The Secret to Weight Loss: Carb Cycling

Posted on February 21, 2014
No one likes dieting.  If someone tells you that they are on a diet, it’s generally implied that they plan to eventually go off of it.  They’re a temporary solution.  One thing that seems universal, however, is that diets that cut down on carbohydrates work the best.

Why Do Carbs Make You Fat?

Carbohydrates convert into glucose, which the body uses for energy.  Carbohydrates are energy dense and cause your blood sugar to spike.  To defend against this, your pancreas releases higher levels of insulin to take the glucose out of the bloodstream and feeds it into the muscles as glycogen.  But the excess glucose ends up getting stored as fat. For many years, low-carb and no-carb diets were the go-to diets of choice.  Most people ended up failing at these programs because, first and foremost, dieting is a mental game.  The thought of never having another Dr. Pepper or a pack of Sour Patch Watermelons proves difficult.  But an alternative does exits: carb cycling.

What is carb cycling?

Carb cycling was first used by body builders to help shed off those last stubborn fat deposits.  It accelerates fat loss and helps break plateaus.  Oftentimes the only way to burn fat is to reduce the number of carbohydrates the body will burn first. The approach to this is surprisingly simple.  Eat lower amounts of carbs for several days, followed by a single day of higher carbs.  On the low carb days, high levels of protein help maintain your muscle mass, with fibrous carbs coming from vegetables and greens.  A high carb day is a day that allows you to eat starchy carbs more generously. People often refer a high carb day as a “cheat day.”  This terminology be dangerous, however, as “cheating” implies that you can eat whatever you want.  Many times, a single cheat day can completely obliterate days of hard work.  While you are allowing yourself to indulge a little bit, remember not to overdo it and to keep your intake ratios consistent.

So Why Eat Carbs At All?

Carb cycling helps people to stay focused and remember that they will be able to enjoy a fun snack in just a couple of days—which is easier to mentally process than trying to permanently swear off many of your favorite foods.  You’re less likely to relapse.  But more importantly, eating carbohydrates reignites your metabolism.  The glycogen from the carbs will feed directly into your muscles, thereby making your muscles stronger and more pronounced.

How Do I Carb Cycle?

Many variations of carb cycling exist.  Some allow for a single high carb day per week, whereas others allow two.  If you are a weight trainer or an athlete, refueling once every three days is recommended.  The most important thing to remember is to find a balance that works for you and your lifestyle so you don’t have to deprive yourself entirely of the food you love but can still see long-term weight loss results.  

Photo Courtesy Of: Christian Cable

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