The carb cycling diet is shown to be an effective way to blast away body fat and get into shape. Unlike other types of low-carb diets, carb cycling is about more than just restricting carb intake. It’s a way of eating that can help your body’s metabolism function more efficiently, but there are other benefits. If you’re new to the idea of carb cycling, we’d like to help you understand all about cab cycling’s benefits and how it may work for you.
About Carb Cycling
In the simplest terms, carb cycling involves a schedule of alternating low-carb days with high-carb days, but unlike any other low-carb diet, carb cycling means that you still get to enjoy carbs on a guilt-free basis! Still, that doesn’t mean you get to load up on any types of carbs.
There’s no binging on a bag of potato chips, or at least there shouldn’t be. When following the carb cycling diet, your carbohydrate intake should be from healthy food sources, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Carbohydrate cycling is sometimes confused with ketogenic diets, but they’re not the same. Carb cycling works differently to achieve weight loss and other health benefits. With keto and other low-carb diets, the idea is to restrict carbohydrates daily, usually quite drastically. Low-carb diets often aim to put you in a state of ketosis.
Because you’re alternating carbohydrate intake between low, medium, and high carb days, your body uses glucose for fuel when it’s available but then turns to fat burning when glucose stores are depleted. This essentially resets your metabolism almost on a daily basis. The result is a more effective metabolism and more sustainable, longer-term results.
For some, the trickiest part of adapting to carb cycling is learning that it’s not a sin to include and even enjoy eating more carbs in your diet. Eating carbs, at least the right carbs, is good for you and beneficial to your health.
There’s a lot to know about carb cycling and how it works. Let’s look at the main benefits of carb cycling to decide if it’s a good plan is right for you.
The Benefits of Carb Cycling
Most people who are drawn to carbohydrate cycling come to it because they want to lose weight and burn fat. They know that keto or a low-carb diet is known to achieve these results, but the rumor is that carbohydrate cycling is even more effective at supporting fat loss without having to keep a close on calorie intake.
If you’ve ever been on a low carbohydrate diet, you might already know that following that dietary lifestyle can help you lose weight initially and possibly maintain body weight long term. However, it’s a diet that’s known for not being sustainable, and many people find that when they hit a weight loss plateau that they just can’t bust through. Even worse, they try the diet for a second time after initial success and end up either not losing or even gaining weight instead.
When you carb cycle, you’re resetting your metabolism and, in some ways, even tricking it into burning fat more efficiently. This is why carb cycling may help you bust through weight loss plateaus when other diets have failed.
Similar to a lower carb diet, your body uses fat for fuel on low carb days. However, when you increase carb intake, your body goes into super drive mode and uses all of that glucose more efficiently for energy. The result is fat loss without losing muscle as a side effect.
Lean Muscle Gain
There’s a misconception out there that eating fewer carbs is key to building lean muscle. Sure, protein is important for building muscle, but the right carbohydrates play a very important role. We’re even seeing that people who cycle between low carb and higher carb days are able to build lean muscle mass faster than people who stick to a diet of mostly low carb foods.
The key here is to eat the right carbs. Binging on processed, junk foods is counterproductive to the goal, but eating whole grains, produce, nuts, seeds, and legumes, instead of shying away from them due to their carb content, helps to build muscle mass by helping them recover faster from workouts.
Your body is designed to burn glucose that comes from carbs when you’re doing any type of weight training exercise. Your muscles store glycogen, which comes from the carbohydrates you eat. Muscle glycogen is key to muscle growth and recovery.
The interesting thing about muscle growth is that both having an abundance and depletion of muscle glycogen are beneficial for building muscle mass. Bodybuilders and endurance athletes have long understood that carb intake and glycogen stores majorly impact athletic performance.
If gaining muscle is your goal, adapting your carb cycling plan to your workout/weightlifting schedule is the way to go. Save the high-intensity work for the higher-carb days and take it a little slower on the days when you stick to low-carb foods. Don’t forget to give yourself enough rest days, which should mostly happen on your low-carb days.
Repair Insulin Resistance
Carb cycling may be a great plan for diabetics and pre-diabetic people looking to improve insulin sensitivity. The body responds when you eat high-carb food by releasing insulin. Eventually, our sensitivity to insulin changes after years of eating high fat and high carb diets, which then leads to becoming pre-diabetic.
Carb cycling is thought to help improve insulin sensitivity and help regulate blood sugar by reducing the total number of carbs that are eaten and also encouraging the consumption of healthier carbohydrates that also contain lots of fiber and other beneficial nutrients.
Additionally, carb cycling can help you lose fat and unwanted weight, which can also improve insulin sensitivity and put you on a path toward potentially reversing diabetes.
Carb cycling is perfect for regulating the hormones involved in fat loss, weight gain, and the often frustrating journey of achieving weight loss and health goals.
When you eat mostly lower-carb foods, your body responds by decreasing the production of certain hormones that are important for weight loss and weight maintenance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a diet with a high carb load will increase leptin levels. Leptin is the hormone responsible for the feeling of satiety, and it’s produced in smaller amounts when you’re losing fat. This is part of the reason why you might feel like you’re starving if you’ve been on a diet and recently lost weight.
When you feel hungry, your body will crave foods that produce more Leptin, which is why you might end up binging on carbs. By including both carbs and other macronutrients in your diet, you’re helping to regulate hormones from both ends. By alternating high-carb days with days where you increase your protein and fat intake, you’re helping your body find the right balance of hormones that are needed for fat loss and to prevent weight gain.
One of the best things about carb cycling is that it’s not as restrictive as other types of diets, including keto. We know that part of the allure of keto is that you can eat all the protein and high-fat foods you want as long as you restrict carbs. Carb cycling also doesn’t care about how many calories you eat daily. It just needs you to stick to a schedule of low, moderate, and high-carb days.
This schedule might sound a little complicated compared to keto’s simplicity, but it’s absolutely wonderful to know that you can eat all the nutritious foods you crave without guilt as long as you eat them on the right days. Are you craving a bowl of ripe, juicy seasonal fruit or maybe a bowl of veggies (even starchy ones!) with brown rice? You can absolutely have these on your high-carb days.
If you’re looking to lose weight quickly, you can always plan to keep yourself in a calorie deficit, but honestly, most people find that they eat fewer calories naturally when cycling carbs.
The one area where this dietary plan is more stringent is diet adherence. You might have to experiment a little to find the schedule that works for you, but it’s very important that once you set the schedule, you stick to it, Cheat days taste good, but they can really hamper results.
How to Carb Cycle
Do you think that carb cycling might be the thing for you? First, it feels important to say that there are no magic bullets for improving our health. Whether you’re looking for weight loss, muscle gain, blood sugar regulation, or just want to feel healthier, more energetic, and more comfortable in your skin, these things require a multi-directional approach, and one diet alone isn’t going to fix everything.
That said, carb cycling is great for getting started on those goals, and a growing number of people are now saying that they see themselves eating this way for the long term. Carb cycling itself is rather easy, but getting started can be challenging.
The most difficult part is finding the schedule that works for you. If you want to lose weight, your schedule might look like two low carb days, one moderate carb day, one high carb day, and then two more low carb days before another high carb day. Other take a simpler approach and simply alternate days or eat according to their workout schedules.
Everyone’s metabolism is different, so don’t feel discouraged if you’re not seeing or feeling results right away. You might just need to tweak your schedule a bit and reduce the total amount of carbs you’re eating.
The next challenging part is planning what to eat. To help you with this, our in-house dietician has created a seven-day carb cycling meal plan, and it’s yours to download absolutely free. This is a great resource of information on carb cycling and also a good foundation for scheduling your days and what to eat.
Carb cycling aims to reset the metabolism and help you drop weight while building muscles. Still, there are other carb cycling benefits that you can’t always see on the surface. Plus, we have to love a dietary approach that lets us keep some of our favorite high-carb foods! Download the free carb cycling meal plan and see if this dietary lifestyle is right for you.