Carb-Cycling: A Diet that Works!

shutterstock_281396627Most diets simply don’t work due to the fact that they slow the metabolism and eat away at your fat burning muscle.  A good diet can certainly help in reaching those weight loss goals though.  Now, when it comes to successful diets, one place to look professional athletes and bodybuilders.  In doing so, you’ll find that the majority of them use some sort of carb‐cycling when it comes to their “cutting phases.”  So, today we are going to provide you with a general carb‐cycling diet that is well‐suited for most individuals.

To start, let’s begin with a bit of a foundation as to the overall concept behind this diet.  For starters, get it out of your head that you are looking to “lose weight.”  What you really want to do is lose fat.  Losing fat is what improves your overall figure.  As such, you want to lose as much fat as you can on your diet, but at the same time, you want to maintain your muscle.  With that in mind, it is far more important to keep track of your inches than it is your weight.  After all, losing five pounds of fat and gaining five pounds of muscle would certainly help improve your figure (since muscle is far denser than fat), but a scale won’t show this type of result.  Instead, use a measuring tape around various areas of the body, such as the stomach, hips, thighs, arms, etc.  This will give you a more accurate measurement of your progress.  Even better, track your body fat percentage.  This can be done with various equipment. At New Beginnings Baltimore we use a hand held bio-impedance device, as well as a professional grade Tanita scale to measure the percentage of body fat and the percentage of water in the body. This allows us to double check the accuracy of our readings.

Now, the basics of a carb‐cycling diet is to keep your protein and fat intake relatively consistent, while you rotate between low‐carb and high‐carb days.  The most basic method that has been shown to work best for most individuals would be a three‐day low‐carb, one day high‐carb rotation.  What this cycle does is it causes your body to tap more into fat stores during the low carb days.  However, typically the body gets used to this by slowing the metabolism. So, in order to counter that concern, you have a high carb day once every four days.  That fourth day replenishes your muscle glycogen, so there is little concern of it being stored as fat, given you don’t go too overboard with the carbs.  So, the fourth day keeps the metabolism from slowing down (aka – prevents you from losing muscle), while the other three low‐carb days gets your body shedding that fat.  Another great perk of the high‐carb day is that it makes it much easier to stick with the diet, since you know every fourth day, you get to look forward to having a higher caloric intake again.

As far as your intakes, your protein intake should be fairly high based on national dietary averages for your weight and activity level.  Your fat intake should be moderate‐low to moderate.  On low carb days, you would want most of your carb sources to be vegetables, excluding potatoes and yams, which are higher carbs than most average vegetables.  Then, on the fourth day (high carb), you would take in carbs from higher carb sources, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa (oatmeal, cereal, etc.), and similar carb sources. Always stay away from wheat and buckwheat as very few metabolisms respond well to these grains.

Generally, women will want to take in between 100‐130 grams of carbs on lower carb days and roughly 200‐300 grams on higher carb days.  Men will usually be around 150‐200 grams on their lower days and approximately 330‐430 on higher carb days.  Since everyone’s caloric needs vary, this is why tracking your progress as previously mentioned is so important.  That will let you adjust your intake to ensure you are making progress, but at the same time, not starving yourself (which can cause you to lose muscle and in turn slow the metabolism).  As a general rule, if you aren’t beginning to crave carbs on your third low carb day or the weight isn’t coming off, your carbs will most likely need to be reduced further.  Conversely, if the day right after your high carb day you are already feeling starved for carbs or you feel tired all the time, you most likely need to increase your carbs a little.

The high protein intake is multi‐purposed.  For starters, protein is the least likely (compared to carbs and fats) to be stored as fat.  This is because protein is hardest for your body to digest, causing your body to burn more calories digesting the protein than fat or carbs.  The second reason relates directly to this; since protein is harder to digest, it takes longer to digest, thereby keeping you full longer.  This makes it easier to handle your low carb days.  Generally, you would want to consume around 0.65‐1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

As far as fat intake, it does not play a major role in carb cycling, so long as it’s not too excessive.  Generally, an intake somewhere between 40‐55 grams a day should suffice.  Don’t let it get too low though, or else your body will not want to burn fat, since there is no new fat coming in through the diet.  This is analogous to the hump on a camel’s back.  The camel stores water in that hump because it doesn’t know when it will see water again in the hot climates in which camels reside.  If you deprive your body of dietary fat, it will do the same thing and try to store all the fat you currently have.  So, don’t be afraid to eat some fat – just don’t go overboard.

So, to sum up, you will have three low carb days, then one higher carb day.  Keep your protein intake fairly high, fat intake moderate, and then track progress from there. Track your progress once or twice a week, and in no time, you’ll be seeing that fat come off and will be well on your way to the body you want.

Be sure to learn about your individual metabolism and the perfect proteins and carbohydrates for your body. Eating the wrong foods for your blood type can slow things down quite a bit. So find out what proteins and carbs are right for you! It’s easy to experience great success on this program when combined with the right food choices!