The term “carb cycling” refers to strategically altering your carbohydrate intake between low, medium, and high days rather than sticking to a set intake each day. By following a low, moderate, and high carb day cycle, you will be able to re-stimulate your metabolism and better regulate hormones. This will effectively kick your body into a fat burning state, restore depleted glycogen and give you energy to burn for high-intensity workouts. A typical 7-day carb cycle would look like this…
Day 1: Low Carb Intake
Day 2: Moderate Carb Intake
Day 3: High carb Intake
Day 4: Low Carb Intake
Day 5: Low Carb Intake
Day 6: Moderate Carb Intake
Day 7: High Carb Intake
Your carb cycling plan will succeed or fail on the basis of the types of carbs you select to consume within your daily requirements. Focus on starchy, natural carbohydrate sources. Fibrous vegetable carb sources are not included in your carb count and can be eaten as much as you like. Eliminating “white bread” from your diet when carb cycling will help because it has highly processed ingredients which is harder for your body to digest. The following starchy carbs need to form the foundation of your carb cycling intake…
- Baked potatoes
- Yams/Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Whole grains
WHAT IS GLYCOGEN?
Glycogen is a substance deposited in bodily tissues as a store of carbohydrates. When your body needs energy, it can draw on its glycogen stores. The molecules, made from glucose in the food you eat, are mainly stored in your liver and muscles. From these storage sites, your body can quickly mobilize glycogen when it needs fuel.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT FROM CARB CYCLING?
The nice thing about carb cycling is that you don’t have to eat in an extreme caloric deficit and by manipulating your carb intake you consistently have stored Glycogen to burn which allows you to train intensely without the downsides of low energy levels acquired from eating in an extreme caloric deficit. With excess glycogen stores this also unlocks potential for muscle growth while incinerating body fat at the same time. When this diet is followed correctly, your body will “recomp” indefinitely. You will essentially replace the fat you lose with muscle. This diet protocol is highly praised by bodybuilders due to its capabilities of gaining muscle and shredding fat without affecting the intense training regimens they follow. Carb cycling is a very straightforward diet approach that also provides great flexibility to satisfy your cravings. The problem with a lot of diets is that they avoid carbs at all costs when, in reality, we should really welcome them. If you’re pushing your body hard in the gym and in your respective training, carbs play a huge role in building and preserving muscle, as well as metabolism.
HOW DO I DETERMINE MY OWN INTAKES?
Determining your intake levels starts with figuring out your maintenance calorie needs. I personally recommend visiting a nutritionist to help determine your DCE (Daily Caloric Expenditure) otherwise below this is an equation you can use to get a rough estimate of your DCE.
For my example I will use a 35 year old male who is 6 feet tall, weighs 180 pounds and is moderately active (3-4 workouts every week). After following the equation above for his DCE I’ve calculated that he burns roughly 2,900 calories per day, after factoring in a 500 calorie deficit I’ve determined that he will intake 2,400 calories/day which translates to 16,800 calories per week in order to effectively lose body fat while building muscle. At the store, we use a state-of-the-art Inbody composition scanner to help determine your BMR and what your intake should be, as a science-backed approach.
Calories per gram –
High Carb Day –
Carbs: 50% (2,400cal x .5(50%) = 1,200/4(4cal/gram) = 300g
Fats: 20% (2,400cal x .2(20%) = 480/9(9cal/gram) = 53g
Protein: 30% (2,400 x .3(30%) = 720/4(4cal/gram) = 180g
Moderate Carb Day-
Carbs: 30% (2,400cal x .3(30%) = 720/4(4cal/gram) = 180g
Fats: 35% (2,400cal x .35(35%) = 93g(9cal/gram)
Protein: 35% (2,400cal x .35(35%) = 210g(4cal/gram)
Low Carb Day-
Carbs: 10% (2,400cal x .2(20%) = 240/4(4cal/gram) = 60g
Fats: 50% (2,400cal x .5(50%) = 1200/9(9cal/gram) = 133g
Protein: 40% (2,400cal x .4(40%) = 240g(9cal/gram) = 240g
These ratios would translate into the schedule by day:
Day 1 (LOW CARB): 60g carbs | 133g fats | 240g protein
Day 2 (MODERATE CARB): 180g carbs | 93g fats | 210g protein
Day 3 (HIGH CARB): 300g carbs | 53g fats | 180g protein
Day 4 (LOW CARB): 60g carbs | 133g fats | 240g protein
Day 5 (LOW CARB): 60g carbs | 133g fats | 240g protein
Day 6 (MODERATE CARB) 180g carbs | 93g fats | 210g protein
Day 7 (HIGH CARB) 300g carbs | 53g fats | 180g protein
*** This is based off the example male client that I used, macronutrient guidelines will vary per individual! This is not a one-size fits all diet.***
Following the carb cycle as outlined will enable you to strip body fat while still having energy for intense training. After following this diet structure for several weeks it is common to experience a plateau of fat loss. There are a few strategies you can use to kick-start your body back into calorie burning mode…
- Consume 3-4 days of high carbs
- Consume 3-4 days of low carbs
- Have a cheat meal or a cheat day to hotwire your metabolism
Ultimately, carb-cycling is one of the most flexible diet approaches out there to help you gain muscle and burn fat at the same time while enjoying foods you like. As long as you stay strict on your regimen and hit your required macronutrients you will see composition changes. For it to be as effective as possible, it is important to follow the plan for a couple months at minimum to see results. Altering your diet structure regularly will create a negative effect. We encourage you to reach out for guidance and tips on starting your carb-cycling program, and we’ll be there for you every step of the way!
For advanced nutritional consultations and advice visit our website to get information on a store near you or give us a call! www.allstar-nutrition.com