What is Carb Cycling?

What is Carb Cycling?

August 4, 2019 100 By William Morgan


Carb cycling, yet another nutrition strategy
that finally reached the casual fitness enthusiast
after being extensively used by athletes and
bodybuilders alike.
And it seems like people do find it very useful.
So, what exactly is it?
The concept is fairly simple.
On some days, you keep your carb intake low,
and other days you go balls to the wall with
all the carby goodness.
Protein and fat intake stay relatively the
same each day.
The most common cycle ties closely to your
training days.
On the days you’re resting, carb intake
is low.
On days that you train, you ramp up your carb
to either moderate or heavy intake respective
to moderate or heavy training.
So, what exactly is the benefit in doing this?
On a weight loss diet, you’ll typically
go months eating at a caloric deficit every
single day.
The problem with this is that long deficits
will ultimately lead to drops in metabolic
functions to the point where your initial
calorie deficit is now your maintenance and
weight loss comes to a halt.
Anabolic hormones will drop, catabolic hormones
will rise.
Fewer calories are burned, muscle tissue is
at a risk of wasting away, and, although fat
loss initially rises, it ultimately diminishes
as your metabolism drops.
Kind of a crappy position to be in considering
that the reason you’ve been eating less
in the first place is to avoid this exact
issue.
And that’s when carb cycling comes in.
By cycling high surplus carb days into your
schedule, you can fend off metabolic slowdown
caused by a calorie deficit by theoretically
re-setting the catabolic state of the body
with the added carbs, and more importantly,
added calories, shifting things into an anabolic
state.
On top of that, extra carbs mean more glucose
and insulin in the bloodstream, providing
more energy for your workouts.
Extra insulin will also mean higher amino
acid intake to the muscle cells, helping you
fend off muscle breakdown.
And bonus points when you train on the same
day, because training will boost muscle protein
synthesis, meaning the extra carbs and nutrients
will promote muscle growth.
And since you will be going back to a low-carb
state very soon, insulin levels will drop
and you prevent storing too much fat.
The end result is that on rest days, you’re
maximizing weight and fat loss with a calorie
and carbohydrate deficit.
On training days, you’re maximizing muscle
growth with a calorie and carbohydrate surplus.
Although carb cycling sounds like a pretty
good strategy, there are a few downfalls.
First is the meticulous planning it requires.
Each and every day you have to plan your specific
carb intake.
This isn’t the easiest thing to do or adhere
to if it’s already hard enough to even find
time to go to the gym.
Furthermore, there’s no concrete evidence
showing daily carb cycling provides any significant
benefits over other nutrition strategies.
You might be just fine with a re-feed day
once or twice a month to normalize the catabolic
effects of dieting.
So now the big question: Should YOU try carb
cycling?
And, of course, without a shadow of a doubt,
the answer iiiiiiiiiiiis….
It depends.
In my opinion, perhaps 90% of the people considering
daily carb cycling really don’t need it.
Bodybuilders use carb cycling to lean out
right before a show AND are more prone to
the catabolic effects of a long-term deficit
due to their fitness level.
For the average person, you’ll be fine with
a balanced diet, taking things slow, and planning
breaks from time to time from dieting.
And carb cycling only really applies to people
trying to burn fat and retain some muscle
mass at the same time.
Bulkers and gainers should skip cycling altogether.
It might actually make your bulking endeavors
much more difficult.
Ultimately, you have to consider if your goals
align with the use of carb cycling to begin
with, and consider whether the added work
and frustration from painstaking nutrition
planning is worth it.
For those that also struggle with plateaus
or have trouble sticking to your current diet,
then giving carb cycling a chance might be
worth it.
The decision is ultimately, up to YOU.
In fact, you can leave your opinion about
it the comments below.
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