Carb cycling……….. many of you have heard the term but what exactly is it? Let’s quickly talk about what it’s not; carb cycling is not a miracle, it’s not a magic potion, it’s not the end all be all of eating for fat loss, gains, and it won’t make you look like Rambo overnight.
The reality with almost any eating style be it carb cycling, Paleo, Intermittent Fast, or IIFYM nearly all of these work and amazingly well for various people if…..and the BIG if is – “if people would actually stick to them and follow through for more than a week without giving up.”
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What carb cycling is and why it’s different from other eating protocols out there?
Carb cycling is not a diet, there is no timeline, so you can realistically carb cycle your entire life easily, safely and healthily. There are no food restrictions in carb cycling meaning you can eat dairy, wheat, fruit or any other macronutrient food you chose unlike Paleo for example which is restricted in food selection. There is an added bonus of cycling your carbohydrates not only physically but also mentally for many people.
Think of carb cycling as a snake style method or zigzag method of eating. You are not following just a “low-no” carb diet you are essentially alternating between a low-med-higher carb intake depending on what day it is. Done correctly for many people it allows them to hold onto hard earned muscle and shed unwanted body fat. Not to mention like I previously stated mentally it allows you to stay sane and not drive yourself crazy eating “no carbs” and starving yourself for days on end.
We prescribe carb cycling based on personality type, schedule, training style and also personal preference. Basically, we find a pattern that helps people be most successful for example:
Type A – the most popular 3-day carb cycle
Day 1 -Low-No Carb day – example extremely low for most people being 50g per day
Day 2 – Medium Carb Day – example 100g-200g per day
Day 3 –Higher Carb Day – example 300g-500g per day
You simply eat in this 3-day pattern repeated – (side note typically on these super high carb days the fat content typically falls on the lower side these days.) Think to yourself higher carbs lower fats and vice versa on lower carb days.
Other options include:
M-F low-No days with the weekends Saturday-Sunday being higher carb days.
Or 3 day low no cycle – Day 1-3 being low-no days with the 4th day being a higher carb day.
I have also had clients in the past have success with using this cycle methods below the low-high method.
Day 1 – low – Day 2 high – Day 3 low Day 4 high – repeat every 4 days
There are various options I have seen and tried over the years – again there is something out there works for everyone. With any dieting protocol knowing or having an understanding of your daily macro numbers (proteins, carbs, fats) is vital for optimal success.
Personally, I like to eat for performance, so if possible I enjoy having my training match up with my eating. On higher output days example “leg day” squatting and deadlifting days would typically be higher carb days. Higher output required higher carbs on the flip side if it was a less taxing day for example “arms” would fall on a lower day. I also find days, where people are not doing strenuous lifting or extreme HIIT training keeping those “low-no” carb days, elicit the best results for fat loss.
If you want some ballpark numbers on where to start – we give the following guidelines to start:
Protein – .8g -1g per lbs of bodyweight daily
Fats – .4-.8g – ranges reflect low-high carb days (pending on macros-goals)
Carbs – no-low days 0-50g usually works as a starting point – based on bodyweight for medium to higher carb days anywhere from 1g to 2g per lbs you weigh.
Quick wrap up:
Carb Cycling is eating your carbs on an intermittent schedule with days of no-low-medium-higher carbs. The goal is to maintain as much lean muscle as possible while shedding unwanted fat, all while avoiding feeling constantly depleted and tired so you can maintain enough energy, strength and endurance to train daily. Carb cycling can be a lifestyle for many people to reach and maintain a healthy diet and body 24-7-365. Try one of the protocols above, who knows it just might be exactly what you have been looking for.
Jeremy Scott is the creator of Jeremy Scott Fitness in North Scottsdale. He is an Olympian Labs Expert Advisor, Reebok Athlete, Fitfluential Ambassador and the Co-Creator of 10 Weeks 2 Ripped.
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