I cannot begin to explain how many diets I have tried, successfully and unsuccessfully, over the years. I’ve tried exceedingly limited approaches in which my food was so strict and bland that I resented what I was doing after three or four weeks and never wanted to see a sweet potato again in my life. And, I’ve tried looser forms of dieting that I used objects to measure the quantities of food and simply tried to eat balanced and healthy each meal. But, what I’ve found throughout all of my experimentation is that carb cycling is one of the most effective methods of cutting fat. When I first heard the term ‘carb cycling’, all I could think about was the hunger I was going to feel, and the food restrictions were going to be dreadful. This simply is not the case! I’ve actually taken an if it fits your macros (IIFYM) approach to carb cycling and have had great results without feeling like I am depriving myself of anything. This isn’t to say that carb cycling is easy on low or no carb days, but it makes dieting a lot more tolerable when I eat food that I crave and desire – you feel way more satiated even with less caloric intake.
To make explanation easier, I am going to use myself as an example for the caloric intake and macro count. Currently, I weigh 138 pounds and my activity level is moderate – about four to five days a week of lifting weights as well as thirty to forty minutes of moderate intensity cardio about five to six days per week. The concepts and methods of how to carb cycle can be applied to any man or woman in the appropriate portions for their weight and activity levels.
The No ‘No-Carb’ Cycle
I’m not too sure about anyone else, but I have to work, and my brain does not function on no-carb days. When my carbohydrates are below seventy-five grams per day I tend to get forgetful, very tired and clumsy. Essentially, I become a space cadet. Because of this, I decided that I was going to create a carb cycle that fluctuated my complex carbohydrates, but did not drop complex carbs low enough to where it would cause problems trying to function in my everyday living. I started with my body adjusted to a diet that consisted of forty percent of protein, forty percent of complex carbohydrate and twenty percent of healthy fats. Accordingly, the macro count for my size and activity level was about:
1550 calories per day
155g of Protein
155g of Complex Carbs
36g of Healthy Fats
Now, instead of fluctuating all of the macro counts (protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats) to fit certain caloric intakes, maintain the amount of healthy fats and protein within the macro count. The only changes that you will see in your daily intake will be the fluctuation of complex carbohydrates to consist of high carb days, moderate carb days and low carb days. As you fluctuate the carbohydrate, your caloric intake will fluctuate as well. As such, the carb cycle will consist of the following macro counts:
High Carb Moderate Carb Low Carb
Protein: 155g 155g 155g
Fats: 36g 36g 36g
Carbs: 155g 125g 95g
The pattern of days at first is very simply, start with high carb, next day is moderate carb and then low carb. Then, start again with the cycle of high-moderate-low and keep repeating. I have been very successful in dropping weight with this cycle and have kept my wits about me while doing it. But, if you feel that you still need to shed a few more unwanted pounds, this cycle can be played with while maintaining the same macro counts. For example, create a seven-day cycle that changes daily, such as: high-low-high-low-moderate-high-low.
Some Tips and Tricks
Although you can make any food you crave fit your macros, when trying to get extra lean, the food you eat is important. In other words, do not try to fit beer and cheesecake into your macros while trying to drop five pounds three weeks before your best friend’s wedding. Also, make sure that your supplements are counted within your daily macros. An excellent option is Redcon1 Ration Whey Protein, I use this as my last meal of the day before bed as a shake. This protein formula is low in carbs, helps repair muscle while I sleep and keeps me full enough throughout the night that I do not wake up famished. Another useful tip is to stick to foods that are more conducive towards cutting weight such as lean red meats, fish, boneless skinless chicken breast and lean ground turkey. Eat healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado and extra virgin olive oil and complex carbs such as quinoa, Ezekiel bread and sweet potato.
When carb cycling, there is going to be hungry, hangry and hungrier days and sticking to the diet isn’t always the easiest – even when fitting in food that you desire and crave. What’s odd is that on low carb days I can feel fine, my hunger is under control; but, during the following high carb day, I cannot eat enough – my hunger is through the roof! Its good to be prepared with your macros full of food that has more quantity to help feel full. I tend to eat more lettuce, brown rice cakes and vegetables that make me have the sensation of feeling full while my macro count doesn’t drastically deviate from what I am planning. Learn which ‘filler foods’ you like and plan them into your high carb days to help tolerate hungrier days.
Once the event you lost the weight for has passed or you have achieved your goal physique look, it is important to remember that you must reverse diet. This helps to speed your metabolism back up and prevent your body from gaining too much weight too quickly. Week by week, slowly introduce more calories back into your diet. For example:
Carb Cycle: high carb – moderate carb – low carb (repeat cycle)
Week 1: high carb – moderate carb – moderate carb (repeat cycle)
Week 3: high carb – high carb – moderate carb (repeat cycle)
Week 5: return to a balance ratio of 40% protein, 40% complex carbs & 20% healthy fats
So long as you reverse off of the carb cycle and have consistency, carb cycling is a very useful dieting tool to cut fat and achieve results.
Written by: Samantha DiSabello