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Busy Man’s Carb Cycling: The Uber Convenient Way to Shred Fat and Build Muscle.

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Carb cycling may be the best way to maximize the muscle building benefits of carbs while maximizing insulin sensitivity and minimizing fat gain.


The Problem?

A strict dietary regimen of counting calories, managing multiple menus, and analyzing every diet decision down to the gram isn’t practical for most people. Save for the elite physique or bodybuilding competitor, harping over every dietary decision is a first class ticket to frustration and overwhelm, not a better-looking body. 


It doesn’t have to be so complicated and in this article, I’m going to clear the air on how to simplify carb cycling so you can reap the same physique changing benefits without the frustration. 


And while you’re burning fat, here’s a free workout to maximize fat loss and retain lean muscle so you look, feel, and perform your best  Thanks for being here.

Hook me up with the Free Fat Loss Program, Eric!

-Eric


Building muscle while losing fat to unveil a lean, ripped body.

That’s what we’re all after, right? Recomposition, the process of losing fat while building muscle is the single biggest goal of most gym goers. The problem is, most folks tend to either build muscle easily but can’t lose stubborn belly fat. The others?
They have the metabolism of a hummingbird on meth and despite their efforts, can’t build a lick of muscle. 

Fortunately, carb cycling has been used for physique enthusiasts, athletes, and bodybuilders for decades and is one of the most effective ways to keep you lean and muscular. 

So…What is Carb Cycling? 

Carb cycling is the planned manipulation of carbohydrate consumption to maximize workout performance, build lean muscle, and minimize fat gain. It’s an advanced strategy that can do wonders for preventing fat loss plateaus and maximizing insulin sensitivity.   

But carb cycling isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For most people, carb cycling is downright overwhelming and a first class ticket to saying “fuck it” to yet another diet. If you’re preparing all of your own meals, building separate menus of high/low carb days, and calculating nutritional requirements, carb cycling is extremely time-consuming. 

And if you have business dinners, have multiple people to cook for, and feel overwhelmed by the amount of “perfect” diets plastered all over the internet then another cumbersome diet plan then carb cycling is the last thing you need.

Fortunately, I have your back. You too can implement carb cycling to lose stubborn fat, build muscle, and transform your body without measuring and tracking calories.

I’ve refined and tweaked this process with hundreds of my clients to help them boost performance and look better naked.  It worked for them and can work for you, too. 

 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.

Carb Cycling

 

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 I earn my carbs today?”

Luckily, you crushed front squats and your quads are smoked. You order the double bacon bison burger, fries, a side salad, and a Hercules Double IPA. Now, this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but you’ve earned the right to splurge. That’s one of the beauties of carb cycling–the freedom to enjoy some of your delicious, higher carb, and sometimes less healthy options with less damage to your diet.

The key to this high effective strategy? Insulin.

Insulin and Carb Cycling

Insulin is an extremely anabolic hormone that can help you lose fat and build muscle if manipulated correctly. Too little and you’re doomed to flat muscles, poor recovery, and pre-shrinking your affliction t-shirts to look jacked. Too much and you’ll resemble the Michelin Man and suffer from myriad health problems.
 
Insulin is a hormone made in your pancreas that plays a major role in metabolism and regulates nutrient entry into your cells. When insulin is seldom elevated (like long-term low carb diets) you won’t gain much muscle. Conversely, a higher carb intake when your body is more sensitive to insulin such as the hours after a workout triggers rapid tissue repair, protein synthesis, and muscle growth.
On the flip side when your body is not sensitive to carbs, such as non-training days and being excessively overweight, spending your afternoons at the pasta buffet will lead to carbs behind stored as body fat. As you can see insulin is a double edged sword. Through proper timing and fluctuations, carb cycling empowers you to control insulin and strip off body fat and build lean muscle faster. 

Carb Cycling Made Easy

Carb cycling is as easy as it sounds. Cycle carbohydrates on weight training days (high carb) and non-workout/cardio days (low carb). Rather than giving you a plethora of calculations and impractical menus we’ll simplify the process. 

Lifting heavy and with high training volume? It’s a high carb day. 

Due to the repeated muscle contractions during 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. 

On lifting days you’ll be consuming fruits and starches (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and oats) as your carbohydrate sources. If you’re trying to build muscle like the Minimalist Muscle course or have long, grueling workouts then have starches during all meals and during your workouts.
If you gain fat easily or have shorter, less intense workouts like a 30-minute bicep blaster, use moderate starches. This would mean carbs during your workout and with your first meal post-workout.

Taking a day off or hitting a low volume workout? Keep the carbs low.

On non-lifting days keep carbohydrates low because there isn’t the same increase in insulin sensitivity. Carbs consumed when your body is less sensitive may lead to additional fat gain. Let’s minimize that, shall we? By minimizing carbs a few days per week your body becomes more receptive to insulin. This means on the days you do consume carbs, your body becomes hypersensitive and  shuttles carbs towards building muscle rather than being stored as fat.  

If you hit a light workout or interval session get your carbs from fruits or veggies throughout the day. It’s fine to keep carbs during your workout or in the meal after, but keep them lower overall. 

Lifting? Carb up and support your muscle-building workouts. More volume in the gym means more carbs. 

Intervals or taking the day off? Avoid most starchy carbs, improve insulin sensitivity, and burn more body fat.  

 

Sample Workout Schedule and Carb Intake

Monday: Lower Body Training (high volume) /High Carb

Tuesday: Upper Body Focus (low volume) /Moderate Carb

Wednesday: Off Or Sprint Work

Thursday: Upper Body Focus(high volume) /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

Workout: One banana with protein shake

Dinner: Sirloin steak, broccoli, and a small salad. Optional: One sweet potato

High Carb Day

Breakfast: 3 egg scramble with spinach, 1 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

Do Calories Still Matter if I go Low Carb? 
Yes. The idea that dropping carbs will miraculously drop body fat is false…unless you’re burning more calories than you’re eating. Now, carb cycling can improve insulin sensitivity and over time lead to better fat loss, but if you’re eating more calories than your body burns you’ll still add fat. Sorry, butter in your coffee can still make you fat. 

How Low is Low Carb?

This depends on your size and body part percentage. With some clients, I’ll shoot for under 100 grams of carbs on low carb days for fat loss. 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 its tracks, yikes!

When you cycle carbohydrates and calories 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 by keeping it out of starvation mode.

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 this isn’t a pass to go eat pizza, burgers and fill the gaps in with crappy protein powder.  You can indulge occasionally but stick to mostly high-quality foods and supplements like Grass-fed whey and a greens powder (here’s mine) if you hate veggies. As tasty as it is, the combination of high fat, high carb, high alcohol containing meals is a perfect recipe for gaining weight. Sorry IIFYM folks, junk food is still junk food and will come back around to harm your body in the future. 

That’s a Wrap

Carb cycling works–that’s been shown by coaches a long time ago.  For starters, you’ll improve insulin sensitivity and strategically maximize the power of insulin around your workouts to build muscle. Psychologically, my friend and fellow coach Ben Johnson points out carb cycling helps you pay more attention to what foods you’re putting into your body, leading to better food choices. In both cases, approaching your diet with awareness and timing carbs around your workouts is a no-brainer for losing fat, building muscle, and improving performance in the gym.

It doesn’t need to be complicated, just focus on eating healthy food options and staying true to your carb cycling schedule to reap the rewards of proper nutrient timing.

P.S. Looking to drop 8-10 pounds in the next month? That’s exactly what people have been doing in our 30-Day Fat Loss Contest. Apply today, spaces are limited. 

 

Citations:

Berardi, Jon, and Ryan Andrews. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Second. Precision Nutrition Inc., 2012. 368. Print.

United States Department of Health and Human Services. “Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes.” Bethesda, MD: , 2013. Web. 

 

Hack Your Sleep

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If your sleep quality sucks so will your workouts. And your recovery. And your sex life. And your dietary decisions. And your mood. Yea, sleep  is pretty damn important.

Let me tell you a story.

My last two years of college I lived with 6 other guys. It was a blast; however, sleep quality was piss-poor. Specifically, I remember a heat wave during my last year of college. It was July with temperatures 95-105 for about a week straight, with heat indexes hanging out around 110.  Working two jobs, one which was outside all day, and then coming home to “chill” with 6+ dudes was brutal. We didn’t have air conditioning and it stayed about 90 degrees and humid inside all night long, it was as much fun as licking the inside of a toilet bowl. Never, ever have I appreciated the benefits of quality sleep.

Sleep is essential to many of the fundamental attributes for physical health, mental performance, and overall health. Aim to get at least 6 hours, as growth hormone and testosterone peak during sleep.

Plain and Simple, you need at least 6 hours of quality sleep. Lack of sleep is associated with:

  • increased body fat

  • higher stress levels

  • increased hunger

  • smaller muscles

  • less sex and sexual dysfunction

  • irritable behavior

  • earlier death

None of this sounds good to me, so getting high quality sleep is a huge priority. Is it really necessary to check your emails again?

No, F^*% that.

I’d rather have my muscle, intelligence, sanity, abs, and life.

As many as 30% of adults sleep less than six hours per night, the minimum you should try to get per night. Any less than six hours of sleep per night and your testosterone begins to plummet, growth hormone output decreases, and cortisol spikes. Sold on sleep?

Here are 7 Tips to Maximize Your Sleep

1. Turn your room into a cave

In order to fall asleep the body produces melatonin, a hormone that aids the body in relaxing enough to sleep. However, many of todays technologies such as cell phones, alarm clocks, tablets, and emit blue light that disrupts natural circadian rhythms.

For those who aren’t familiar, the circadian rhythm refers to our internal, 24-hour cycle of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes. To optimize melatonin production avoid screens 1-2 hours before bed and instead, opt for a book or other relaxing activity and cover all sources of light in your room.

2. Avoid Caffeine

Coffee and caffeinated drinks are great. I drink them when I need an extra boost for workouts or increased alertness early in the morning. When used correctly, caffeine can yield very productive days. Issue is, caffeine has a 6 hour half-life.

Unfortunately, this means that cup of Joe you slurp down at 10am still has caffeine flowing through your body when you’re prepping for sleep and trying to wind down in the evening. You probably don’t even feel the affects causes issues because caffeine disrupts sleep quality through decreased REM sleep, the deep sleep that your body utilizes to recuperate physically and emotionally.

3. Turn down the thermostat

This one takes me back to college. We had a brutal heat wave in Wisconsin (yes this happens), it was 95-105 for about a week straight with a heat index 110+. This would be bearable, but I happened to live in a stuffy house without A/C filled with 6 other guys. In other words, it sucked and I woke up every morning drenched in sweat and dehydrated.

Although sleeping temperature is highly variable from person to person, most scientists agree that slightly cooler temperatures than normal promote deeper sleep patterns.

4.Protein Before Bed

“What happened to eat after 8 gain weight?”

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is a fallacy. When looking to build an awesome body it’s important to emphasize protein. My favorite before bed is cottage cheese, as the slow digesting casein proteins will provide amino acids to the muscles for hours to come. In addition,
Tryptophan, the amino acid popularized by post-Thanksgiving naps facilitates serotonin production. Serotonin is a neuro-transmitter that assists in sleep regulation.

5. Crush Carbs At Night

First protein at night, now carbs? Eric are you crazy?

Calm down junior, there is nothing wrong with carbs at night.

In fact, placing a bigger emphasis on carbohydrates at night will greatly benefit you sleep quality. Similar to tryptophan, carbohydrates facilitate seratonin production, aiding in improved sleep quality.

6. Have a Cheat Day

Cheat days during a diet are not only beneifical for your sanity but also for hormones such as leptin to keep results coming and sleep quality on par. Keeping consistent leptin levels is paramount  because leptin sends a message to stop eating when your body has fueled up enough. When at a caloric or sleep deficit, leptin decreases, making it more likely to overeat.
In short, this sucks.

When leptin decreases so does your rate of fat loss, which is why your diet may stall. By using a cheat day you can increase your leptin to spark fat burning. In conjunction with this increase in leptin levels the increased calories in your body will increase serotonin production, aiding in sleep quality similar to a huge holiday meal.

7. Set an evening routine

Our bodies like consistency due the consistency of ciradian rhythms. Try unwinding, avoiding P.M. stimulants, stimulating lights from electronics, and practice relaxation techniques such as stretching and meditation. In essence, instead of checking email and watching Mean Girls opt for a book and a comfy chair in a quiet area.

Your body will increase melatonin and serotonin production for higher quality, more restful sleep.

Quality sleep is the most overlooked and neglected factor when it comes to health, body composition improvement, and athletic development. Sleep is your time to improve and reap the benefits of your hard work in the kitchen and gym, maximize sleep to maximize your gains.

How can you improve your sleep? Do you have any tips or tricks?

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