Carb cycling, as the name suggests a diet protocol which manipulates carbohydrate intake to induce rapid fat loss. Does carb cycling work? Absolutely, it is possibly the best approach to fat loss in one shape or another. After all there is not a ‘’one size fits all’’ application to carb cycling, it all depends on the individual and their timescale, body composition, body type, training load and goals. However there are some ‘’rules’’ which we can share with you which in theory will allow you to make well informed decisions to decide how YOU need to cycle your carb intake.
A few points to ponder.
Having high carb days might seem like a negative thing if you want to lose fat but keep it in context. If you are having several lower days then your leptin (starvation hormone) levels will fall and when they do it becomes hard to lose fat IF they go too low. On average they can drop by up to 50% in a matter of 5-6 days. The leaner you are the more serious this is, if you have plenty of body fat to lose it really isn’t a concern yet. However, if you are fairly lean then you need to consider this. The reason WHY you have higher days is to spike leptin levels and thyroid output. The leaner you are the more frequent you need a ‘’high’’ day – for an individual in the region of 10% body fat or below one every 4-7 days would be needed depending on their training and level of condition/muscle mass. On the opposite end of the spectrum for those 25% + they could wait for 4-6 weeks before needing a ‘’high’’ day and even then it wouldn’t need to be as ‘’aggressive’’ in contrast to a leaner person.
What carbohydrates should you use on high day? There are many different opinions out there – people like Ken ‘’Skip’’ Hill believe in sugary forms such as sweets and cake. Others will tell you more wholesome carbs are the way to go. We believe both have their place. Again, depending on the individual both can be used. If you are extremely lean and relatively muscular then sugary, higher GI carbs might actually be better. In contrast, someone who has a lot of body fat to shift should stick to lower GI forms with more fibre present. Think sweet potatoes or brown rice for the latter.
When should your high day be? Ideally you would utilise this on a day where you need more energy (as long as you weren’t extremely depleted but most won’t be). Therefore it makes sense to enjoy a higher carb day on ‘’leg’’ day for example and even keep the higher GI ‘’fun’’ food until post-workout.
Cycling your carbs is a great way to achieve and sustain a lean physique – being smart with your carb intake can take you far!