How to carb cycle

Whether your goal is to build muscle, see your abs, or get back in shape, this simple carb cycling plan will help you eat healthy and stay consistent.

Life-As-A-Plate-Best-Grain-Free-Sandwich-Bread-600x400

Imagine this: You’re at a restaurant having dinner with friends. The meal hasn’t started yet. You’re talking with one of your buddies as the waitress fills your water glass. She disappears for a minute then returns with a basket of fresh bread and sets it in front of you.

Question: Do you reach for a piece of bread?

In this situation, most guys will revert into their “default eating mode”. Their brain will switch to autopilot and they’ll do whatever they’re used to doing. (For most of us, that means we’ll reach for the bread, even if we don’t really want it.)

But here’s the thing: The bread doesn’t matter.  For guys who want to be healthy and build a good looking body, the question shouldn’t be “Is bread OK to eat?”.

Instead, it should be this:

“Is today a High Carb day or a Low Carb day?”

How you answer that will not only dictate if you have a nice slice of warm bread — it’ll also guide you for the rest of the food decisions you’ll make that night:

  • Sweet potato appetizer…or skip and go straight to the entree? 
  • Steak with potatoes…or the salad with a double order of grilled chicken?
  • Lots of carbs…or no carbs?

This is called “carb cycling” and it’s our nutritional secret weapon that will help turn your body in a muscle-building, fat-burning machine. Here’s how to do it.

Why would carb cycling be important?

Short term vs long term restriction

It’s important to distinguish between the immediate (short term) and chronic (long term) effects of carbohydrate and calorie restriction.

Although the body handles short-term deprivation relatively well, a strict nutritional regimen of low calories or low carbohydrates can be hard on the body over the long haul.

Missing a meal here or there, or dropping carbohydrates very low, isn’t disastrous when it’s occasional and brief.

Some evidence even suggests that brief and relatively infrequent periods of fasting and/or carbohydrate restriction may actually be advantageous for both health and body composition.

For example, a recent study in the American Journal of Cardiology (Horne et al 2008) noted that occasional and short bouts of fasting (e.g. 24 hours) improved markers of cardiovascular disease.

However, restricting calories and/or carbohydrates for longer periods (as in the case of physique athletes, who may diet for months before a competition) can have negative metabolic effects.

Because endocrine systems are interconnected (for instance, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal [HPA] axis, which is the body’s Mission Control for hormones), these effects can be wide-reaching.

For example, as a result of long-term restriction, dieters may experience reduced metabolic rate, thyroid hormone output, sympathetic nervous system activity, spontaneous physical activity, leptin levels, and reproductive hormone output (Douyon 2002; Friedl 2000; de Rosa 1983; Klein 2000; Ahima 2000; Weyer 2001; Mansell 1988; Kozusko 2001; Dulloo 1998).

Not only can this have consequences for overall health, it can bring body composition gains to a standstill.

Metabolic response to short-term starvation

Metabolic response to short-term starvation

So, if you can’t just “out-diet” your body’s control center, what are you to do? This is where carb cycling comes in.

Planned manipulation and variation

If eaters plan a higher carbohydrate intake at regular intervals, their bodies won’t ever get too close to starvation mode.

However, they can still lose fat if they still take in fewer total calories than they expend — i.e., if the overall long term trend is towards negative energy balance.

Higher carbohydrate intake days can increase thyroid output and control hunger (Douyon 2002; Friedl 2000; de Rosa 1983).

Manipulating carbohydrate intake can also help one take advantage of certain anabolic hormones, namely insulin.

Insulin regulates amino acid and glucose intake entry into the muscle cells. If insulin is seldom elevated, dieters will not reap its anabolic benefits.

Conversely, if people plan to elevate insulin levels at the appropriate time with a scheduled higher carbohydrate intake, they can maximize insulin’s potential anabolic effects.

The relationship between insulin and glucose. Image from Davidson College Dept of Biology.

What you should know

There are different methods of carb cycling. However, the common theme behind them is that protein and fat intake stay relatively constant while carbohydrate intake is manipulated.

Carb cycling also typically involves calorie cycling. Since carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram, adjusting carbohydrate intake while keeping fat and protein more or less the same can greatly alter calorie intake.

Days where carbohydrates (and usually calories) are increased are often known as “re-feed” days.

Dr. Berardi gives a nice definition of re-feed as a planned increase in calorie intake that lasts 8 – 12 hours and usually consists of a large increase in carbohydrates.

Re-feeds usually occur when dieting and are scheduled in order to provide a brief day of psychological relief as well as a number of physiological benefits.

An example of a re-feed is following a strict diet of 1500kcal 5 days per week and consuming 2500kcal of clean bodybuilding foods (the additional kcal coming mostly from carbohydrates) on the other 2 days.

Since carbohydrate intake will be increased on the re-feed days, it is important to scale back the fat and protein intake slightly. Carbohydrates have a protein sparing effect so less dietary protein is required. This will allow for one’s calorie count to remain in check.

The same principles of good nutrition apply equally to “everyday” eating and carb cycling phases, including proper meal frequency, omega-3 fat intake, adequate protein and fiber intake, plenty of vegetables, etc.

Here are some common carb cycling approaches.

Infrequent, big re-feeds

Higher carbohydrate intake every 1-2 weeks during a lower carbohydrate intake phase.

Frequent, moderate re-feeds

Higher carbohydrate intake every 3-4 days during a lower carbohydrate intake phase.

Strategic carb cycling

This consists of structuring different menus with moderate carbohydrate intake at strategic intervals during a lower carb intake phase. This approach steers away from an extremely high carbohydrate intake because the menu changes regularly. But it does allow for metabolism to play catch-up with dietary intake.

Carb cycling for muscle gain

Those interested in gaining muscle mass need a calorie surplus. Unfortunately, if they grossly over-consume calories for too long they’ll probably gain bodyfat. Thus, one way to optimize muscle gain over fat gain during a muscle gaining phase is with carb cycling.

This is similar to the “strategic carb cycling” approach. Menus are planned according to your weekly schedule in order to create a temporary calorie surplus. This can assist with lean mass and strength gains.

Sample menu

Here’s how a sample week of carb cycling might look.

Day 1Lower carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains only after workout
  • No workout drink today
  • No fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 2Lower carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains only after workout
  • No workout drink today
  • No fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 3Moderate carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains during breakfast and after workout
  • No workout drink today
  • 1 piece fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 4Lower carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains only after workout
  • No workout drink today
  • No fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 5Lower carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains only after workout
  • No workout drink today
  • No fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 6Higher carb day
  • Small portion of starchy veggies and/or whole grains with every meal
  • Have a workout drink today
  • Can have 2-3 pieces of fruit today
  • Fill the rest of your day with lean proteins, green/fibrous veggies, and healthy fats
Day 7Back to Day 1

Important tips for each carb cycling approach

  • Base the dietary approach on basal calorie needs and activity levels.
  • Always pick out the re-feed days in advance.
  • Stay on course until the re-feed day arrives.
  • Keep your decisions outcome-based. Different re-feed strategies work better for certain body types. Look at the evidence from your photographs and body composition tests to ensure that you are on the right track.
  • Try to exercise on the re-feed days for optimal body composition results.
  • On the re-feed days, the body still tolerates carbohydrates best first thing in the morning and around times when physical activity is high.
Related text  How to clean rusty cast iron

Summary and recommendations

  • Use carb cycling only if you are nutritionally advanced and have exhausted basic methods.
  • Use only for a short duration.
  • Pick a carb cycling strategy depending on how you feel with lower carb intake days, how much muscle mass you carry, your physique goals and length of time you anticipate on the carb cycle.
  • After a carb cycling strategy has been selected, you need to establish your calorie intake goal.
  • Second, establish a protein intake goal (which remains relatively constant).
  • Third, establish a fat intake goal (again, relatively constant).
  • Finally, pick a carbohydrate intake goal for the different days. Then divide your total intake of all the nutrients up into regular feeding intervals with appropriate spacing due to workouts.
  • Schedule the re-feeding times. You are ready to go!

If so, and you’d like to learn more about it, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. Our next group kicks off shortly.

What’s it all about?

The Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification is the world’s most respected nutrition education program. It gives you the knowledge, systems, and tools to really understand how food influences a person’s health and fitness. Plus the ability to turn that knowledge into a thriving coaching practice.

Developed over 15 years, and proven with over 100,000 clients, the Level 1 curriculum stands alone as the authority on the science of nutrition and the art of coaching.

Whether you’re already mid-career, or just starting out, the Level 1 Certification is your springboard to a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results.

[Of course, if you’re already a student or graduate of the Level 1 Certification, check out our Level 2 Certification Master Class. It’s an exclusive, year-long mentorship designed for elite professionals looking to master the art of coaching and be part of the top 1% of health and fitness coaches in the world.]

We’ll be opening up spots in our next Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification on Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019.

If you want to find out more, we’ve set up the following presale list, which gives you two advantages.

  • Pay less than everyone else. We like to reward people who are eager to boost their credentials and are ready to commit to getting the education they need. So we’re offering a discount of up to 33% off the general price when you sign up for the presale list.
  • Sign up 24 hours before the general public and increase your chances of getting a spot. We only open the certification program twice per year. Due to high demand, spots in the program are limited and have historically sold out in a matter of hours. But when you sign up for the presale list, we’ll give you the opportunity to register a full 24 hours before anyone else.

If you’re ready for a deeper understanding of nutrition, the authority to coach it, and the ability to turn what you know into results… this is your chance to see what the world’s top professional nutrition coaching system can do for you.

HOW CARB CYCLING WORKS

While it has a fancy name, carb cycling is nothing more than eating more carbohydrates on some days (High Carb days) to help promote muscle growth and eating less carbohydrates on other days (Low Carb days) to help minimize fat gain and even promote fat loss.

We focus on carbohydrates (and not protein or fats) because carbs seem to have the most influential effect on body composition and how you look.

High Carb Days:

  • stimulate an insulin response that shuttle nutrients in your muscle cells, causing them to grow
  • replenish glycogen stores that fuel your muscles
  • make you feel good and energized

Low Carb Days:

  • promote fat loss by tricking your body into burning fat for fuel (instead of the sugar from the carbs it would normally get)
  • keep your body more receptive to insulin, improving your body’s muscle-building response

Follow This: easy Carb Cycling Plan

The rules for carb cycling are very simple.

Rule 1. On the days you lift weights, eat starchy carbs along with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Rule 2. On the days you’re either off from the gym or are doing some kind of intervals or cardio, don’t eat any starchy carbs, but continue to eat protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.

That’s it. There’s no need to measure how many grams of carbs you’re eating or count calories.

If you can add and subtract, you can do carb cycling.

High Carb Meal With Grains:

High Carb Meal

Low Carb Meal Without Grains:

Low Carb Meal

So what would a typical week for a guy who wants to stay lean, improve his health, and gain a little muscle look like? Assuming he’s doing three weight workouts per week, here’s how we’d set it up:

Nothing To Lose But Your Belly

Forget complicated math, counting calories, and measuring food. Instead, use our simple carb cycling rules to turn your body into a fat burning, muscle-building machine.

Lifting weights today? Eat your carbs.

Doing cardio or taking the day off? Pass on the bread and feel good about it.

Scrawny To Brawny

We’ll email you a link to Lesson 1 immediately. Then, each day for the next four days, you’ll get an email linking to a new lesson.

By signing up, you'll also get exclusive updates from Precision Nutrition with key health & fitness strategies.

Unsubscribe anytime. Contact Us. Privacy Policy.

How Do Carbohydrates Affect The Body?

When you consume carbohydrates they are broken down into sugars (otherwise known as glucose) that then enter the blood stream.

A hormone called insulin is released to remove glucose from the blood stream.

A large insulin ‘spike’ will occur when you consume a simple, or refined source of carbohydrates (such as fruits, fizzy drinks, or chocolate), whereas a smaller ‘spike’ will occur when you consume a complex source (such as vegetables or certain grains).

Insulin has shouldered much of the blame for obesity in recent years. The idea is that insulin tells your body to remove glucose from the blood and store it as fat.

That’s not entirely accurate, because insulin actually tells your body to burn the glucose, instead of fat stored in cells. You can learn more about this process here.

carb cycling

But whichever way you look at it, carbs can make it difficult for you to lose fat.

So why not just cut them out completely?

Carbs are an extremely important source of immediate energy for your body’s cells.

Without carbs, there’s a good chance your metabolism will slow down, your stress hormones will sky-rocket, and your muscle-building hormones will plummet, making both fat-loss and muscle gain extremely difficult.

You can learn more about the long-term effects of a low-carb diet at Precision Nutrition.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you live a very sedentary lifestyle (such as working in an office and doing absolutely no exercise), or have a lot of weight to lose, a low-carb diet is probably ideal because your energy requirements are much lower.

But for the rest of us, who exercise regularly, do lots of walking and activities while travelling, or like to eat out, carb cycling can be the perfect compromise.

Why Does Carb Cycling Work So Well?

carb cycling dietAs world-renowned strength coach Jason Ferruggia puts it:

[In] any effective diet program carbs will be cycled.

Not only does cycling carbohydrates make it possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, it also means that, by extension, you will also be cycling calories.

Since your intake of protein and fat stay relatively consistent, on high carb days you will consume more calories, and on low carb days will consume less.

A calorific deficit is absolutely essential to losing weight, and carb cycling makes it easy to create a net deficit that you can sustain for a very long time.

Just to reiterate; if you have a lot of weight to lose, you don’t need to carb cycle: to get the best results in the shortest amount of time, simply jump on MyFitnessPal, track your food intake and eat 500kcal under maintenance each day.

As you get leaner, however, it becomes more and more difficult to lose fat.

This is a phenomenon that is sometimes referred to as ‘starvation mode’.

The problem with that phrase is that it has been tossed around very loosely over the years, and by some definitions it is a myth, but by others it is very real.

The scientific term for what we are talking about is ‘adaptive thermogenesis’.

It’s effects are very real and are well documented. Natural bodybuilder Tom Venuto does a great job of explaining it here. Here’s the takeaway:

Since your body can’t distinguish between severe dieting and starving, regulatory mechanisms are activated to decrease your rate of further weight loss… Your body adapts to energy-restricted diets and tries to restore you to energy balance or even back to your original weight.

Carb cycling offsets the effects of adaptive thermogenesis by ‘reassuring’ your body that it isn’t starving.

Related text  How to get rid of skunk smell on dog

There’s one other factor that makes carb cycling work so well, and for me, it’s the most important: you only have to ‘diet’ every other day.

When you think about your favorite foods – if you’re being honest – most of them probably contain carbs. Avoiding them 100% of the time is difficult, maybe even impossible, and certainly not enjoyable.

And what about when you are traveling (especially in Asian countries) and want to try new dishes like pad Thai, massaman curry or ramen?

Yes, low-carb days require discipline. But it is much easier when you know the next day (assuming it’s high-carb) you’ll get to eat some of your favorite foods or try new dishes.

So, how do you know if it’s a high-carb or low-carb day?

How to Carb Cycle

carb cycling

When I said carb cycling made fat-loss easier than ever I really meant it.

There are only 2 rules you need to remember:

  • Rule 1: On the days that you do your most intense workouts (like lifting weights or bodyweight exercises), eat starchy carbs (explained below) and fruit along with protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.
  • Rule 2: On the days that you’re either off from the gym or are doing some kind of cardio, don’t eat any starchy carbs, but continue to eat protein, vegetables, healthy fats and a limited amount of fruit.

That’s all there is to it.

All you need to do is eat the same amount of protein, healthy fats and veggies throughout the week, and vary your intake of carbs depending on when you work out.

Here’s how a typical week might look:

Monday Full-Body Workout High-Carb
Tuesday Rest Day Low-Carb
Wednesday Full-Body Workout High-Carb
Thursday Rest Day Low-Carb
Friday Full-Body Workout High-Carb
Saturday Rest Day Low-Carb
Sunday Rest Day Low-Carb

If you know you’re going out for a meal, or are likely to be eating a lot of carbs on a given day, reschedule your week so a workout falls on that day.

This strategy works really well when you’re travelling and know that you might not be able to eat perfectly for whatever reason on a particular day.

In general, you want to try to eat well as much of the time as possible. You shouldn’t think of high-carb days as a ‘cheat day’, but if you know you’re going to be eating carbs then this is the day it should be on.

Now, you’re probably wondering what ‘starchy’ carbs you should be eating on your high-carb days, so here’s a little table to help you figure it out:

'Good' Carbs 'Bad' Carbs
Sweet/White Potato Pizza
Quinoa Muffins
Brown Rice Cakes
Whole Grain Bread White Bread
Whole Wheat Pasta Pastries
Oatmeal Cereal

The more you stick to the ‘Good Carbs’ column, the better off you will be.

Carb Cycling Meal Plan

With the above in mind, putting your own meal plan together shouldn’t be too difficult.

But if you need a little inspiration, here’s a sample meal plan you can use:

Low-Carb (Rest/Cardio) Day:

Breakfast: Eggs or protein shake with water
Lunch: Salad with lots of meat and veggies
Dinner: Steak with veggies
Snacks: A couple of handfuls of mixed nuts

High-Carb (Workout) Day:

Breakfast: Eggs or protein shake with water
Lunch: Burrito with lots of meat and veggies
Dinner: Fish cakes with jasmine rice and veggies
Snacks: Bananas, baby carrots or oatmeal

Carb Cycling FAQ

What if I get hungry on low-carb days?

Starchy carbs fill you up quickly and typically contain a lot of calories, so you might find that you feel hungry on your low-carb days. When you’re hungry you’re more likely to give in to your cravings, so it’s important that you know what to do when it happens.

Instead of reaching for a frozen pizza eat more protein and vegetables. Eat as much as it takes to make yourself full.

How many carbs should I eat at every meal?

The beauty of carb cycling is in its simplicity, so don’t overcomplicate it by trying to count the amount of carbohydrates you consume. Just remember the rules:

  • On high-carb days eat starchy carbs and fruit along with your protein, veggies, and healthy fats.
  • On low carb days don’t eat starchy carbs or fruit, but continue to eat protein, veggies, and healthy fats.

There’s no need to overcomplicate your meals. You can eat more or less the same thing each day, but simply swap your starchy carbohydrates for more vegetables on low-carb days.

Can I do a high carb days if I only do cardio?

I don’t recommend it. The reason high-carb days are aligned with the days you do a bodyweight workout or lift weights is that your muscles will be ready to utilise the glucose after a tough workout.

I think everybody should be doing some form of resistance training, but if you want to lose weight and only do cardio, then you should stick with a conventional calorific deficit of 500kcal a day.

Any other questions? Thinking of giving carb cycling a go? Let me know in the comments!

What is Carb Cycling?

According to Heidi Powell, “Carb cycling is an eating plan with alternating high-carb and low-carb days“.

Some advise rigid high and low carb days, while others say your high carb days should be your workout days.

The Great Carb Myth

I will refute the dieting myth that carbs are “bad” and are the reason people get fat.

Regularly eating more energy than your body requires is what makes someone fat, not carbs alone. Extra energy can come from all three macros and alcohol, so carbs can’t be solely to blame.

There’s also no scientific evidence that a low carb diet produces any better weight loss long-term than any other form of dieting. The only thing all diets can agree on is the necessity of a calorie deficit.

Your body actually runs on the carb macro in the form of glucose and glucose is its preferred and primary fuel source.

However, there are  valid arguments for not eating the same amount of carbs every day. Our bodies are highly adaptable and strict, fixed macro and calorie diets are never a good idea. They tend to work at first, but once the body adapts they tend to lead to weight loss plateaus.

We always want to keep our bodies “guessing” when it comes to eating and exercising. Carb cycling, in theory, is trying to accomplish this, but there is an easier way!

lower carb and higher carb days

Counting Macros: the Intuitive Way to Carb Cycle

Counting Macros teaches you to intuitively cycle your carbs.

This is based on your body’s need for carbs and not just on some fixed schedule. There’s no need to even use the word carb cycling because with flexible dieting it’s already built into the equation.

Here’s how…

The Macro Counting formula uses your activity level as a key factor in determining how many carbs to eat on a given day as part of your personal TDEE.

  • On a rest day, a flexible dieter would eat FEWER carbs because the body needs less energy to operate.
  • On an exercise day, a flexible dieter would eat MORE carbs because the body needs more energy to fuel the given exercise and your metabolism.

An example:

Let’s say a 30-year-old, 170 pound, and 63-inch tall woman is using IIFYM to lose weight. She has rest days, moderately active days, and very active days. According to our macro calculator, here’s how her carb amounts would break down.

  • Rest days: 123 grams
  • Moderate exercise days:  200 grams
  • Very active days: 238 grams

The more she exercises, the more energy her body requires, thus, the more carbs she should consume.

These carbs are still consumed within an overall macro ratio that produces a 20% calorie deficit.

That’s what’s so great about Counting Macros (sometimes called Flexible Dieting). You aren’t eating the same amount of carbs day in and day out like traditional diets that adhere to a fixed calorie amount like 1200 or 1500.

Carb cycling aims to fuel your body during workouts and to keep your body guessing.  This prevents the body from adapting to the same amount of carbs eaten day in and day out.

If you are Counting Macros correctly, then you are already carb cycling! There’s no need to further adjust carb intake since it’s already being done within your calculations.

You'll Love Our Macro Solution Program

Step-by-step ebooks, or fully customized personal macros coaching. Now with complete vegan edition.

    References:
  • Foster, G. D., Wyatt, H. R., Hill, J. O., McGuckin, B. G., Brill, C., Mohammed, B. S., … & Klein, S. (2003). A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 348(21), 2082-2090. Study link
  • Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., & Norton, L. E. (2014). Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 1. Study link
Related text  How to make a tshirt quilt

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Carbs are your body’s quick-acting fuel and — apart from powering your brain, red blood cells, and liver — they are responsible for giving your muscles what they need to crush your hardest workouts, explains Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D., author of Power Eating and a sports nutrition consultant to NFL, NBA, and Olympic athletes.

During high-intensity exercise, for instance, roughly 80 percent of your body’s energy comes from carbs — both those floating through your veins and arteries as blood glucose as well as those stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, she says. So you’re going to burn — and therefore, need — more carbs on days when you hit it hard in the gym.

However, carb cycling doesn’t stop there. Instead, it gets into the fat-adaptation controversy. Let us explain: When you don’t have enough carbs on board, your body is forced to burn fat for energy. Over time, forcing your body to burn fat can theoretically increase your natural tendency to use fat as an energy substrate.

Researchers call this becoming “fat adapted,” and a 2016 Metabolism study of endurance athletes suggests that it can occur after following a ketogenic diet (generally accepted as fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day) for 20 months.

Proponents of carb cycling believe that the body can quickly become fat-adapted through periodic low-carb days, thereby allowing you to burn fat even when you’re glued to the couch bingeing on Netflix.

Gilles explains that carb-cycling dieters also believe that this approach supports healthy levels of hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin, and thyroid hormones to promote healthy metabolism and lower levels of exercise-induced inflammation and hunger. However, this hasn’t been proved in the research.

Carb Cycling, Weight Loss, carbs, losing weight

2) Carb cycling and weight loss: when to eat more carbs

There are two important facts here: estrogen slightly increases, and progesterone decreases insulin sensitivity. 

Estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points in the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels tend to be the most dominant in the first and second weeks of the cycle (especially the second week). Progesterone levels are at their highest in the third and fourth week of the cycle.

The consequences of this are that:

  • The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive in the follicular phase (the first two weeks of the cycle) when estrogen levels are highest and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This means it tolerates carbohydrates in these two weeks better than the rest of the time.
  • The female body is naturally slightly less insulin sensitive when progesterone levels are higher in the luteal phase (after ovulation, in the last two weeks of the cycle). This means it does not tolerate carbohydrate as well in these weeks. Women who are diabetic know this well. I’ve read many studies and heard from many women I know that their insulin injections have to increase in the second half of their cycle because their blood sugar levels are inordinately high.

CARB CYCLING WEIGHT LOSS

4) Carb cycling and weight loss: fitness recommendations

Fitness gurus also recommend a corresponding shift in type of exercise.

Since insulin sensitivity is at its highest in the first two weeks of the menstrual cycle, and carb intake is free to be at its highest, exercise can be more aerobic (long, moderate heart-rate-elevating cardio exercises). It is at this time that you can do your best high performance cardio training. Here you can challenge yourself with longer-term exercises that may be more “stressful” for your body, like long bike rides, tabata sprints, night-long dance sessions, and the like. It is at this time in your cycle that your body can handle the most aerobic stress.

Since insulin sensitivity is at its lowest in the final two weeks of the cycle, and carb intake is also at its lowest, exercise should be more anaerobic (this means hard and fast, really getting your heart pumping). It should be focused more on high-intensity interval training, with short bursts of high intensity work, either from brief sprint exercises or from weight lifting. This is an excellent way to sharpen insulin sensitivity while simultaneously burning fat, increasing muscle mass, and spending calories. It also helps the body stay healthy and as stress-free as possible during this time in which the body is gearing up to menstruate and the least capable of handling stress.

carb cycling and weight loss

WHAT IS CARB-CYCLING?  

When it comes to trying to lose weight, most popular diets tell you to exclude, labeling them “bad.”

But carbs aren’t the enemy if you know which ones to eat and how to use them to your advantage. Not all carbs are bad for you, and knowing the difference between good and bad carbs can impact your results.

Carb-cycling is when you use carbs to your advantage by cycling the amount you consume day-to-day.

For some people, this means altering between high, medium, low, and/or no carb days. The number of carbs that you take in each day is determined by when the carb intake is needed, the person as an individual, and the goals they wish to achieve.Because every person is different, as well as their goals, this means that their intake of carbs would need to be different. This can make deciding how many carbs to consume each day a challenge.

The idea behind carb-cycling is to manipulate carbs so that you fuel your body with the carbs needed for calories or glucose. This supplies your muscles with glycogen which can reduce the breakdown of muscle during your workout. During low carb days your body switches and burns fat for energy [1, 2].

TOP 4 HEALTH BENEFITS OF CARB-CYCLING

There are many health benefits to cycling carbs, including:

Burns Fat – Carb-cycling helps you burn fat by forcing your body to use fat as energy on low carb days, while also helping you regulate the hormones leptin and ghrelin. These hormones control your appetite, with leptin controlling satiety and ghrelin signaling hunger [3, 4].

Improves Insulin Sensitivity – When you cycle your carbs you manipulate insulin response and improve insulin sensitivity, especially in those with type 2 diabetes. When you cycle your carbs back and forth, your body sees an increase in the body’s metabolic rate and glycogen. When you follow this up with a medium/low carb day, your insulin levels drop. Then, following this, you go into a low/no carb day, and your insulin levels drop again as you consume more protein and fats to make up for the loss of carbs. This reduces your body’s overall insulin resistance [5, 6, 7].

Higher Performance –  Because you will be doing your training on high carb days you will be supplying your body with enough fuel to power through your workout. When you consume high carbs, you maintain a higher level of glycogen which then improves exercise performance. When you have higher levels of glycogen you have the energy to go further in the gym, pushing your muscles further and gaining lean muscle mass [8, 9, 10].

Better Cholesterol – Cycling carbs have been linked to lower levels of LDL, this is the bad cholesterol and higher HDL, the good cholesterol [11, 12].

IS CARB-CYCLING RIGHT FOR YOU?

Are wanting to lose weight? Gain muscle? Maintain your already healthy lifestyle?

If you answered yes, then carb-cycling is perfect for you. It is the perfect diet because it is easily adjustable to your goals. If you are new to carb-cycling and want to get all the benefits, while hitting your goals faster than ever, let our expert nutritionist create the perfect carb-cycle for you with our new Shred Fast Meal Plans.

With these new Shred Fast Meal Plans, you will use the power of carb-cycling in a new way, so you get to your goals faster than you ever thought imaginable. The Shred Fast Meal Plans are the most powerful weight loss tool on the market.

These plans use carbs to manipulate your metabolism, helping you burn more fat and determining what carbs you should eat is essential. The most powerful carb in the world is the sweet potato. Watch the video below to see how the sweet potato can boost your carb cycle!

Like this post? Please share to your friends: