Fitness professionals have been promoting the benefits of carb cycling for many years now, and I personally believe that this method can be highly successful for many people. What we put into our bodies is as important, if not more important than what we physically do with our bodies (working out). With many different schools of thought existing in the fitness community, it’s important to sift through and eliminate “fad” diets and focus your energy and eating on systems that are actually proven to work while promoting a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
What Is Carb Cycling?
The concept of carb cycling, very simply put, is focused on a low carb diet, with high and medium carb days mixed in. This cycle keeps your body guessing and allows for increased muscle growth and fat loss. The benefits of carb cycling can range depending on the individual and how his or her body responds to carbohydrates in general. Below gives a brief explanation on what to expect on both high and low carb days.
High carb days create an insulin response that delivers nutrients into your muscle cells, which causes them to grow, all the while replenishing glycogen stores that fuel your muscles. This will typically deliver happy hormones and positive feelings throughout your body as well.
Low carb days increase fat loss by tricking your body into burning fat instead of the sugar from the carbs it would normally be eating. This will also make your body more receptive to insulin, improving your body’s muscle-building response. When you hear the term “low carb”, do you automatically think of the starving feeling in your stomach?!? This should not be the case if done properly. Your low carb days you are typically very fuelled from your high days and the multiple yams that your body is still burning off. On your low carb days your main focus is fats and proteins for fuel. These items combined with a large amount of vegetables will keep you energized until your next high carb day.
Basic Benefits of Carb Cycling
- Fat burning
- Lean muscle promoting
- increase receptiveness to insulin
- focused on healthy carbs, eliminates bad carbs
Here are some great examples of good carbs you want to be focusing on eating:
Yams, Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Oatmeal, Quick Oats, Kamut flour or pasta, Fruit, Brown Rice
Below are some carbs to avoid at all costs:
Anything with white flour, candy, cake, cookies, crackers
Potential Down-Sides Of Carb Cycling
Although carb cycling can help you achieve amazing results in terms of packing on lean muscle while losing fat, it also could have some potential down-sides.
- If you cut your carbs to low on your low days your going to cause your body to be carbohydrate sensitive, which basically tells your body to go crazy and hold onto everything that is entering your mouth.
- If your body tends to hold a lot of water weight, carb cycling can increase this, especially after high carb days. It will normally even itself out throughout the week, and trial and error will help find this out and help in the decision whether this is the right lifestyle for you or not.
- As you can see, the benefits of carb cycling definitely outweigh the negatives, but the best part of all is that it’s completely your choice on how you decide to eat and fuel your body!
Find Your Balance
Remember, there is a plan and course of action for everyone. Some love carb cycling and some hate it. Some see results, others have better results by keeping a healthy consistent plan of action with no cycles. My best advice is to try it out for a period of time, and closely track the results. 21 days should be the minimum prior to making a decision on whether this is the pattern of eating you should stick with and that you are experiencing the benefits of carb cycling. With carb cycling it’s important to remember that everything should still be done in moderation with a focus on healthy balance. Just because it’s your low carb days doesn’t mean you can eat the entire jar of peanut butter or the whole rotisserie chicken. You need to count your calories and make sure your body is continuing to get what it needs. It’s easy, when you are hungry, to grab whatever is quick. Another key benefit of carb cycling is that you will be forced to plan ahead and cut up veggies, make salads, and keep snacks like almonds close by. If a strong, healthy body is what you are after, give carb cycling a shot and see what results come of it for you!