Nutrition

Does CARB CYCLING Work?

WHAT IS CARB CYCLING?


Imagine a glass of water. You can put as much water in that cup, as long as you don’t fill it past the brim. Pretend the water is actually carbs and the glass is your body’s need or capacity for carbs. When you fill the carbs past the brim, it spills over and those carbs get stored as fat. This happens to people EVERYDAY who aren’t paying attention to macros or who have their macro percentages off. This isn’t a bad thing; its how our body functions, but our body is always prepared to hold onto fat, so the goal is to not let that happen.

This is where carb cycling comes into play.


Our bodies have a certain macro ratio that allows us to function most effectively—something that is very important when trying to lose weight on lower calories.

Carbs are your main body’s source of energy. When you’re lower on carbs, you tend to notice that your reaction time, brain function, and overall performance in the gym and everyday life is decreased drastically. Being lower on carbs effects your overall macro percentages because our bodies then have to seek energy from fats and proteins instead of carbs, which is what’s preferred. 

When this happens, our hormones are effected. The ones that we want to be particularly careful about are our thyroid hormones (T3 and Y4) because these control how your metabolism functions. Leptin is the other you want to pay attention to. This is the specific hormone that tells whether to burn fat or store fat based on what’s going on with your diet. Its been shown that it only takes about a week for your metabolism to drop by 50% due to these hormones.

To prevent this from happening, carb cycling is a tool that’s used to keep from going too low on carbs on a weekly basis so our body can still function optimally while also speeding up the process of weight loss due to keeping our metabolism higher. This is done through our high carb days. When we take in a larger quantity of carbs, this triggers an insulin spike in our body, keeps our hormones in check, and puts our body back into a catabolic state for the time being.

I WANT ALL THE CARBS. HOW DOES THIS WORK?


To make sure that we don’t “spill-over” on high carb days and not contribute to fat gain, it’s important to structure your high carb days on your high intensity training days.  An example would be a heavy volume leg day because they require the most energy. Your body will seek immediate and readily available carbs during these lifts. You can increase your total calories for this day as well as increase your total carb intake. Fats should be drastically lowered, while protein stays the same. High carb days should be programmed 1x per week. Some do this day tracked while others do this untracked as a cheat day. For the best results, you should still track your high carb days. Don’t be shocked if you weight goes up after your high carb days; this is normal due to bloating. When you eat higher in carbs, you are more likely to experience water retention.

THE DREADED LOW CARB DAYS & WHY THEY WORK


On low carb days, you will eat less calories if you increased calories on high carb days.  The most important thing to do on these days is to decrease your carbs (most decrease under 50g of carbs) and increase your fat intake more drastically. This will work best if you do this on your rest days, cardio-only days, or core days. If you have to train on these days, you won’t have as much energy and you won’t recruit as much muscle fibers, so you won’t get the best results when it comes to muscle mass. Despite these days being a pain in the ass, low carb days are beneficial because your body tends to use fat sores as energy- speeding up the process of weight loss. You’re only in this state for 2-3x per week so that it doesn’t slow down metabolism more than necessary. Protein remains the same.

MODERATE CARB DAYS: YOUR BASE


Your moderate carb days are simple; you eat moderate carbs, moderate fats, and the same amount of protein you’ve been eating on the other days. Moderate carb days are your base level. This is more than likely where your macros and calories would be if you were in a regular cut without carb cycling. These are the days you utilize for weight or resistance training. This will also be done 2-3x per week.



To sum it up, carb cycling is a diet tool used to transition into different phases within the week. Those being high, low, and moderate carbs which will leave you with kick ass results that can get you out of your diet plateau from over-dieting for long periods of time.

This is just a quicker and more effective way to go about the stubborn stalls that you’ll see from metabolic changes. Carb cycling isn’t necessary, but if you’ve fucked with your metabolism for 6 or more months of dieting, this science theory may help you out.



Interested in coaching programs? DOWNLOAD THE QUESTIONNAIRE FROM THIS PAGE & LETS GET YOU STARTED.

Author


Avatar

Lexes O'Hara

Lexes O'Hara is a personal trainer and nutrition coach. Her work philosophy is to teach her clients to, "train, eat, and live like a bad ass." Certifications include NASM CPT and FNS.