The Science Behind Carb Cycling: What You Need To Know

The Science Behind Carb Cycling: What You Need to Know

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If you’re wondering about the basics of carb cycling, then you’ve come to the right place. In the health and fitness world, it can often feel as though absolutely everything is complicated. That’s why it’s so appealing when someone comes along and offers you a simple solution.

Here’s a secret for you.

You don’t need to do anything special to get the body you’ve always wanted. About 80% of the work is simply understanding and applying a few principles to your day, related to the concept of diet and exercise.

Everything else is pretty much just persistence and patience, and of course, a little help from my Marc Dressen training solutions.

Today, I’m going to show you exactly what you need to know about “carb cycling” for the process of losing weight. You’ll discover not just how carb cycling workers, but what you can do to make themost of it, and whether carb cycling is better than traditional dieting.

What is Carb Cycling?

The first thing you’ll need to understand, is what carb cycling really means. Generally, carb cycling is a form of dieting that involves planned changes in your carbohydrate and caloric intake. There are lots of different carb cycling solutions out there, but most will ask you to switch between three different kinds of days. These will include:

  • No-carb days: When you eat less than 30 grams of carbohydrate each day
  • Low-carb days: When you consume about 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight each day.
  • High-carb days: When you consume up to 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight each day.

No carb days aren’t very realistic, because they ask you to basically remove a huge amount of potential foods from your diet altogether. That’s why if you’re looking for a results-driven diet that you can realistically stick to, you’re probably going to need to stick to a carb-cycling protocol that just has low-carb, and high-carb days.

Fortunately, those are the two concepts that we’re going to focus on in today’s article.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Carbs are complicated things. On the one hand, they make the perfect fuel for our workouts, and deliver a more anabolic environment for the growing body. On the other hand, they can also spike insulin levels, which makes fat storage more likely, and feed the body fat with more glucose to store.

We need to use carbs to build strength and muscle quickly, but we don’t want to have to pay the price of a bigger waistline, and that’s where carb cycling comes in. By staggering high carb and low carb days, you can:

  • Improve training intensity by replenishing glycogen stores
  • Influence hormones related to muscle metabolism
  • Spike insulin levels temporarily to preserve muscle tissues.

Theoretically, carb cycling means that you can build muscle, while gaining very little fat, or even losing fat.

How to Make the Most of Carb Cycling

When you’re carb cycling in an effort to reduce that fat in your body, you’ll need to focus on using one high-carb day, after three low-carb days. On the other hand, if you’re looking to maximize your muscle growth through carb cycling, you’ll need to use two high-carb days for every three low-carb days.

Where you decide to use your high-carb day is entirely up to you. Since you’ll generally move it around from one week to the next, you can rest assured that you’re not going to end up with negative results. Remember, your low-carb and high-carb days don’t have to line up neatly in a row. Some people like to use three low-carb days back to back, followed by two high-carb days. On the other hand, some people like to stagger their days based on how they’re feeling, and what they want to achieve in any given week.

Ultimately, you should try to schedule the majority of your high-carb intake days to land on days when you’ll be lifting more weights and focusing on building your muscles. This is because your body uses carbs as energy, and will ensure that you’re using that food to build your muscle, rather than store excess fat.

How to Set Up your Calories for Carb Cycling

Carb cycling success doesn’t just mean taking the time to think carefully about your carb intake. It also means that you should think about how you’re going to schedule your calories too. For instance, during your high-carb days, you’ll need to make sure that you have about a 10% calorie deficit in your diet. On the other hand, on a low-carb day, you’ll want a 25% caloric deficit, which is perfect for losing fat fast.

If you’re maintaining your existing weight, you’ll want your caloric intake to match your energy expenditure on a daily basis in most circumstances. However, if you are bulking up and building your muscles, then you’ll need a 10% caloric surplus for your everyday meals.

Here’s how to set up your macro intakes on low-carb days:

  • 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
  • 20% of your calories taken from carbs
  • The rest of your calories from fat (after protein and carb intake)

Here’s how to set up your macro intakes for high-carb days:

  • 1 gram of protein per body weight
  • 50% of calories from carbs
  • The rest of your calories from fat (after carb and protein intake)

The Bottom Line on Carb Cycling

When it comes to achieving muscle building and fat loss goals, carb cycling is a lot like intermittent fasting solutions. Both options are workable and valid dietary strategies that are supported by many marketers, but it’s worth remembering that the best diet is always one that you can stick to.

If you think that carbs are causing you serious problems when it comes to managing your body weight, then carb cycling might be worth your time. If you think that you need to simply work on expending more energy than you take in, then you should think about turning to a flexible diet that makes the most of your nutrition needs.

Marc Dressen
Personal Trainer London

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