days are a common element of many diets, giving you one day when you can eat whatever you want to your heart’s content. Some trainers recommend them as they can motivate you, providing a momentary reward to keep you on track and keep cravings in check.
However, with carb cycling, cheat days are not the best option. Many people end up overeating in calories on their cheat days, which can set back their progress. The process of carb cycling is also such that you generally should not feel too many cravings (assuming you are doing it right). You may feel some initial cravings in the first two weeks, but these should subside on their own.
That said, carb cycling does offer a bit of wiggle room. While you shouldn’t indulge in full on cheat days, it doesn’t hurt to have a bagel or toast or a bowl of cereal to meet your calorie requirements. Just make sure that you work these into your high-carb days.
The Skinny on Carb Cycling
Carb cycling can be hugely beneficial to those looking to lose weight while preserving muscle mass or even building leaner muscle. However, carb cycling isn’t for everyone. Based on age, gender, weight and genetics, you may react to carb cycling differently from others. If you experience negative side effects two weeks into the diet, consider stopping or rethinking your plan. Listen to your body and use your best judgment.
Along with your carb cycling diet, you should consider taking supplements that may boost your weight loss. MYOKEM™ features a wide range of dietary supplements to help you during your carb cycling. Thryovate™ is an advanced, stimulant-free weight loss solution designed to help you burn fat, reduce your appetite, and eliminate stress. Pyroxamine™ offers an advanced thermogenic formula to increase your base metabolic rate and reduce food cravings while providing a clean, smooth flow of energy throughout your day, whether you are working out at the gym or getting work done at the office. Supplements can give you the leg up on your carb cycling diet plan, so give them a shot.