What is carb cycling??
The idea behind carb cycling is to stagger the amount of carbs you eat on a daily basis. This is done by having high carb days, moderate carb days and low or no carb days. Doing this is said to help maintain an elevated metabolism and reduce the chance of a plateau.
The protein and fat content of the carb cycle diet generally remain constant, the carbs are the main macronutrient that are manipulated throughout the duration of the diet. Although, it’s not uncommon for protein and fats to increase slightly during a low/no carb day and reduced on high carb or refeed days, this is done so target caloric intake can still be reached. Remember calories in vs calories out still applies regardless of the type of diet.
The high carbs and refeed days are designed to replenish glycogen, increase metabolic rate and to create an anabolic environment by spiking insulin. The low/no carb days are there to maximise the body’s fat burning ability.
Carb cycling is essentially calorie cycling:
High Carb or Refeed = High calorie days
Low/no carb = Moderate – low calorie days
What are Refeeds??
These are days where the carbs are increased dramatically for the day, the amount of carbs consumed during a refeed is dependent on the person. The idea behind a refeed is of both psychological and physiological benefit. Having a day where you can kick back, relax and eat up does wonders for your mental state. Refeed days also increase the body’s leptin levels, leptin is the hormone responsible for fat burning, refeeds increase leptin levels. Low leptin levels will result in difficulty burning body fat.
Leptin is released by fat cells into the blood stream, makes its way to the brain and (in regard to fat burning) basically signals your brain to stop eating, you’re full, and to increase your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn energy). We will go into more detail regarding leptin another time.
It only takes about a week of caloric deficiency to drop leptin levels to a point where it’s going to be difficult for your body to burn fat. When a caloric deficit diet has been followed for a prolonged period of time the body will adapt. If your body is constantly being deprived of calories it will begin to slow its metabolism, slow down the fat burning and move into preservation mode as the body thinks it’s being starved so it will hold on to those fat stores you desperately want to get rid of. Refeeds along with higher carb days help to avoid this happening.
How does it work??
You start with a high carb day, this will increase leptin levels which increases metabolic rate. Follow this with a day or two of low carbs, your metabolic rate is still at an elevated level due to the high carb day, so your body is going to attack your fat stores more during the low carb days. You may then have a moderate carb day, once again increasing your metabolic rate, followed up with another low carb day. You get the idea. By following this process, we want to keep your metabolic rate at an elevated level throughout the period of the diet. Even though this is effective, in the later stages or if it’s prolonged, it can begin to lose its effectiveness, this is when or why we incorporate refeed days, a full day of relaxed eating.
Tips from the Schembri PT team.
- During high carb days make sure the fat in your diet are reduced to make way for the calories in the way of carbs.
- During low carb days makes sure the fat in your diet is increased for the purpose of energy requirements.
- Save your high carb days for big training days like legs or anything requiring prolonged physical exertion.
- Low carb days are great for short and intense workouts or low to moderated intensity workouts over a longer period of time.
- Make sure you seek advice off an experienced trainer or coach when it comes to attempting a diet like carb cycling, you want to make sure you get it right.
If you have any questions about a program for you get in touch with us at Schembri PT. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in this contact us form and we’ll reply as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading,
Schembri PT Team