Okay So What Is Carb Cycling
Carb cycling is when you fluctuate between eating low-carb foods and high-carb foods.
The most common carb cycling approach is to eat fewer carbohydrates on some days and more carbohydrates on other days.
People who carb cycle usually end up calorie cycling, too. This means they eat fewer calories on their low-carb days and more calories on their high-carb days.
For example, a typical carb cycling schedule might look like this:
- Non-workout days: low carb, low calorie
- Workout days: high carb, high calorie
But thats not the only way to cycle your carbs. Some folks carb cycle within a single day.
So theyll eat high-carb foods around their workout, but have low-carb foods the rest of the day.
Because a typical carb cycling schedule requires counting macros or hand portionsand a good amount of nutrition planningwe consider it an intermediate to advanced nutrition strategy. Read: Its kind of a pain to do and can pretty challenging for most people to do well.
As a result, it tends to work best for those who are highly-motivated: amateur and elite athletes, bodybuilders, and people who are paid based on how they look and perform.
You might be wondering
Reduces Your Risk Of Chronic Disease
The ketogenic lifestyle can improve many risk factors for metabolic and other chronic diseases. By reducing inflammation and improving mitochondrial function, the ketogenic diet allows the body to heal and mitigate disease processes more effectively.
Now that you know some of the benefits of a ketogenic diet and lifestyle, it is important to have guidelines for successful implementation of the ketogenic diet. For many women, one of the more important strategies you can use is carb cycling. This approach may help you get the best benefit from the ketogenic diet and lifestyle.
What Are The Benefits Of Carb Cycling For Women
Women are ideal candidates for carb cycling for a few reasons.
First of all, many women struggle to lose extra body fat. With carb cycling, women can achieve a calorie deficit on their low-carb days without burning out on eating low carb.
With carb cycling, theres always a high-carb day on the horizon. On these low-carb days, blood sugar stays low and cravings are minimal. These days also help to optimize insulin sensitivity. When women time these low carb days with the correct phase of their menstrual cycle, they can really optimize the success and sustainability of their fat loss efforts.
Another great thing about carb cycling for women is that the high-carb days help to grow and maintain muscle mass. This muscle mass increases our insulin sensitivity, reducing risk of type 2 diabetes. This muscle mass also increases metabolism which further supports weight loss efforts.
Those high-carb days also support our weight loss efforts in another way: by regulating our cravings. Healthy carbs have been shown to release leptin, a hormone that signals to your body that youre full. With healthy carbs, women can hit a great workout and stay in control of energy intake with cravings at bay.
So, what days should women plan to eat moderate vs. low carb? There are certain phases of the menstrual cycle when women have higher estrogen and are best able to utilize carbohydrate.
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Carb Cycling For Women Who Love Carbs
Want to learn more about carb cycling for women? Wondering how this fits into a low carb diet? If you are left wondering what is carb cycling, what are high carb days, what are low carb days and how to carb cycle for fat loss, you need to continue reading.
Ive got a fantastic 28-day carb cycling meal plan pdf, as well as a free carb cycling chart to help you easily set up a schedule!
Remember: Were Not Totally Sure Carb Cycling Works
What are we more confident about?
The big rocks.
Imagine your time as a jar that can be filled with a finite number of rocks, pebbles, and grains of sand.
The big rocks are the eating and lifestyle practices most necessary to see results.
The pebbles are things thatll help but arent totally necessary.
The sand is purely bonus stuff. It may help, but its not crucial, and it wont have a big impact.
Carb cycling is a sand habit.
So does carb cycling work?
If you mean, Can carb cycling help me lose fat and improve body composition?, the answer is yes. As long as, overall, youre expending more calories than youre consuming.
It might even work great for you, if its a good fit for your eating preferences and lifestyle.
But if you mean, Is it superior to other methods?, thats hard to say. Because lack of evidence.
Our take: If it provides any incremental benefit, its minute. For most people, its a high effort, low impact deal.
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What Should Your Carb Cycling Macros Be
There are different carb cycling menu plans with different macro numbers to follow depending on your goals and individual needs. Each eating plan is a rotation of high and low carb days.
In the FFM Weight Loss Plan, high carb days are a 40-40-20 macros split, while low carb days are a 20-40-40 split, rotating the carbs and healthy fats. We suggest 2-3 high carb days per week.
If you are wondering what to eat on a high carb day, youre not alone. There are so many choices of carbs. Although the carb cycle meal plan has some flexibility, every high carb day cant be full of breads, pastas and sugars. Those carbs will wreck your diet if you eat them often, so try to focus your higher carb days on healthy carbs such as quinoa, oats, potatoes and plenty of fruits and veggies!
Should Women Carb Cycle
Whether or not carb cycling is a good idea for you depends on your goals. Some women believe that their bodies tend to be more sensitive to carbohydrates than mens bodies, so carb cycling may not be necessary for every woman who wants to lose weight.
That said, carb cycling can be helpful for women who are struggling to lose weight despite following a healthy diet and exercise routine. If you feel like youre doing everything right but still not seeing results, or that you dont have enough energy to exercise the way you want to, carb cycling might be an option worth exploring.
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Why Focus Only On Carbs And Not Protein Or Fat
First and foremost, varying your carbohydrate intake may have a positive impact on many important hormones .
Fluctuating your fat and protein intake, on the other hand, wont affect hormones for the better.
Theres also this:
Not-so-great stuff can happen when you dont get enough protein or fat.
For example, if your fat intake stays too low, your menstrual cycle might halt. And if your protein intake stays too low, you can lose muscle and experience mood swings.
Youre probably not interested in any of that, lets just keep this conversation about carbs.
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How Many Meals To Eat A Day When Carb Cycling
The nature of carb cycling lends itself to eating smaller meals more frequently. You may find that 5 small meals are easier to digest, especially on your high carbohydrate days.
A neglected aspect of carb cycling is known as nutrient timing. This is the placing of the carbs at specific times for the body to be able to use them most effectively.
To utilize nutrient timing, eat the majority of your carbohydrates in the two meals after you workout. This could mean adding oats into your post workout shake, and then having another serving of low GI carbs in the next full meal post workout.
Keep fats low in these two meals so your body can use the carbs to full muscle building effect. With this format, the meals furthest away from your workout will consist mostly of protein and fats.
Helps You Lose Weight
A ketogenic diet can help with your weight loss efforts. When in ketosis, you are burning fat for energy. The fat burned is both dietary fat and stored fat so say goodbye to body fat! You are also less hungry and feel satiated quicker and longer on a ketogenic diet. This is due to the healthy fats, protein, antioxidants and fiber in the diet.
Several studies show that a high-fat, low carb diet is superior to a low-fat, high-carb diet for improving weight loss . Excess body fat, particularly in the gut, is associated with toxin accumulation and hormone imbalances. Implementing the ketogenic diet can be an effective fat and weight loss strategy.
Is Carb Cycling For Women Healthy
Very low-carb diets, especially when followed for an extended period of time, are not always a good fit for everyone including women with hormonal imbalances, those with thyroid disorders, people who are already underweight, and some people who are very athletic.
Some question whether its necessarily a good idea for women to try low carb diets, including the keto diet, given the fact that womens hormones tend to be more sensitive to most dietary and lifestyle changes. This is due to the sensitivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis system, which responds to stress, including calorie/carb restriction.
However, theres evidence that low-carb diets and carb cycling can help women when done right, especially those in perimenopause or menopause, to achieve weight loss, improved blood sugar control, better quality sleep and reduced menopause symptoms like hot flashes or night sweats.
Women can benefit from carb cycling because this approach may help prevent hormonal issues tied to low leptin levels and low calorie intake, such as decreased estrogen production and thyroid issues like hypothyroidism. Cyclical eating may also help prevent long-term reductions in resting energy expenditure among women according to some studies.
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What Is Carb Cycling Exactly
While there isnt one standard protocol, carb cycling typically involves 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.
Many advocates recommend this regimen: On days when you do strength training, consume a higher amount of carbs , a low amount of fat, and a moderate amount of protein. On days when you do a cardio workout, eat a moderate amount of carbs , protein, and fat. And on rest days, eat fewer carbs , a high amount of fat, and a moderate amount of protein.
Another approach involves keeping both protein intake and fat intake fairly consistent, and modifying only your carbohydrates. With this method, lower-carb days are also lower-calorie days.
Drawbacks Of Carb Cycling
A carb cycling diet is not easy, and some argue that it should be reserved for elite endurance athletes rather than just anyone trying to lose weight. That’s because it’s difficult to know how many carbohydrates to take in on low-, moderate- and high-carbohydrate days. Some low-carb days have about 2½ to 5 servings of carbs while high-carb days have 10 to 20 servings. It’s also time-consuming because you have to track carbohydrates, protein and fat. If you do not track your carb intake carefully, you could fall off track.
There’s also the risk, as with any diet, of developing an unhealthy relationship with food. On low-carb days you might find yourself craving high-carb foods throughout the day, and then when your high-carb day comes around there’s a risk that you may binge on them. Also, this diet doesn’t take an individual’s appetite into consideration. Some people find that on heavy training days they don’t have as much as an appetite as on rest days. And trying to eat super-low-carb on a day when you have a larger appetite is not sustainable.
Lastly, it could be hard on your digestive system. While varying your diet is not necessarily a bad thing, too much variation can cause gastrointestinal distress for some people.
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Carb Cycling May Make It Easier To Stick To A Low
Low-carb diets can be effective for fat loss, especially for people with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.4
What counts as low carb? You might call any diet that provides fewer than 30 percent of your daily calories from carbs a low-carb diet.
The ketogenic diet, a popular form of low-carb eating, is more specific. Its very low in carbs, and very high in fat .
Though low-carb and ketogenic diets can be effective for fat loss, most people cant stick with them over a longer period of time.
So its been suggested that alternating between lower-carb and higher-carb days may better help people maintain a lower-carb eating styleand their resultslong-term. In the case of someone doing keto, this is referred to as a cyclical ketogenic diet.
You could think of it this way: You eat a ketogenic most of the time but have little mini-breaksthat last a day or twowhere you can enjoy higher-carb meals.
What Is A Good Carb Cycling Schedule
There are a few different ways to carb cycle. The most common approach is to have one or two high carb days per week, followed by a few low carb days. This is sometimes called the weekly cyclical ketogenic diet .
Another approach is to have one high-carb day for every two low-carb days. This is often referred to as the targeted ketogenic diet .
Finally, some people choose to have a higher carb day every fourth day. This is called the cyclical ketogenic diet or the 4-day cyclical ketogenic diet .
Which approach is best for you will likely depend on your lifestyle, goals and preferences. If youre trying to lose weight, you may find it helpful to start with two high-carb days per week.
If youre more interested in maximizing your performance in the gym, you may do better with the TKD or CKD approach.
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Health Benefits Of Carb Cycling
Carb cycling may have several benefits including helping people lose weight, optimizing weight maintenance, and shed excess body fat.
Another possible benefit of the carb cycling diet is that it may improve athletic performance, as high carb days provide fuel for muscles in the form of glucose.
When you optimize carb intake, the body has greater utilization of glucose, which may lead to improved insulin sensitivity and better hormonal regulation.
Carb cycling is a relatively new diet, therefore there arent many controlled studies proving the health benefits of the diet. It should be interpreted with caution due to this lack of direct research on the health benefits of the diet.
What Does Carb Cycling Look Like On A Ketogenic Diet
Carb cycling on a keto diet means you are intentionally increasing carbohydrate intake during specific times of the month to ensure that leptin levels don’t get depleted and the body maintains an active metabolic balanceas opposed to increasing the body’s stress response, causing potential imbalances in the body.
For the majority of your keto diet, you’ll be consuming somewhere in the range of 30 to 60 grams of total carbs per day, give or take a bit, depending on your activity levels. But when you carb cycle, you’ll be consuming an additional 45 to 60 grams of carbs per dayfor a total of 75 to 120 grams of carbsfor two days of your cycle.
Typically, I recommend carb cycling on days 19 and 20 of your cycle , when leptin levels are naturally the lowest. This is also when your body is supposed to be making the most progesterone, but often, women who are under a lot of stress aren’t able to produce enough progesterone due to a phenomenon called pregnenolone steal, which diverts the building blocks of progesterone to produce the stress hormone cortisol. Upping your carb intake at this time helps take some of the stress off your body so you’re able to produce appropriate levels of progesterone and enjoy overall hormonal balance. It’s also best to carb cycle in the evening to support serotonin and melatonin demands, and to help your body enter a parasympathetic rest-and-digest state.
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How To Count Carbs
Many fitness-tracking devices allow you to track your daily food intake and count calories.
Or you can use one of the many apps available online. Patton says Cronometer, MyFitnessPal and Lose It! are helpful.
Theres nothing dangerous about carb cycling in the short-term, says Patton. But its important to also follow an overall nutritious diet so your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels remain in a healthy range.
Where Should Your Calories Be Coming From When Carb Cycling
Where the majority of your calories come from while you are carb cycling will fluctuate depending on whether you are on a high carb day or a low carb day. That being said, it should only be the calories from carbs and fats that fluctuate, because your protein intake should always stay the same.
The reason you want to adjust your fat intake as your carb intake changes is to ensure that your calorie intake stays the same, regardless of where you are in your carb cycle.
For example, on a low carb day where your carbs are down to 20% of your caloric intake, and protein is at 30%, your fats should increase to 50% to compensate for the lack of carbs to keep your caloric intake from changing.
Maintaining consistency with your calorie intake during your carb cycle will help to ensure that you sustain your energy levels while also working toward your specific body composition goal.
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