What Is Carb Cycling Diet, And How Does It Work?
Published on: 12-Sep-2022
10 min read
Updated on : 02-Nov-2023
What Is Carb Cycling Diet, And How Does It Work?
Most of your daily calories come from carbohydrates, and consuming too many not-so-good carbohydrates, such as cold drinks, white bread, cookies, etc. can cause a big hurdle in your weight management journey. Hence, you should start learning about carb cycling and how it could help you lose weight and reduce body fat.
We should understand that protein, fats, and carbohydrates all play significant roles in leading a healthy life. Still, some say they drastically reduce their carbohydrate intake throughout the weight-loss phase, but this is not always true or good for your body. Healthy carbohydrates, such as those found in oats or brown rice, provide your body with the energy it needs for daily activities and workouts.
For this reason, some people choose to restrict their diet through “carb cycling,” which is switching between days with high and low carb intake. However, going low on carbs does not guarantee losing a tremendous amount of weight.
Table Of Contents
1. What Is Carb Cycling?
2. Science Behind Carb Cycling
3. How Do You Start Carb Cycling?
4. How Does Carb Cycling Work?
5. Is Carb Cycling Safe?
6. Does Carb Cycling Help In Losing Weight?
7. Are There Any Other Benefits Of Carb Cycling?
8. Meal Tips In Carb Cycling
9. The Final Say
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carb Cycling indicates that you consume more carbohydrates one day and less the following day. Then, depending on your degree of activity, you continue to switch between the two.
Your body obtains its energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. However, you have to note that when 1 gram of fat provides 9 calories, 1 gram of protein gives only 4 calories. Therefore, you generally consume 50% to 55% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, 10% to 15% from proteins, and less than 28% from fats.
Athletes and bodybuilders who wish to reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, or store more carbohydrates for long-duration training like a marathon employ the very restrictive diet known as carb cycling.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose during digestion, which your body uses as fuel. Therefore, you may experience fewer carb cravings and more energy once you quit using carbohydrates as a source of energy.
Science Behind Carb Cycling
The crux of carb cycling is feeding the body’s desire for glucose and energy. High-carb days are a medium to nourish the body and boost muscle glycogen levels, which will improve performance and slow down muscle breakdown. On the other hand, low-carb days compel the body to utilise fat as fuel when doing tasks, making them an excellent way to lose weight.
This cycle’s plus point is controlling and manipulating the body’s insulin. It also supports enhancing the body’s insulin resistance.
How Do You Start Carb Cycling?
Before starting your carb cycle, you need to weigh, measure, and count grams, so planning is critical.
1. Know How Many Calories You Need
See how many calories your body needs. Then, if a person wants to gain weight, just multiply your calories by 10x for weight gain, 12x for weight maintenance, and 15x for muscle gain.
2. Balance Out The Macros
Divide your calories so that all three macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat—balance. Sticking to a high-carb diet doesn't mean cutting back on either of those macronutrients. Instead, remember that the goal is to consume fewer calories without actually "feeling" less hungry.
3. Do Not Mix Fibre
When following a low-carb diet, make sure the fibre should not be changed or compromised for less. Instead, you should focus on eliminating simple sugars like white sugar in any form and refined flour.
On low-carb days, the brain runs carbs, i.e., glucose. If this is not satisfied, the body will use other sources, such as muscle protein. So have healthy carbs on your “low carb days.”
How Does Carb Cycling Work?
When you eat high-carbohydrate foods, and your blood sugar rises, your pancreas makes more insulin. As a result, it helps in transporting glucose into every cell. This glucose is converted to energy, stored for later use, or converted into fat.
As cells absorb sugar from the blood, your pancreas signals the cells to release stored glucose, which is known as glucagon. This repeated process ensures that your body has the right amount of sugar level in your body every time.
But your body might produce too much insulin while on a high-carb diet. As a result, it can lead to weight gain and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and other heart diseases.
Taking a short break to metabolise carbs can help your body burn fat instead of carbs or muscle tissue. But it is important to remember that if you do not exercise much or train hard on a carb cycle, high-carb days can cause weight gain.
There is not much research on the long-term effects of carb cycling, but it is generally safe to do it for a short time. First, ensure a healthy diet to control all your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels within limits.
Is Carb Cycling Safe?
When you cut carbs for a few days, you may experience:
1. Sleep Problems
5. Mood Problems
It is also known as “carb flu” and usually does not last long. Drinking an ample amount of water and electrolytes can help overcome this state. It is an extreme form of dieting; thus, carb cycling is not for everyone. You should not try it if you are:
1. Pregnant or Breastfeeding
3. Managing a Current or Past Eating Disorder
One should also not attempt to follow it if you have adrenal gland-related problems. If you are still in doubt, please consult your doctor or dietician before starting.
Does Carb Cycling Help In Losing Weight?
The logical process behind carb cycling suggests it can benefit weight loss. This diet’s primary mechanism of weight loss is a calorie deficit state. When you eat less, your body burns calories over a longer time.
People can take advantage of the flexibility of the carb cycle. It improves compliance and long-term success for some people.
Are There Any Other Benefits Of Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling has the potential to provide some benefits that other diets do not. Having low and high carb times can get many benefits, including better insulin sensitivity, increased fat burning, improved cholesterol, and better metabolic health.
High-carb foods can affect hormones, including thyroid hormones, testosterone, and leptin. We must understand that hormones are essential in hunger, metabolism, and physical activity. In addition, fibre-rich carbs can reduce cholesterol levels. Thus, this can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Meal Tips In Carb Cycling
Here are some tips to help you choose the best carbs to go for:
1. Choose fibre-rich fruits and vegetables.
2. Choose low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.
3. Stock up on legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas.
4. Eat lots of whole grains.
5. Limit yourself to refined grains, added sugars, and highly processed foods.
The Final Say
Carb cycling is a diet where people move back and forth between high and low carbs for days, weeks, or months. It usually depends upon the goal an individual has set for himself.
This dietary program may benefit short-term health and fitness goals, such as targeted weight loss, improved athletic performance, and increased insulin sensitivity. But most importantly, you should do it under the guidance of a professional doctor and dietician.
1. Can I eat bread and pasta during carb cycling?
Avoid all processed starches, including bread, flour, and gluten, and choose whole grains.
2. I am confused about Low Carb Day and High Carb Day and when I should eat healthy fats.
Low Carb Days: Eat Fewer Carbs and More Fat
High Carb Days: Eat More Carbs and Less Fat
3. Can I use alternative sweeteners?
Instead of artificial sweeteners, better choose honey maple syrup in small amounts.
4. Is regular exercise mandatory?
Yes, if you are taking a lot of dietary carbohydrates and do not exercise, it will lead to weight gain.
5. How many days should I work out per week during my Carb Cycling?
Train at least 3 days a week. You can exercise more but remember to rest at least 1-2 days per week for the body to recover.
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