What the Heck is Carb Cycling?!
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve heard “carb cycling” at some point over the last few months.. but do you really know what it is?
Here’s the deal with carbohydrates — not only are they the preferred fuel source for our bodies, but they are also necessary to get you through tough workouts, particularly the ones that help you build lean, calorie-burning muscle. However, if you eat too many carbs, it can lead to too much fat storage and your body holding on to excess weight. Not cool, am I right?
So where is the sweet spot? Many experts agree that carb cycling, or limiting carbohydrate intake on some days and bumping up carb consumption on others, may be give us that perfect balance that we’re looking for. Is it really possible to shed fat without giving up your delicious carbs?! Absolutely!!
Like you, I’ve spent too many years living by the outdated myth that in order to lose weight, I needed to eat multiple small meals throughout the day, workout for multiple hours a week, and live in a constant calorie deficit (AKA I was tired and I was hangry). Y’all know as well as I do, that works for a little while, but it is NOT sustainable and once you start eating like a normal human being, you gain the weight back.. and then some. Your energy level crashes, you start getting sick more often, and you’re just not happy with yourself or your body. It’s such a vicious cycle.
Will Carb Cycling fix this?!
Absolutely! First, you need to understand what carb cycling is.. and what it isn’t. Carb cycling is NOT a diet. Plain and simple, it is an intentional variation of your carbohydrate intake. Over the course of a week, you will cycle through days of lower and higher carbohydrate intake. You get the benefits of a low-carb diet (like keto) but without the risks. What kind of benefits will you see? My favorite is obviously fat loss and improved body composition, but it also helps you build (and keep!) lean muscle mass, your hormones and insulin sensitivity will regulate, you’ll see a spike in your energy levels, and your metabolism will kick into high gear too.
In the FASTer Way to Fat Loss®, we take this a step further and match our carbohydrate intake with our workouts to really maximize fat burn and boost energy levels. Combining a speed-burst workout (HIIT, tabata, sprints) with a low carb day allows you to deplete your body’s glycogen stores, which causes your body to rely on fat for fuel.. and that continues even after you have finished your workout, for up to 24 hours!
Sooo… I can eat all the carbs I want?
Well, not exactly. All carbohydrates are not created equally. You want to focus on whole foods and foods that are minimally processed. If it comes from the ground or it has a mother, it’s generally okay. Lean more towards things like fruits and veggies (fresh or frozen) and gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice and quinoa. Try to stay away from refined flours and sugars. Focus on getting in lots of high-fiber foods on low carb days — fiber will help you feel full longer, helps keep your cholesterol under control, and improves your gut flora.
Why not just limit carbs long term?
The problem with limiting your carbohydrate and calorie intake long term is that it can lower your metabolic rate and can significantly affect your hormone levels, which is no good. That’s one of the big reasons that so many women end up stuck at a plateau with their weight loss. If you follow a super restrictive diet, whether it’s restricting calories or omitting a food group (carbs), you’ll lose weight.. but your metabolism will also slow down and then you plateau. Then you have to restrict your calories even further to lose more weight, which lowers your metabolism AGAIN. You guys know as well as I do how frustrating this is, but it’s also really not good for your body. Your body NEEDS fuel to function well.
So how do I carb cycle?
To start carb cycling, all you need to do is designate a few days a week as low carb days. On those days, you’ll simply limit your carbohydrate intake. The appropriate limit for you will depend on a few different things, I can help you figure out your sweet spot! When you eat, your body releases insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use sugar from carbohydrates as fuel or to be stored in your cells as glycogen. Once those cells are full of glycogen, the excess is metabolized and stored as fat. The amount of insulin that is released into your bloodstream is based on the type of carbohydrates you consume (which is why we prefer whole grans!) and how much you consume.
On your low carb days, our goal is to completely deplete those glycogen stores. Doing so will force your body to rely on its fat stores for energy. Our low carb day workouts really focus on burning through the glycogen, which helps us to maximize the fat burning effects.
On high carb days, our goal is to rebuild our glycogen stores. Because our body prefers to use glycogen for energy, it will burn through that first before it stores any as fat. This means that even though you’re consuming what seems like a ton of carbs, your body isn’t storing it as fat because it’s busy trying to rebuild the energy stores that you depleted.
Does Your Brain Hurt Yet?
There’s a lot more to it, but it can get pretty overwhelming at first. All you need to understand is how to cycle your carbohydrate intake and how to pair your workouts with what you’re eating. Once you can do that, this becomes a pretty easy lifestyle to live.
If you’d like to learn how to put carb cycling into practice, I’ll teach you everything you need to know! Carb cycling — combined with intermittent fasting, whole food nutrition and strategic exercises — will change everything! Register for the FASTer Way to Fat Loss® with me as your certified coach and we’ll spend six weeks together dialing in our fitness and nutrition for the best results of your life.