Reverse Carb Cycling: What it Is & Does it Work?

Reverse Carb Cycling What it Is Does it Work

Carb cycling involves modifying and cycling carb intake to achieve results, including weight loss, muscle growth, and regulating blood sugar. There’s impressive research saying carb cycling works, but what about reverse carb cycling? Contrary to what you might think, reverse carbohydrate cycling isn’t just normal carb cycling in reverse. It’s actually an entirely different way to approach carb cycling on a daily basis. 

Here’s how it all works. 

Understanding Reverse Carb Cycling

Understanding Reverse Carb Cycling

Reversed carb cycling, also called carb backloading, is all about managing your carbohydrate intake so that you eat very few carbs during the earlier part of the day, then increase carbohydrate consumption later in the day. 

A typical day with reversed carb cycling might look like a high protein/low carb breakfast, followed by a lunch of salad with protein. Come dinner; your plate will be filled with more complex carbs and less protein and fat intake than earlier in the day. 

The idea is that you’re optimizing how your body naturally burns carbohydrates for fuel. When you consume excess carbohydrates, your body takes them and stores them in fat cells, planning to use them later as fuel. This is unless your body is actively using carbs for fuel or using them to help your body recover after an intense workout. 

You’ve probably heard of carb loading, often used by endurance athletes to boost glycogen stores before intense physical activity. Reversed carbohydrate cycling is a smaller scale version that helps your body learn how to use glycogen stores more efficiently.

At night, when you’re sleeping or at least resting quietly, your body is hard at work in a fat-burning state. You’re not burning through the same amount of fat cells as you do during physical activity, but there’s still some fat-burning action going on there.  

When you go against the grain and choose to have a low carb rather than a high carb breakfast, your body is still able to access and use the stored carbohydrates instead of using the fresh carbs that are more readily available. A low-carb start to the day prolongs the natural fat-burning processes. 

The mid to late-mid part of the day is when most people are the most active. Carb backloading works best if you exercise during the afternoon or early evening. That way, when you eat healthy high-carb foods, your body can take all that glucose and immediately send it in to help restore and repair muscles, rather than sending it directly into fat cells. 

How Is It Different From Regular Carb Cycling?

The term reversed carb cycling is a little confusing. We’ve learned a lot about carb cycling, which involves a schedule of alternating low-carb days with high-carb days. With traditional carbohydrate cycling, you’re eating what could essentially be called a keto diet for one to three days at a time that is interspersed with moderate or high-carb days. 

Ideally, this helps your body target stored fat for weight loss but also supplies your body with enough carbohydrates to provide optimal fuel for high output (fitness) days. 

Reverse carbohydrate cycling takes these same principles but applies them to how you eat during a single day. 

Benefits of Reverse Carb Cycling 

Benefits of Reverse Carb Cycling

One of the main reasons people consider reversed carbohydrate cycling is that they’re hoping to achieve weight loss. While this is certainly a benefit that can come with carbohydrate backloading, the main benefit is how eating more carbs at night and less during the day affects insulin sensitivity. 

Ideally, you’re reducing the amount of insulin released during the day and letting it be used more efficiently when you eat high carbs later in the day. As a result, you get improved insulin sensitivity, prevent weight gain, and even give yourself more energy. 

Some anecdotal benefits people have reported with reversed carbohydrate cycling include better sleep, more focus, improved mood, more energy, and fewer of the carb flu symptoms that are common in people that strictly reduce or eliminate eating carbs altogether. 

Making It Work For You 

Meal Planning

Reverse carbohydrate cycling is fairly easy to adapt to. The hardest part for most people is preparing lower-carb meals for breakfast and lunch, which are typically the meals when we’re the busiest and most likely to grab whatever happens to be fast and easy. 

Meal planning and prep are definitely important–even if it’s something as simple as having a few hard-boiled eggs or protein bars ready to grab and go in the morning. A large salad made with low-carb veggies and some added protein makes a great, filling lunch. Plus, without all the carb-laden dressing, salads keep well when made ahead of time. 

Once you start indulging in carbs, you must resist the temptation to eat the “bad” carbs. You know what we’re talking about here. Foods like white bread, pastries, baked goods, and bags of potato chips. Just stay away from all of that. 

Instead, choose complex carbohydrates that offer lots of fiber. Whole grains are a great choice, but sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables are good, nutritious sources of the type of carbs you need in your diet. 

One more thing to keep in mind is that you still need to develop and maintain healthy eating habits if you want to lose weight. Any type of carbohydrate cycling isn’t a magic formula for weight loss if you’re not going to follow through with the exercise and clean eating. 

Some people find that the only way they can lose weight, even with carbohydrate cycling, is to maintain a caloric deficit. In other words, make sure you expend more calories than you take in. Otherwise, you might be less likely to gain weight with reverse carb loading, but you’re not going to achieve great weight loss without some extra effort. 

Is Regular or Reversed Carbohydrate Cycling Best?

This depends on your lifestyle and goals. Reversed carb loading works best for people who are physically active on a daily basis. If you have a sloth-like day, it doesn’t hurt to follow a reverse carb load plan, but you’re not going to get quite as many benefits as you would if the day also included a high endurance or power workout. 

If you’re looking to overhaul your dietary lifestyle and shed weight, regular carbohydrate cycling is a great way to learn how you’re really eating carbs and develop new healthy eating habits. If you’re curious about carbohydrate cycling, we offer a free seven-day meal plan that’s a great foundation to start from. 

Bottom Line 

Your relationship with carbs is so important, especially if weight loss is a goal. Carbs aren’t the enemy. Well, at least complex carbs aren’t the enemy. But learning how to use carbs to optimally fuel your body is essential. 

If you’re on board but are intimidated by all the grocery shopping, meal planning, and prep that’s involved, there are a number of great meal delivery services that will take the stress away and make it all seem easy – and delicious! 

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