Carbs, Carbs, Carbs. Not a day goes by in the fitness industry that someone isn’t slamming them, so I’m here to shed a more positive light on them for you all. Now if you are following my Bikini competition prep over on my social media (@fitfergo) then you will see that my coach and I have just reintroduced carb cycling into my programme, so I thought I would give you all an insight into what it is and its benefits.
What is carb cycling?
Put simply, carb cycling is a strategy whereby you cycle the amount of carbohydrates that you consume on a daily/weekly basis. There are no set numbers that everyone should follow but it is rather a way to structure someone’s carb intake into low, medium and high days. No single persons high carb day would have the same amount of carbohydrates etc.
Without going into too much detail it is important to know what role carbohydrates play in regards to insulin and fat storage. If someone has a high carb diet for a long period of time then this causes insulin secretion and this leads to fat storage. This is why carb cycling can be so effective as you can reap the benefits of both high and low carb days.
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity
- By periodically decreasing the amount of carbohydrates that you consume, you can help to build up your cells resistance to the hormone.
- Glycogen Super compensation
- If you train when you have been low carb for a few days you may find that you tire quite easily. This will be due to the decreased amount of glycogen in your muscles. Once you then increase your carbohydrates again, your muscles will absorb them like a sponge. This is why you’ll often hear people ‘carbing up’ before a competition or photo shoot.
- Lean muscle mass
- Carb cycling is a great tool when dieting to help retain any lean tissue. It also helps when you are trying to add size as it gives your body a few days off high carb, which should help slow down any unnecessary fat gain.
- When you are dieting and you have a large number of low carb days, then the addition of a few high carb days is a great way to help you keep anabolic.
- Hormone health
- If you remain low carb for a long period of time it can lead to a decrease in your hormone levels and your thyroid hormone levels. Both of these can lead to fat loss plateaus. Throwing in a few high carb days can help boost the production of these during dieting phases.
- A high carb day can also raise your leptin levels (these affect how ‘full’ you feel). This can be great when you’re finding your diet particularly tough.
- This is more based on personal experience but I found that it helped to get me through my diet, as I knew that I had carbs to look forward to. This made me less likely to slip on my tougher lower days.
A brief how to:
- Now as I mentioned at the beginning everyone’s quantity of carbs over their low, medium and high days will be different and dependant on their individual goals.
- As a rough guide if fat loss is your goal then the ratio of lower carb days to higher carb days will be greater and vice versa if your goal is muscle growth.
- Try and place your higher carb days on you harder workout days for example mine tend to be on leg days as I feel I need more energy.
So in conclusion…
Carb cycling will not work for everyone and it is by no means the only nutritional strategy to help reach your goals. Personally for me, after several years experimenting, I have found that I get the best results and it fits my lifestyle perfectly.