Firstly – let’s explain what Carb Cycling is.
Carb cycling would usually involve alternating lower-Carb days with higher-Carb days. Typically fat intake increases on lower-crab days, and decreases on higher-Carb days; while protein intake remains consistent. This is to ensure that you are still meeting your calorie intake.
A Carb cycling split could be as follows:
Day 1 – High Carbs, Low Fats, Moderate Protein
Day 2 – High Carbs, Low Fats, Moderate Protein
Day 3 – Low Carbs, High Fats, Moderate Protein
Day 4 – Moderate Carbs, Moderate Fats, Moderate Protein
Day 5 – High Carbs, Low Fats, Moderate protein
Day 6 – Low Carbs, High Fats, Moderate Protein
Day 7 – Moderate Carbs, Moderate Fats, Moderate Protein
Some experts will claim that Carb Cycling helps increase muscle mass, decrease body fat, and improve fitness performance.
A similar method to Carb Cyclin is the following:
- On strength training days – keep your Carbs high, your fats low and your protein intake moderate.
- On days where you do cardio only – keep your Carbs, fats and proteins at a moderate level.
- On days where you don’t train at all – keep your Carbs low, your fats high and your proteins moderate.
But the question that is always posed – is Carb Cycling sustainable? Will it generate lasting results?
There have been numerous studies conducted around the effects of low -Carb diets. Participants experienced constipation, headaches, bad breath, light-headedness, and food fixation. These unpleasant side effects parallel with what I’ve seen with my own clients who severely restrict their Carb intake. And in my experience, these side effects are also the reason many low Carb-dieters either give up, or wind up binging on forbidden foods.
One of the main reasons behind Carb cycling is limiting Carbs when the body doesn’t need them as much. We all know that Carbs serve as fuel (like petrol in your car) to help cells perform their jobs. Eating a large amount of Carbs on days when you’re not very active doesn’t make much sense, because your body requires less fuel . Carbs that aren’t burned for fuel create a surplus—which can prevent weight loss, or lead to weight gain. This again all comes back to Calories In V Calories Out.
But it is also important to note that a Carb limit of say for example 30 grams is also extremely low and unsustainable, even on less active days. That’s the amount of Carbs in one cup of broccoli, one whole apple, and five baby carrots.
For a better balance, I advise my clients to practice what I call “Carb matching”—or aligning your carb intake with your energy needs, which may vary from day to day, or morning to afternoon.
This approach essentially involves eating larger portions of clean, whole food Carbs to support more active hours; and curbing Carbs when you expect you’ll be less active. Carb matching helps with weight loss and improves fitness performance, while supporting all-day energy, and supplying a wide range of nutrients.
For example, if you’re planning to do a morning workout, have had porridge topped with banana for breakfast beforehand. But if you’re headed to the office to sit at a desk for several hours, a veggie and avocado omelette with a side of berries would be a more appropriate morning meal.
Carb matching also involves aligning your Carb needs with your age, height, ideal weight, sex, and occupation. This can be done using online calculators or by seeking a professional’s advice.
If you’ve tried Carb cycling, and it either hasn’t worked for you, or doesn’t seem like a strategy you can stick with, try moderating your Carb intake based on your activity level instead. While Carb cycling involves drastic shifts, Carb matching is all about creating balance – not too little, and not too much.
But regardless of which approach you try, stick with these two important rules of thumb:
- Always make quality a priority by choosing fresh, whole foods. (And remember not all Carbs are created equal.)
- Listen to your body! It’s cues are pretty good at guiding you toward a “just right” balance.