Carbohydrates are used by the body as a fuel source. They are broken down to provide glucose that sustains the activities of all different organ systems in the body. But they do have a downside- when taken in abundance, they lead to weight gain. However, you can enjoy your carbs without putting on fat if you can alternate between high and low carb days. This is what carb cycling refers to.
Carb Cycling Explained
While it may have hailed from the bodybuilding universe, carb cycling can be done by anyone looking to lose weight or build muscle. The key is finding the right formula that is aligned with your end goals. Some things remain constant, regardless of the approach you adopt.
You should aim for five meals. Your breakfast should be rich in both carbohydrates and protein. For the rest of your meals, you can tweak the amounts of carbohydrates you take, based on whether it’s a high, or a low carb day.
You should eat more protein and healthy fats on low fat days to ensure your daily calorific requirements are met.
When your intake of carbs is increased, the body is less conservative with glucose because the supply is high. This keeps your metabolism high. When you switch to a low-carb day, this metabolism needs to be sustained somehow. And so the body turns to fat for energy requirements.
Carb cycling should have at least one cheat day where you can take your favorite foods. This is no go-ahead to junk up. Your intake should be within reason, to avoid a caloric surplus that might culminate in fat gain.
Choose Your Carbs Wisely
It matters the kinds of carbs you eat. Even on a high carb day, you should only rely on healthy choices, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These complex carbohydrates are slowly digested, and keep your glucose levels consistent throughout. This forestalls weight gain since the short bursts of energy released into the body are used up.
Sample Meal Plan
For your high-carb day, you should aim for 2-3g of carbs per kg of body weight.
For low carb days, the intake should be reduced to 0.5-1g/kg of body weight.
If you work out, your intake of protein should be slightly increased. Remember to alternate between the two days, aligning high carb days with the days you are most active.
Allowing a cheat day once a week is encouraged, but it’s not altogether necessary.
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