The Story of Carb Cycling
Now this is a story all about how
My carbs got flipped and cycled around
And I'd like to take a minute just sit for a while
I'll tell you how you to begin your very own carb cycle style.
So now that we've established I should get a fitness Grammy, or at least my own TV show, let's talk about this carb cycling thing and how I got mixed up in it.
Let's rewind the clock to my early serious fitness days. I had been learning more effective workout techniques as well as more on structuring a proper diet, and I was seeing great results just by implementing what I'd studied.
After just under 4 months of trying new things, I had gained a significant amount of muscle mass and weight (I'm not a regular scale checker, so looking at one after those few months ended up being quite the shock), and I was honestly a bit impressed with myself.
But, along with the added mass came a little bit of extra fat, and while I was very happy with how I looked, there came a time when I wanted to trim down for a more "cut" appearance for a particular event. This event may or may not have involved me standing with my shirt off greeting people at a certain overpriced moose-themed retailer.
So with speedy fat loss in mind, as well as fresh knowledge of dieting strategies, I cut my carb intake significantly while increasing daily calories from fat to the point that there were nearly no carbs in my diet at all. While this worked out very well for my appearance, there were some side effects.
I found myself feeling very tired and slightly more irritable (think being "hangry"), as well as feeling like there was a fog over my brain slowing all my thought processes.
I knew already that those side effects were common with low-carb diets, but that didn't make me feel any better about the whole thing. Rather, I needed a solution.
And that's where carb cycling came in.
What is Carb Cycling?
I understood from my studies in fitness that, generally, better managing carbohydrate intake from foods such as pastas, fruits, or breads often leads to fat loss. But I also knew that carbs are invaluable in providing energy for growing muscles during weight training, and not consuming them can lead to that inglorious fatigue-state.
So to cure my peanut butter sandwich-deprived condition while maintaining the "trimmed" appearance, I turned to alternating between days of higher carbohydrate intake, particularly when weight training; and days of lower carb intake, usually on a rest day.
And BAM, I started carb cycling without even knowing it.
Carb cycling is just that, alternating between high and low carb days, with an occasional "refeed" during which you consume quite a few more calories than normal (think of it as a cheat day).
Eating with such a schedule allows your body to burn unwanted fat effectively without going carb-less for so long that your body's metabolism slows down too much (this is NOT "starvation mode" by the way). Here is an example chart so you can see how you can structure your week.
Carb cycling example with High-Carb (HC), Low-Carb (LC) and Reward (R) days.
P.S. I made this myself and it wasn't as easy as it looks.
How Do I Start Carb Cycling?
Great question, reader! The carb cycle week shown above would be suited for someone training to rapidly lose weight. For someone consistently weight training to add muscle mass, the schedule could be rearranged to something like HC, HC, LC, HC, HC, LC, R, or someone in the middle could use a schedule that simply alternates one high carb day for one low carb day.
What's great about carb cycling is it's flexible enough to be tailored to different types of body weight goals.
As for hard numbers, there are a few methods you can use to calculate how many grams of carbs you should consume on your high and low carb days. One suggestion I've found useful is to multiply your bodyweight by .75 for a high carb day and by .3 for a low carb day, but feel free to check my article on carbohydrates or ask me about ideas for your particular needs.
I also have found a smartphone app that walks people looking to lose weight through every step of the carb cycling process, which you can learn about here.
Carb cycling is just one of many strategies you can use to achieve your desired physique, so hopefully this provided you with insight to overcome any obstacles you may be facing.
And who knows? If you start carb cycling, maybe we'll see YOU greeting at a moose-y retail store.