Carbohydrate cycling is exactly what it sounds like: “Cycling” carbohydrates throughout the week, adjusting the amount of carbs based on the physical exertions performed on any given day.
An example of a typical carb cycling schedule is as follows: eating a low amount of carbs on days without rigorous exercise or only cardiovascular exercise, and a moderate to high amount on days that weight lifting or circuit training with body weight exercises have been performed.
Carb cycling has been used by fitness models, athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts for decades, and remains a popular practice in such circles.
It is also endorsed by fitness experts like Jamie Eason, Jillian Michaels, and even Chris Powell, who specializes in assisting morbidly obese men and women transform into healthy, fit individuals. In fact, I was very excited to catch Chris Powell on Dr. OZ discussing carbohydrate cycling!
This fat loss tool can be a huge benefit for the mainstream population. It’s not something many people have ever heard of, and yet, it is probably one of the most effective ways to shed fat quickly (imho).
Low carb diets can work, and usually do work for fat loss…BUT they are not exactly sustainable or enjoyable (let’s be honest here). Also, as a repercussion of continuously eating a low carb diet, the metabolism can slow down.
Metabolic rates usually slow down any time weight loss occurs. This is very common. One would think it’s the exact opposite, but nine times out of ten, a 135 lb, physically active female has a much slower resting metabolic rate than a sedentary 200 lb female.
Another point about low carb diets is that there is an inevitable binge. I get e-mails daily reporting binges and “falling off the wagon”. What I suspect is happening is an unintentional carb load! So in a way, many people are cycling their carbohydrates without even meaning to.
Cycling carbohydrates allows for:
- a healthy variety of foods
- incorporation of healthy whole grains and fruits
- using carbs to amp your workouts
- optimize muscle repair
- avoiding excess glycogen spilling into fat stores on the days you’re not using it
- increasing satiety and quelling cravings
- optimizing fat burning
- raising your metabolic rate with high carb days and low carb days that coincide with training days
- avoiding low carb “brain fog” that can be common in chronic low carb diets
An ideal time to incorporate carb cycling into your life is when you have a special event, or you just want to look super shredded for a few weeks.
To give you a better idea, my body fat% fluctuates between 18-21%. I have a substantial amount of muscle, and my abs are pretty visible at any given time. I attain an overall athletic/healthy look all year with just eating lean, clean foods and adhering to the nutritional guidelines that I lay out in my book.
That said, I don’t walk around with a six pack all year. I’m half Puerto Rican, and curvy girls run in my family. So while I would consider myself athletic looking, I’m by no means “shredded” . If I were to be “shredded” (<16%) all year round, I would not be a happy camper and I wouldn’t feel like myself 😀
If I’m having professional pictures taken, or if the mood strikes and I want to take it to the “shredded” level, I use carbohydrate cycling, and pay closer attention to my carbohydrates for about 2-4 weeks, and that’s about all it takes for me!
As a female, please realize the super “shredded” look is not attainable for everyone. While 16% is attainable for one woman, 20% may be your sweet spot! In my opinion it’s always best to challenge yourself in being the best you, but avoid sacrificing mental function, peace of mind, and healthy menstrual cycles just for the sake of seeing “veins on your abs”.
Carbohydrate cycling should not be mistaken for a chance to drive to pizza hut, grab a basket of those delicious bread sticks, with that oh so yummy marinara sauce and run amok. (yes, Im projecting/wishing a little)
So as I was saying, focus your carbohydrate days on meals consisting of protein and complex starchy carbs, some fruit, and plenty of vegetables. On higher carbohydrate days, keeping fat intake low is a good idea. So meals will be very lean proteins such as tilapia, chicken breast, lean turkey breast, egg whites. Higher carb days will be lower in fat, and meals will contain starchy carbs such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice and also have plenty of veggies.
Conversely, on lower carb days, an even higher amount of vegetables needs to be consumed to increase fiber intake (allowing a full and satisfied feeling). Also fat intake can be ramped up on lower carb days. This means eating proteins with higher fat content such as wild salmon, grass fed beef, whole eggs, organic turkey burgers wrapped in tons of lettuce or cabbage etc. Lower carb days are also ideal for using avocado, olive oil for dressing, nuts etc.
Please note: Its a good idea to start even a low carb day breakfast with some carbohydrates!
Examples of higher carb meals and snacks:
- rice cake with organic turkey slices, topped with tomato and spinach.
- grilled chicken breast with black beans and rice, and a side of steamed zucchini.
- Protein smoothie with kale, banana, and strawberries
- Oatmeal with egg whites and apple slices, topped with cinnamon
- Tilapia or tuna with quinoa, raisins, and side salad
- apple sauce
- kind bars
- If you juice, your higher carb days would consist of higher sugar vegetables, such as beets & carrots.
Examples of lower carb meals and snacks:
- 2 Whole scrambled eggs sprinkled with feta cheese, green peppers, and onions in a tortilla (see important note regarding low carb breakfast in paragraph above)
- Grilled salmon, mixed greens, veggies, avocado, topped with balsamic
- Chicken lettuce wraps with a side of guacamole
- Grass fed filet mignon with a side of sautéed asparagus and green beans
- Almond butter with celery sticks
- Hummus with assortment of veggies
- Green smoothie with fruit (for breakfast)
- Kale chips
- spaghetti squash with turkey meatballs
As stated in the video, if the idea of doing any of this gives you anxiety or sounds exhausting, don’t sweat it! Carb cycling is just a fun little tool that’s there if you need it. At the end of the day, the most important thing is eating lean, clean, whole foods on a consistent basis.
I hope this has helped you! Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you all Wednesday