CARB CYCLING: WHAT IS IT AND DOES IT WORK???

Carb Cycling


These days a lot of people talk about carbs the way we used to talk about fat - like they are evil and have been put on this earth to sabotage us! You may know someone that has completely cut carbs out of their diet, or doesn’t eat carbs after dark, or maybe only eats a very small amount of carbs each day (hello keto!). But are carbs really bad for you? The answer is a resounding NO! To be honest, there are actually very few foods in this world that will do you immediate damage if you eat them. In reality, foods only start to become a problem when we eat things that don’t suit our individuality, our goals, or when we consume them in excess. So the key thing to remember when it comes to carbs is to tailor your intake to suit you!

I personally love carbs, and eat them every day. I look for nutrient dense carbs - this refers to carbohydrate sources that provide my body with the energy and nutrients it needs to be it’s best.

My favourite carbs

These will provide your body with a sustained energy source as well as various micronutrients that help to keep us functioning optimally.

So, what is Carb Cycling?

Basically, carb cycling refers to the manipulation of your carb intake to suit your personal needs and goals. The amount of carbs eaten and when will change from day to day, or over longer periods. Most people will use carb cycling in the following ways:

  • • Up your carb intake on training days - this can help to improve your performance in the gym, fuel your body to support the added demand of intense training sessions, and ensure your body is putting those carbs to good use.

  • • Consuming carb-rich meals either side of your training sessions

  • • Coordinating higher carb intake with more intense or prolonged training sessions and vice versa

  • • Reduce carbs when looking to lean down, or on rest days.

Foods high in Carbohydrates

Why use Carb Cycling?

We know that carbs are the body’s preferred fuel source, so carb cycling techniques can encourage the body to use this energy source for physical activity, rather than converting it to fat to be stored. The use of carb cycling can also have a positive impact on the appetite hormones - leptin and ghrelin, and can also improve insulin use.

  • • High carb days help replace muscle glycogen stores, aid recovery from intense workouts, and capitalise on the muscle’s increased uptake of nutrients after training.

  • • Increasing your carb intake around training sessions can also help to improve your performance throughout your workout.

  • • Fluctuating your carbs may improve the effectiveness of your appetite and satiety hormones, leptin and ghrelin.

  • • Another theory is that carb cycling will improve your metabolic health, by keeping your body guessing. The body has a tendency to try to be as efficient as possible with it’s fuel, this is a survival mechanism. By varying your energy and macro intake, your metabolism will not get the chance to adjust to a predictable routine, and hence will make the most of the fuel you provide it with.

  • • Carb cycling is also thought to help maintain your body’s insulin sensitivity, allowing insulin do its job of regulating the movement of glucose in and out of your blood stream and in/ out of cells.

  • • Some research suggests carb-cycling could enhance your body’s fat-burning capacity.

  • • You get the flexibility to eat a carb-rich diet some days, which can feel less restrictive than many other meal plans.

  • • You avoid the significant dips in energy, feelings of physical and mental fatigue and fomo you might get when following a strictly low-carb diet.

 
 
 
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How to do it

If you are into your health and fitness, you will know that you start building your diet around your protein requirements, and this is no different when carb cycling. Your protein intake should remain true to your requirements based on goals and body type/ size. This means that the ‘cycling’ of your remaining calories will occur between carbs and fats.

I normally recommend the following macro split for beginners, or those that have not tracked or tweaked their macros to suit their personal needs before: 30 protein, 40 carb, 30 fat.

So when you are carb cycling, your protein will stay at 30% and your carbs and fats will fluctuate depending on your goals, preferences and training schedule.

On training days I recommend lifting your total carbs for the day by around 5-10% and dropping your fats by the same percentage. Based on the above information, most people tend to use this increase in carbs around their training sessions. So your pre and/or post workout meals may be composed of a larger portion of carbs on these days.

 
 
 
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On your off days you would drop those carbs back down to your starting point or if you are aiming for a calorie deficit to enable fat loss, you can decrease your total calories for the day by around 5-10%. On non-training days, you can try reducing your carbs by that 5-10% and increasing your fat portion slightly.

A final note on carb cycling and diets:

All carbs were not created equal, so just because you may be aiming for a higher carb meal or day, doesn’t mean you don’t need to make smart food choices. Aim for nutrient dense carbs, such as wholegrains, vegetables and fruits rather than highly processed carb sources that are lacking in nutrients.

 
 
 
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No matter what strategy you use or ‘diet’ you follow, you will only see results if your first priority is fueling your body with high quality food! This means eating plenty of veggies, high quality protein sources, a good amount of fiber, plenty of variety and lots of water!

On top of this, it is super important to look for a diet or lifestyle that is sustainable! The best way to get where you want to be, is to create habits that support your body and your goals, habits that you can work on every single day! This is what I have preached to thousands of my clients all over the world, and that is why they keep coming back! If you want to experience the #LSF difference for yourself, or just want to get in touch to see if my programs are right for you, reach out to myself and my team support@laurensimpsonfitness.com or check out my meal plans and training plans here.



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