For decades, the concept of managing and limiting carb intake to maximize energy, develop muscle, and burn fat has sparked fitness enthusiasts’ attention. Carb cycling is a technique that can be used for a variety of reasons, including improving physical fitness and losing weight.

Knowing the nutrition science used in carb cycling, commitment to a personalized meal plan specific to the individual and health objectives, and knowledge that this diet plan isn’t perfect for everybody are all needed to achieve the best results.

Common misconceptions:

In recent decades, much has been written about the dangers of consuming so many carbohydrates. Although carbohydrate overconsumption can lead to weight gain as well as other health problems, carbohydrates consumed in moderation aren’t a bad thing.

The human diet is made up of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates, which are something the body breaks down into glucose, are a significant source of nutrition and energy, particularly as a fuel for movement. This is why professional athletes speak of “carbo-loading,” power packs and other similar products exist, and also carb cycling is common in athletes and bodybuilders.

The philosophy of restricted diets like Atkins or the Whole 30 also confuses people about the importance of carbs in weight loss. Although modifying carbohydrate consumption can have some benefits, completely removing carbohydrates can do more damage than good.

Carb cycling concepts will help you improve your fitness while also encouraging you to live an active lifestyle. However, since carbohydrates are the body’s key source of nutrition and energy in the form of glycogen storage, low consumption may result in a decrease in energy, stamina, and power.

Extreme weight loss correlated with carb cycling and other activities, on the other hand, is not necessarily synonymous with improved health since the weight loss may be due to the depletion of glycogen reserves, which are made up of water and carbohydrates as well as body mass index, or muscle.

What is carb cycling?

Carb cycling is a multi-level diet technique that involves alternating high and low carbohydrate consumption. According to several nutritionists, it involves strict obedience and can only be used for brief periods.

One of the purposes of carb cycling is to push the body to burn fat rather than glycogen which is a source of energy (a form of stored carbohydrate). When you work out on a low-carb day, the ability to burn body fat for food increases until your glycogen reserves are exhausted.

This cycling, though, does not result in improved performance. Furthermore, carb cycling may not fulfil your dietary requirements based on the kind of sport you compete in. A marathon runner, for example, would certainly fuel up for a race differently than a sprinter.

Before you start carb cycling, find out how much basic carbohydrates your body requires, which you can find out by considering the below factors:

  • Your height, age, and weight
  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  • Level of activity
  • Breakdown of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) daily

High, medium, and low carb days are popular carb cycling plans. Athletes should consume a high- and medium-carb diet during exercising and a low-carb diet while relaxing. The below are few basic guidelines:

  • Reduce baseline consumption by 15–20 percent on high-carb and medium-carb days.
  • Reduce by another 20–25 percent on medium- to low-carb days.

Since carb cycling isn’t advised for long-term weight loss, you should use it only once you’ve exhausted from other, more natural eating options.

How does it work?

The diet promotes weight reduction by shifting carbohydrate consumption ratios during the week and placing the body in a calorie deficit on low-carb days. Carb cycling’s main aim is to make the most of food carbohydrates and accumulated glycogen. There are mainly two carb cycling plans.

1. Large re-feeds

When you adopt a low-carb diet schedule for seven to fourteen days in a row, big “re-feeds” of carbs are used infrequently. And you’ll pick one day to eat slightly more carbohydrates and increase your workout.

“Re-feeds” are used to take a break from the low-carb diet. Going without carbs for extended periods forces the body to transition to using a certain energy source (stored body fat). When carbs are lost, the body switches to fat as a source of energy.

2. Moderate re-feeds

You will add one day of high carb feeding every 2 to 3 days during the low carb period by using regular mild re-feeds. Some people switch days of high and low carbohydrate intake.

When carb cycling, how much carbs do I consume?

Start with 1-1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight to decide how many carbs you can consume on your maximum day on the plan. Start with 1.5 gram and change as needed based on your performance.

Some tinkering will almost certainly be required, as some of us are more “carb sensitive” than the others. The amount of carbs you need depends on your activity level, training speed, size, and even gender, but a limit of 200 g per day is a decent starting point.

Example of a Carb Cycling Plan

Using 200 grams of carbohydrates as the highest amount on a high carb day, here’s an overview of doing the 5-day carb-cycling plan.

  1. 150 gram on the first day
  2. 100 gram on day 2
  3. 50 gram on the third day
  4. 125 gram on day 4
  5. 200 gram on day 5

For the first three days, you’ll reduce your carb intake by 50 grams, then increase it by 75 grams for the next two days. To cover up for the calories missed on reduced carb days or rest days, some people tend to increase their consumption of healthier fats. That’s great, but since fat is a high-calorie macronutrient, it can disrupt weight loss.

You’ll burn enough fat as energy on low-carb days if you wouldn’t raise your carbohydrate intake, particularly if you’re working hard, doing cardio exercises, and dieting.

Hit to a Plateau

You’ll most likely hit a fat-burning plateau at some point and will need to switch it up. When this occurs, have three to four high-carb days in a row, or indulge in a cheat meal once in a while. This will rev up your metabolism, allowing you to continue fat burning.

Going carb-free for three days is yet another way to restart the weight loss. Fibrous veggies must only be considered at this period since no carbs should be consumed during these three zero carb days

Efficacy of carb cycling

According to research, a well-designed carb cycling regimen followed over a brief period will help athletes compete better and lose weight.

Carb cycling is a common method for breaking through weight loss plateaus. It’s also a strategy used by bodybuilders and competitors to achieve an edge in competition.

Low-carb days aim to improve insulin sensitivity and thus encourage body fat utilization. Insulin is a hormone that aids in the digestion of carbohydrates.

High-carb days are used to increase metabolism, recharge muscles, improve athletic efficiency, and improve appetite-controlling hormones like leptin and ghrelin. Leptin tells our brain when we’re full after feeding, while ghrelin tells us when we’re hungry.

Carb cycling, like all eating strategies, has to be evaluated and adjusted regularly to ensure that it is still delivering the desired health benefits. It’s best to work with a doctor or a nutritionist to develop a customized strategy.

Some people want to add “cheat” meals into a rather low-carb diet schedule as a means of carb cycling. Cheat meals, while not as specific as conventional carb cycling, will help increase leptin levels and rev up the metabolism while still serving as a motivating incentive for sticking to a more restricted diet on other days.

Find out if Carb cycling good for you or not?

Carb spinning, when done correctly and over brief periods, may be beneficial to the majority of people. For certain people, like those with diabetes and heart disease, some with eating problems, or pregnant or nursing mothers, this is not a balanced diet. Discussing to your doctor about changing your carbohydrate intake if you have diabetes. They might provide important healthy benefits

However, if you’re on diabetes medicine, you should be cautious about any drastic changes to your carbohydrate consumption (like insulin). Furthermore, some people suffer adverse side effects on low carb days, such as nausea, hunger pangs, cramping, irritability, stomach pain, and sleep problems.

The plan may not be the right method to improve daily healthier eating habits or fit with people who want balance because it needs rigid commitment. Carb cycling, on the other hand, appeals to some people because it may feel like a happy medium between low and high carb diets, allowing for daily high carb meals while also reaping the rewards of low carb feeding.

Weight loss by carb cycling

If calorie management, discipline, and the recommended diet schedule are practiced, cycling your carb intake can be a perfect way to burn fat and body weight. The carb cycling regimen is likely to encourage weight loss because it also requires a calorie deficiency (as most people are far less likely to overeat fats and proteins).

Furthermore, there is a strong correlation between carbohydrate consumption and blood insulin levels. Fat accumulation is more possible as insulin levels in the blood stay high.

Good eating should be the cornerstone of the meal schedule, as it should be for every weight-loss approach. Carb cycling should never be used as an excuse to gorge or limit your diet excessively.

The rigorous monitoring that a program like a carb cycling requires can also lead to disordered eating habits. Check in on yourself daily to see if your new food habits are doing you well.

Carb cycling and athletic performance

For marathon runners and athletes, carb cycling is a common diet technique. Physique athletes rely on low-carb or no-carb days during their performance preparation.

Since glycogen contains a significant percentage of water, adjusting carbohydrate consumption will alter the appearance of muscles on stage by causing transient water loss. More carbs can help you build muscle by creating an energy surplus.

Carb cycling is a technique used by certain athletes to maximize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain during exercise. This necessitates sticking to daily diets that are calculated based on energy intake and body composition.

Protein consumption would be higher (around 30–35 percent of daily caloric intake) for these athletes during carb cycling for muscle development. Carbohydrates should provide for 10–15 percent of total consumption during the low period, which should mostly come from fresh vegetables. They also combine high-carb days with hard workout days to provide more steam, aid muscle regeneration, and provide vital nutrients.

Benefits of carb cycling on health.

While more research is required, many people believe that carb cycling has the following advantages:

  • Low carb stages can help you lose weight by suppressing your appetite and making it easier to lose weight.
  • Low carb days are said to cause the body to use body fat as a source of energy during exercise.
  • High-carb days replenish muscle glycogen and provide the body with vital nutrients.
  • Carbohydrate-rich days supply fast energy for strenuous workouts.

Low carb days avoid blood sugar rises and lows by regulating insulin and other hormones. High-carb days have adequate insulin to maintain muscle tissue while also improving thyroid hormones, leptin levels, and testosterone levels

Rotating low carb days and high carb refeeds may seem less restricting and more manageable than consuming low carb all of the time.