In the past decade, studies have laid blame on carbs for weight gain and chronic diseases. A lot of diets, such as Paleo, South Beach, and Atkins, have declared carbs an enemy. Carbs have been viewed as an outcast in the nutrition world. They have been tormented and demonized. And that’s not all. When it seems they are not enough, they have always been replaced by high protein intake. But that’s about to change thanks to carb cycling, a diet plan that allows you to shift between low carb and high carb days while still enjoying the essential micronutrients. Not sure where this is heading to? Read on to learn about carb cycling and much more!
What’s carb cycling?
As already stated above, this dieting method involves mixing lower carb days with higher carb days. The plan has become very popular in the weight loss diet sphere as many people are reporting to experience significant results.
The aim of this program is to boost your weight loss efforts without causing any problems due to a pure carbohydrate diet.
Some of these problems include:
- Reduced metabolic rate
- Poor concentration
- Elevated hunger and craving levels
- Poor exercise performance
With the availability of those high carb days in this technique, you are able to prevent these problems.
This method requires commitment and time to work as it can be taxing to some people. Over time, you can expect to notice results.
How does it work?
The dieting method allows you to eat valuable carbs to promote fat loss, improve muscle development and fuel your exercise workouts. It simply keeps your metabolism rate high to ensure that your body burns as much fat as possible.
Proteins are also essential for your carb cycling plan to promote healthy insulin in your body.
To make this understandable and straightforward, your typical week features three parts:
1. No carb days
These are your low-calorie days, and you consume less than 30 grams of carbohydrate per day. You can eat vegetables with high fiber such as asparagus, onions, broccoli, peppers, leafy greens, and mushrooms.
Lean protein and some servings of healthy fat are great during theme days. You also need to avoid starchy carbs during no carb days, and these include cereals, rice, oats, and potatoes.
Other starchier veggies to avoid include pumpkin, squash, and beans.
2. Low carb days
On these days, the aim is to eat less than 75 grams of carbohydrates per day. This can be a bit of struggle, especially when you are working out on those days too.
You food options include fiber vegetables such as broccoli and mushrooms. Add a few serving of healthy starches, such as oats, brown rice, fruits and sweet potatoes to complete your meal.
Eat clean crabs that are gluten-free such as dairy and soy. For these days, try to eat starchy carbs after your workout.
3. High carb days
These days calls for something between 150 grams to 300 grams of carbohydrates per days. For women, the maximum is 200 while men can go up to 300.
Your specific amount of daily carbs will depend on your BMI and level of activity. Ensure all your meals come from clean, healthy sources, and you can also have a cheat day during the high carb days.
Remember to eat healthy fats and lean proteins during these days. However, don’t take them as an excuse for binge eating.
Why does this dieting plan work?
Carb cycling can be viewed as a hormonal strategy. The overall idea is the varying intake of carb levels helps to influence different hormones that give the body its shape.
This is a muscle building hormone that converts carbohydrates into useful energy, which is stored in your liver or muscle cells for later use. When these storage points get full after excess consumption of carbs, the content metabolizes and becomes fat.
The tip is to focus on eating reasonable carbs that are enough to give you fuel for workouts and ensure great energy balance. So, avoid consuming too much that will eventually be stored as fat.
Carb cycling exploits insulin to reduce fat storage and enhance muscle synthesis. No and low carb days helps the body to stay sensitive to insulin and burn fat while high carb days replenishes carbs in the body.
Leptin is a hunger hormone that gets released when the body starves. This hormone does not increase significantly with every meal as in the case of insulin. Instead, it accumulates over a period of high carbs intake.
It can catalyze the process of metabolism and signs starvation in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain. Leptin tends to be high if you eat high calorie and carbs diet.
Increased in Leptin levels causes poor communication in the hypothalamus, so you may fail to feel full leading to excess eating.
In carb cycling, leptin is contained within the normal levels to prevent overeating.
This hormone is catabolic, and it helps in breaking down molecules to be used as an energy source. It can be advantageous as well as harmful to your weight loss efforts. The protein you eat in your diet plan helps to maintain your muscles during a catabolic state.
Eating carbohydrates only may prevent the production of cortisol. That’s why it’s healthy to have proteins and carbs together immediately after waking up.
This diet method helps to prevent excess production of cortisol.
For those moments when you feel good, this is the hormone responsible for that. Cortisol is a brain chemical, and eating carbs encourage its production.
Low cortisol leads to cravings for chocolate and sugar, and this occurs due to a low-carb diet.
With carb cycling, you cab enjoy regulated levels of serotonin to avoid cravings that may lead to additional weight.
How to create carb cycling plan?
Now that you have somewhat a clear picture of how this diet technique works, you can proceed to create your plan. There are various recommendations online, and it can be quite confusing to choose the ideal plan.
Typically, it is advisable to use the three daily eating protocols. For example, your plan can look something similar to this:
- Monday: No carb
- Tuesday: Low carb
- Wednesday: High carb
- Thursday: No carb
- Friday: No carb
- Saturday: Low carb
- Sunday: High carb
The idea is that you can’t have two high carb days in a row as this will lead to increase in fat storage.
Your activity level will also help you determine the right plan to follow. This because some people like making the plan basing on how they feel during their workouts.
For example, a person can choose to have a plan like this one:
- Day 1: High carb
- Day 2: Low carb
- Day 3: High carb
- Day 4: Low carb
- Day 5: Low carb
According to this plan, the person likes to work heavily during the beginning of the week, so this is the time he or she needs extra carbs.
You should try as much as possible to identify your weekly workout pattern and customize a plan that fits it. High carb days can fall on those days when you are lifting weights while no carb is perfect for the days when you only engage in simple exercises.
When it comes to food selection for your carb cycling program, try to pay much attention to glucose. Pure glucose sources or complex carbohydrates that can easily break down into glucose are excellent.
Try to avoid any food content that contains fructose, such as high-fructose corn syrup. Fructose is likely to get converted into body fat, especially on your high carb days.
Work with targets
For your carb cycling plan to be effective, it helps to set realistic goals. Review your calorie intake before you start following your plan.
Depending on your level of exercises and physical activity, you can choose to work with a daily or weekly goal. However, don’t push yourself hard to get results quickly.
Set the right amount of calories you need to eat every day and adhere to them.
To set the right targets, you need to:
- Determine your total weekly carbs
- Calculate the total “high carb day” carbs
- Calculate your “low and no carb days” carbs
The secret here is to learn and track your calories from the first day of your plan. You should start by knowing your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE.
TDEE factors in your activity level and basal metabolic rate.
You should only create a meal plan for your days after working out your calorie numbers. This will help you figure out your capabilities.
The bottom line
Like any weight loss plan, carb cycling is not just for everyone. Keeping that in mind is important. Just because it works for your friend, it doesn’t mean you too can get the same results.
The carbohydrate cycling whole plan requires commitment and persistence if you need to boost your performance and prevent weight loss.
When don right, this program can help you to lose weight over time.
Remember always to keep track of your performance and calories to know your progress. Stick to your plan to ensure you follow the carb intakes you have set.
Never give up.