Carb Cycling Basics
We all know by now that nutrition is the overwhelming factor when it comes to getting results and getting results fast. It doesn’t matter how much you workout or how many supplements you take, if you eat like crap you will look and feel that way too. If you want to see any kind of physique change, your nutrition must be spot on.
Today I would like to cover a nutrition approach that is a little more advanced but not all that complicated once you know the basics. It is known as carb cycling. Bodybuilders and models will use this kind of nutrition approach when training for a show because it allows them to put on lean muscle and burn fat at the same time!
In a nut shell, carb cycling is eating higher amounts of carbs on workout days and lower amounts on rest days. When you get into more of the tweaking and details of carb cycling, that is where some serious results come in but today I would just like to cover some basics.
Ways Carb Cycling Can Benefit You
Here are a few of the ways carb cycling can benefit you:
- Add size while keeping your body fat levels the same
- Lose fat while not sacrificing any of your hard earned muscle
- Build muscle and burn fat at the same time
It really depends on your carb cycling approach and the goals that you wish to attain. As was mentioned, nearly all bodybuilders will use carb cycling when trying to get ready for a show, and this is the approach that allows them to attain sub 5% body fat. Now it is never recommended to stay that low in body fat, but it just shows the power of carb cycling when done correctly.
Who should carb cycle?
Carb cycling can be used by anyone, but should be done at different levels. On the BodyFit 7X7 program, you are doing a form of carb cycling by limiting your carbohydrate intake throughout the week, then having one high carb day each weekend. However, there are far more advanced methods to carb cycling in which you would cycle through high carb, low carb, and no carb days.You would then time these days according to your workout and rest days.
This right here is important: The more body fat you have, the less carbohydrates you should be eating. If you have 15% body fat or higher, you should focus on eating a mostly lower carb diet for 5-6 days (eating protein, healthy fats, and tons of veggies) then incorporate one high carb day each week (a cheat day). Once your body fat starts falling, then you can add in more carbs to your diet.
The lower your body fat is, the more carbohydrates you will be able to handle. Carb cycling is a great approach for those looking to lose those last few percentages of body fat without having to worry about sacrificing any muscle.
Why Does Carb Cycling Work?
When you carb cycle, what you are really doing is keeping your body guessing. One day you are having a very low amount of carbs and the next your are shocking the body with a high carb day. One of the biggest factors however of why this approach works so well when it comes to building muscle and eliminating fat at the same time is because of insulin.
Insulin is a highly anabolic (or muscle building) hormone, so when it is present it promotes muscle growth and performance. However, insulin is also very efficient at storing body fat when it stays around for a long period of time (which many of us force it to do when we eat too many carbs at the wrong times!).
That is why it can be so dangerous and why we must manipulate insulin to work for us and not against us.
By keeping your higher carb days on workout days, you are allowing insulin to maintain and grow your muscles without having to worry about storing tons of fat. Then as you transition into a lower or no carb day, your body gets shocked and allows for you to burn fat while maintaining your muscle. When cycling through high, low, and no carb days you are training your body to stay at optimal muscle building and fat burning levels.
Essentially what you are doing, is one day you are telling your body to build muscle while the next day you are telling it to burn fat. It is a pretty spot on cycle if you ask me. And this is the reason those who cycle and time their carbs properly are able to drop to very very low body fat levels all while maintaining or adding ripped, lean muscle.
Basics of Carb Cycling
- Determine your body fat levels:
If you are above 15% body fat you should focus on getting tons of protein, healthy fats, and veggies into each meal and enjoy one high carb day once per week (cheat day). The lower your body fat gets, the more carbohydrates you can eat and tolerate.
- Keep your higher carb days on workout days and lower carb days on rest days:
When you go through a tough workout, this is the best time for carbohydrates to work for you. So plan on eating most of your carbs on workout days and limit them on your rest days.
- Focus on eating good foods
Just because you are working out and having a high carb day doesn’t mean you should get your carbs from donuts and muffins. You should still be eating good sources of carbohydrates during your high carb days (sweet potatoes, yams, beans, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
- Eat every 2-3 hours
You should eat 5-6 meals per day while dividing up your protein, carbs, and fats equally over those meals.
- Focus on getting great sources of protein, healthy fats, and veggies even when carb cycling
Carb cycling doesn’t mean you are cutting out the other key foods in your diet. You still need to be getting tons of protein, healthy fats, and veggies with your meals. Carb cycling is simply adding in carbs to your eating plan and timing them properly to work for you.
Those are the basics of carb cycling. It is not all that complicated when you really think about it. Sure there are more advanced methods, but for now this is enough to get started. In part two, I will go into more detail of exactly how many carbs you should incorporate on high carb, low carb, and no carb days. But at least for now you have a basic understanding of how properly timing your carbs can benefit you.
Stay tuned for part two!
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