Have you ever tried to cut carbohydrates out of your diet for good and then found yourself binge eating pasta and chips (pretty much all the bad types of carbs) a few days in? Yes, going completely carb free can be tough for many, but rejoice! There is a potential solution for this: carb cycling.
Carb cycling has caught our attention, especially after the popularity of our recent article on the Ketogenic diet. Carb cycling is a growing trend that incorporates scheduled increases and decreases of carbohydrate consumption throughout the month.
What Exactly Is The Carb Cycling Method?
As we’ve mentioned in the past, carbohydrates are used and metabolized as energy fuel for your body. And, when you completely cut carbs from your diet long term, you’re depriving yourself of an important macronutrient. They supply energy for our workouts, while also nourishing fuel to our bodies throughout the day. When it comes to carb cycling, the method of increasing and decreasing carb intake is supposed to enable our body to burn fat for energy rather than using carbs and muscle tissue for energy, but still being able to benefit from carb consumption as well.
How does it work?
Here’s the lowdown on reducing carbs. When you limit your carb consumption, your body starts to burn fat and you will start to drop water weight. The downsides of depriving yourself of carbs for an extended period of time includes a decrease in your metabolism, and when you do consume carbs your body then holds onto water weight since it’s trying to “rebound”.
So, when you carb cycle, you never get to the point of where your body is deprived of carbs which leads to your body “holding on” to the carbs you consume in the form of slowing down your metabolism and storing more water weight and sugar. By alternating days of low carb and high carb consumption, your body is supposed to get into a catabolic fat burning state more easily on the low carb days. During your high carb days, the body responds by having the extra boost in the form of energy to increase metabolism.
For those that carb cycle, they typically follow a 12 week plan. For starters, carb cycling simply alternates days of eating only protein and veggies, and days of including healthy carbs to the mix. It is important to plan out on paper your low and high carb days, and take notes as the weeks progress to see if you need to make any adjustments.
What type of “carbs” are we talking about?
When it comes to the types of carbs we should consume and limit, the inclusion should be whole food sources like quinoa, brown rice, and healthy starches like beans and legumes.
Carbs that should not be included in a carb cycling routine obviously are processed foods, refined flours, cakes, cookies and baked goods.
A week of carb cycling at a glance
For carb cyclers, they typically alternate days of low carb and high carb eating habits for 6 days, and then treat the 7th day as a “cheat day” (but they still don’t go overboard). Although the carb cycling “formula” can be different for everyone based on their lifestyle and goals. For some individuals with the goal of dropping weight, they can go 5 days of low carb eating, and then 2 days of including carbs in-between the high carb days.
High Carb Days
During the days where you are including carbohydrates into your diet, you should again be making sure that you are choosing carbs from the right sources (complex carbs, resistant starches, and fruit). High-carb days usually allow 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Low Carb Days
During your low carb days, individuals can get their energy from non-starchy vegetables (pretty much any vegetable besides corn and potatoes), and protein in the form of tofu (if you’re plant-based), or eggs, chicken, fish and lean grass fed meat. Low-carb days usually only allow .5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Should you try it?
When it comes to any type of “diet” it’s important to remember that there is not a one size fits all approach to eating. Everyone is different and has different dietary needs. Since there is not yet an abundance of research done on carb cycling to scientifically back it as a weight loss technique, you should consult your doctor before experimenting with dietary shifts like this.
Contributing Author: Lauren Cumbo