What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a weight loss and muscle-boosting strategy that involves fluctuating the number of carbs that you eat each day. Rather than a basic calorie-restriction diet, by shifting your carbohydrate concentration, you can keep your metabolism running more efficiently, promote healthy muscle growth after a workout, and aid in weight loss efforts, all at the same time. By having 3-5 days of the week with very few carbs, and 2-4 days where you are allowed to eat carbs, you can keep your body working more effectively and reduce your risk of heart disease.
However, this is only meant to be a short-term approach and must be done quite carefully. Depriving your body of too many carbs for too long can have the opposite effect, like weakening muscles and promoting weight gain (when you do eat carbs again). This approach is ideal for bodybuilders, physique athletes, and other high-intensity athletic professionals.
Carb Cycling Meal Plan
Each carb cycling diet will differ, based on your ultimate goals, but generally, on days when you are reducing your carb intake (less than 100 grams of carbs), you will eat things like non-starchy vegetables, eggs, healthy fats, and grass-fed meats. On days when you are consuming carbs (more than 150 grams of carbs), you will be eating starchy vegetables, potatoes, grains, and other high-carb foods. Some versions of this diet also include a general cheat day to eat whatever you want, as a reward for your hard work.
It can be difficult to maintain a carb cycling protocol, but some of the best tips include ensuring that you get your recommended vitamins and minerals each day, as this will help prevent hunger pangs or temptation to break the diet. Also, consult your doctor before trying this diet, to ensure it is the right choice, given your lifestyle and pre-existing health conditions, if any.
Benefits of Carb Cycling
The main benefits of carb cycling include a reduction in hormone fluctuation and lean muscle growth, among others.
Creating a caloric deficit is how you lose weight, and by cutting out 400-600 calories on each low-carb day, you can significantly aid your weight loss efforts.
Lean Muscle Mass
Carbohydrates are needed for muscle repair and growth, so be sure to have your carb cheat days on those days when you have an intense workout.
This diet will force you to eat more plant-based foods, which tend to be denser in nutrients than junk and fast foods. Plant-based foods are also high in antioxidants and essential minerals.
This diet can help to curb cravings and set yourself up for healthier eating habits, even after your shift away from your carb cycling regimen.
Carb Cycling vs Keto
While carb cycling and going “keto” (ketogenic diet) are both effective strategies for weight loss, the fluctuating intake of carbohydrates with a carb cycling approach is known to keep the metabolism working more effectively, while also aiding muscle growth. Ketogenic diets are simply more extreme versions, where the majority of carbohydrate calories are replaced with protein. While extremely low-carb ketogenic diets are known to be good for preventing diabetes and aiding weight loss, they can also impair the speed of muscle growth and endurance during workouts.