Carb cycling has recently gained popularity among people all across the globe.
In simple terms, the carb cycle is a term coined for a certain practice of people where they consume more or fewer carbs over alternate days.
Generally the carb cycle revolves around the person’s training schedule. The carb cycling schedule varies from 7 days carb cycling plan to a month or a year. It helps in losing weight, increasing athletic abilities and managing symptoms of chronic conditions.
In this blog, we in detail will discuss what the carb cycle is and how does the carb cycle helps to lose weight?
What is the Carb Cycle?
Carb cycling involves variation in our daily intake of carbohydrates and fat depending upon our daily workout routine.
For instance, we can have either “high carb” or “low carb” days in our workout routine which is synonymous with high and low-calorie days.
These fluctuations in daily intake of carbs and fats optimize our body’s ability to building muscles or losing fat. Thus whatever your goals are (from losing fats, to build lean muscle, or change body composition), the carb cycle can help you achieve it.
In short, the carb cycle meal plan is a dietary plan where people can change their carb intake daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly.
For example, you can have a diet that is high in carbs and low on fat on some days and a diet that is high on fat and low on carb, on alternate days.
With a basic understanding of what a carb cycle is, let’s dig deep in the article to find out how Does Carb Cycling Work.
How Does Carb Cycle Work?
Carbohydrates are an important source of calories and energy. Simple carbohydrates contain one or two sugar molecules, whereas complex carbohydrates have three or more sugar molecules.
Whenever we consume carbohydrates in form of food our blood sugar goes up, to counter it the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin that is responsible for taking glucose into cells. In cell, the glucose is either converted into energy or fat or stored for later use.
As new blood sugar gets carried by cells, the pancreas signals the cells to release the pre-stored glucose in the form of glycogen.
Thus storing glucose in the cell and releasing glucose from the cell simultaneously makes sure that our body has the right amount of sugar.
With a high intake of carbs, the body gets forced to produce excessive insulin which may result in weight gain, type-2 diabetes, and heart problems.
Therefore switching between high carb food and low carb food gives our body a chance to burn fat instead of carbs and muscle tissues.
Having said that, we should avoid high carb foods on days when we are not working out, as it tends to increase our weight.
Let us now discuss the impact our body deals with carb cycling before and after. In order to understand this, we shall lay out the benefits of the carb cycle to our readers.
The Carb Cycle Benefits
The carb cycle aims at helping people with their weight and fitness by alternating between low and high carbs. Carb cycling benefits vary according to consumption rate.
For example, people who consume low-carb food consume more proteins and fats and thus it makes them feel fuller for a long time. Feeling full for a long time automatically reduces hunger and calorie intake.
Some of the benefits of the carb cycle are as follows:
1. Lean muscles and Mass Growth/Retention
Using the carb cycle is a win-win situation for people. We can use carb cycling for weight loss as well as carb cycling for muscle gain.
The only difference is in the number of low or high carb days we include in our carb cycle. It decides whether we are going to be calorie deficit or calorie surplus.
When we take low carb during our mass gain program, we give our body to trim down some excess body fats. On the other hand, adding a few high carb bays during our fat loss program, we create an anabolic environment where we can some muscles.
Either way we will be simultaneously losing fat and gaining or retaining muscles over a week’s time.
2. Endocrine Stimulation
Taking low carbs can decrease the T3 thyroid hormones level which leads to a reduction of basal metabolic rate. Basal metabolic rates are a number of calories burnt while we take rest; a lower basal metabolic rate means low-fat burning.
High carb intake can boost up the t3 production which will further improve basal metabolic rates, thus enabling us to shed more body fat.
Additionally, low carb results in a decrease of free testosterone to cortisol ratio when combined with intensive training in just three days.
Adding high carbs will raise the anabolic testosterone to catabolic cortisol ratio and enable weight gain.
3. Glycogen Super-Compensation
Low carbs combined with hard training can reduce the glycogen stored in muscles significantly. The lack of glycogen increases the production of an enzyme called glycogen synthase.
Once you take high carbs it takes a while for your body to recognize that there is enough glucose, meanwhile, the muscles will soak up carbs like a sponge which means fuller, harder and bigger muscles.
Apart from these major advantages of the carb cycle, there are some other additional benefits too which are as follows:
1. Keeps you in good mood:
High carb diets increase insulin discharge which triggers neurotransmitter ‘serotonin’ responsible for the “feel-good” factor in the brain.
2. Reduces type2 diabetes risk:
Similarly, people who consume high-carb diets which include fiber-rich fruits and vegetables tend to be less prone to type-2 diabetes. There are shreds of evidence that prove that high carb diets increase insulin sensitivity in people suffering from type-2 diabetes.
3. Reduces Cholesterol:
Apart from these fiber-rich foods helps to lower the cholesterol level which in turn prevents us from many heart diseases.
Now let’s deal with the most important question about how does the carb cycle help to lose weight?
We by now know that the carb cycle can decide how much calories we want to take in our body but can it help us in losing weight?
Can The Carb Cycle Help You Lose Weight?
Although there is no scientific evidence to back that the Carb Cycling Diet can assist in weight loss. Yet some of us may experience weight loss by following the carb cycle.
People with a moderate weight if consume enough calories or people with high BMI facing some calorie deficit may lose or at least maintain their body weight.
Research has adversely suggested noted no significant difference in weight loss if one micronutrient such as protein is restricted over another.
A study conducted in 2018 revealed that diets tailored for individuals’ needs and preferences tend to have better does adherence and thus can feel weight loss. Carb-cycle too does not restrict a person’s choice of food and so some people may find it helpful in assisting the weight loss.
It is evident that there are no scientific claims to back up the fact that the carb cycle helps us lose weight.
Let’s further analyze whether this is true for the claim that carb cycling helps muscles gain and athletic performance.
Can The Carb Cycle Help Muscles Gain and Sports Performance?
There is some scientific evidence that can back the claim that low-carb diets can be beneficial
However, more research is needs to be done to find some conclusive evidence to state that carb cycles are effective among the sports fitness community.
Now when we are aware of its advantages and disadvantages, let’s try to find out how to do the carb cycle.
How to do The carb cycle?
It totally depends on the liking of the person following the carb cycle. There can be many variations of carb cycling which people can follow for days, weeks, or months.
But mostly the meal plans get designed based on high, moderate, and low consumption of carbohydrates.
Types of carb cycle:
- Very low carbohydrates: If a person gets less than 10% of the daily total needed calories from carbohydrates then it can be termed under a very low carb diet.
- Low carbohydrates: A person gets under 26% of his daily calorie from carbohydrates.
- Moderate carbohydrates: Between 26-44% of daily calorie intake comes from moderate carbohydrates.
- High carbohydrates: 45% or more of daily calorie requirement will come from carbs.
You can design your own the carb cycle suiting your personal needs and goal, but to make things easier for our readers we have laid an example of a meal plan to follow.
The beauty of the carb cycle is that it does not stop you from eating whatever you want. It has just one simple condition of not to exceed the number of carbs that your meal plan allows.
To make you understand this better, here is an example of what your meal plan should look like.
High carb plan
- Breakfast: A cup of cooked oatmeal served with milk and a cup of sliced strawberries. (50 g)
- Snack: One serving of roasted chickpeas (22 g)
- Lunch: 6-inch wholemeal wrap, half a cup of beans, one cup of raw peppers, grated cheddar cheese, and a medium apple (61 g)
- Snack: A medium-sized banana and half a cup of skimmed milk (33.5 g)
- Dinner: one cup of brown, long grain rice, 100 g of mixed vegetables, 1 serving of chicken, served with soy sauce (58 g)
Moderate carb meal plan
- Breakfast: Three large eggs, two slices of brown bread, two thick slices of tomatoes, two slices of bacon, served with butter (30.1 g)
- Snack: one large apple (31 g)
- Snack: one medium banana (27 g)
- Dinner: one portion of pasta with pesto sauce (26.2 g)
Low carb meal plan
- Breakfast: two slices of bacon and one scrambled egg (1.2 g)
- Snack: one large hard-boiled egg with one tablespoon of mayonnaise (0.7 g)
- Lunch: one cup of chopped or diced chicken, 50 g of arugula, one cup red peppers, one cup of tomatoes, one cup onions, with olive oil dressing (20.9 g)
- Dinner: one serving of shrimp, one cup of arugula salad, one serving of couscous, and salad dressing (25.4 g)
In addition to the above-mentioned meal plan here are some recommended carb sources that are worth a try.
Recommended carbs to eat:
- Whole-grain cereals and grains for example brown rice
- wholemeal bread
- pulses (beans, lentils, and chickpeas)
- fresh fruits
Carb cycling can be hugely beneficial for all those wondering how does the carb cycle help in Weight Loss.
But one should avoid filling the need for carbs by including pizzas and cheese in your diet. Rather, try replacing junk food with wholemeal cereals and fruits and vegetables high on fiber.
Ultimately, carb cycling is one of the most flexible diet approaches out in the market that can help you gain muscle and burn fat simultaneously.
As long as you stay strict on which day is high-carb (low-fat) or low-carb (high-fat) and achieve your carb numbers, you will surely see some great results.