Far and away, this is one of the most popular articles on Bach Performance.
If you’re looking to maximize fat loss, Carb Cycling is an important strategy.
And while you’re burning fat, here’s a Free workout to maximize fat loss and retain lean muscle. Thanks for being here.
If you’re looking shred fat, build muscle, and improve your overall health, then carb cycling is your answer. Carb cycling is a fairly advanced nutritional strategy and can be extremely time-consuming. Building separate menus, calculating nutritional requirements and prepping all of your own food can be tedious work.
When time is one of your biggest barriers to healthy eating the best options aren’t always feasible.
Fortunately, as easy as I’m about to make it, carb cycling will help you consistently eat healthy without having to measure and track your calories. Boom!
Picture This: It’s early fall and Saturday around noon. College football season has arrived. You’re at your local alumni sports bar with your buddies. Everyone’s ordering, microbrews, nachos, chicken wings, and fries..food galore, a gluttonous paradise.
*Note: I’m probably there with you.
*Note: I’m not condoning the food options above, but I’m a realist.
The waitress makes her way to you, what do you do?
The decision shouldn’t be whether you can crush a few nachos and beer with your friends, it should be “ did you earn your carbs?”
Depending on the day, carb cycling allows you the freedom to enjoy some of your delicious, higher carb, and sometimes less healthy options with less damage to your diet.
Carb cycling is a highly effective dietary strategy that maximizes your body’s ability to build pounds of muscle and burn slabs of fat simultaneously.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is as easy as it sounds and is as simple as cycling carbohydrates on weight training days (high carb) and non-workout/cardio days (low carb).
High Carb: Due to the repeated muscle contractions of resistance training your body will have an increased insulin sensitivity. With this increased response to carbs your body will drive nutrients into your muscle cells, aiding them in repair, growing them, and providing you with more energy.
Low Carb: On the non-lifting days you keep carbohydrates low because there isn’t the same increase in insulin sensitivity. Without carbs flowing through the bloodstream the body is forced to burn stored fuel, or body fat. By minimizing carbs a few days per week the body becomes more receptive to insulin, so when you do indulge on the sugary goodness your anabolic response will be maximized.
To rehash, Lifting? Carb up and support your muscle-building workouts.
Intervals or taking the day off? Avoid carbs and maximize your fat burning.
Sample Workout Schedule and Carb Intake
Monday: Lower Body Focus /High Carb
Tuesday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb
Wednesday: Off Or Sprint Work
Thursday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb
Friday: Lower Body Focus/High Carb
Saturday: Upper Body Focus/High Carb
Sunday: Off Or Sprint Work
Low Carb Day
Breakfast: 4 egg scramble, 1/2 tomato, 1/4 avocado
Snack (Optional): Handful nuts and carrots
Lunch: Mediterranean salad w/cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, chicken, feta cheese w/balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Snack (optional): Supershake, omit fruit and grains
Dinner: Sirloin steak, broccoli, and small salad
High Carb Day
Breakfast: 3 egg scramble with spinach, 1/2 cup oatmeal with blueberries
Snack (Optional): Shake with 1 scoop vanilla protein, 1 cup berries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
Lunch: Sandwich loaded with lean meat and veggies
Dinner: Sweet potato, barbecue rubbed chicken thighs and cauliflower
Snack (Optional): Shake with 1 scoop chocolate protein, 1 orange, 1 cup spinach, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
Common Issues and Questions
How Low is Low Carb?
On low carb days shoot for under 100 grams of carbs. A simple trick is to replace the grains/starches you eat with leafy, fibrous greens.
I’m not looking to build muscle, only lose fat. Is Carb Cycling still for me?
Yes! Carb cycling is great for a fat loss diet. When you’re consistently low on calories and carbohydrates you may see reductions in metabolic rate, thyroid hormones, sympathetic nervous system activity, energy levels, and sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen (Berardi and Andrews 368).
This leads to a plateau that stops your fat loss in it’s tracks, yikes!
When you cycle carbohydrates back into your diet you raise leptin levels, a powerful fat burning hormone that down-regulates when calories are low. Essentially, you trick your body into burning more fat.
Can I pig out on High Carb Days? You did use examples of fries, beer, and wings….
Although carb cycling does afford my flexibility in your food choices I wouldn’t advise crushing junk. As tasty as it is, the combination of high fat, high carb, high alcohol containing meals is a perfect recipe for gaining weight. Adipose weight. I wouldn’t recommend it.
I’m very sensitive to carbs. I look at bread and put on a spare tire, how can I carb cycle to add muscle, but not additional fat?
If you find your adding body fat ditch carbs until after your workout. By keeping carbs until you workout you will utilize stored fuel up until and during your workouts, increasing your fat burning. Then, carb up after the workout to take advantage of your insulin sensitivity.
That’s a Wrap
Carb cycling is the most effective way to maximize the benefits of carbohydrates in your diet.
It doesn’t need to be complicated, just focus on healthy food options and staying true to your carb cycling schedule to reap the rewards of proper nutrient timing.
Hittin’ the weights? Boom, carbs baby!
Hook me up with the Free Fat Loss Program, Eric!
Day off or intervals? Replace grains with greens, no problem.
Berardi, Jon, and Ryan Andrews. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second. Precision Nutrition Inc., 2012. 368. Print.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/162994388/”>chotda</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/83096974@N00/1091167314/”>In Praise of Sardines</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>