Carb Cycling

I have gotten SO many questions about carb cycling lately.

So, what is carb cycling? Exactly what it states. 

There are days that you go higher on your carbs and days that you go lower on your carbs, and then you have a baseline that you stick to most days. Many times you can use this to produce results when your body has hit that plateau, although there are many other reasons why you might carb cycle. You could carb cycle if you are trying to lose weight but also strength train and you need to have more carbs one day versus another. You may carb cycle because your activity level is drastically different on some days versus others (this is somewhat how I am but I do keep it relatively the same). 

A few reasons why carb cycling works is because weight loss is an overall net amount of energy exchange. While each day is a new day, I think to kinda think of it as a weekly total. This doesn't mean that if you overeat one day, you starve yourself the next! NO! However, carb cycling allows you to keep your calories normal and high but dip them lower on some days to get that overall net exchange of energy to be more burned than replenished and therefore lose weight. This also allows you to keep your metabolism high with those higher carb days.

When you start or continue a diet, you want to keep calories and carbs as high as possible to start. I always think of this like a "set point" for lack of a better word (maybe there is a term and I just don't know it). You don't want to just cut all of your calories immediately when you begin a diet. In the future when your body stalls, you are going to have nothing to cut from. You want to utilize your metabolic capacity and cut after trail and error if you haven't seen results. This is another reason it's important to take things SLOW and just see what works for you.

So, how would you structure this? It's so variable, but normally I like to start with mostly moderate days and then you would have two low carb days. These low carb days would be on your rest day and another light workout day. It's very common to have rest day macros. The amount that you would decrease would be relative to the amount that you are intaking, but I would say that a 25% reduction in carbs would be a good starting point. However, if you are willing to make the cut, a 50% reduction in carbs might produce even more results and you wouldn't be compromising your metabolism by coming right back out of those days. If you are eating 150g C then a 50% reduction would be to 75g C (yikes don't do that) or a 25% reduction would be to 113g C (much more realistic for a low carb day) and you may would want to increase your fats by 5-10g to make up for the loss in calories.

If you do this for two weeks, and you aren't seeing results with the 25% reduction then that's when I would try the 50% reduction. If you do this for two weeks with no results, then I would try adding a low carb day and a high carb day. The high carb day is meant to be a "refeed" where you increase your leptin levels (the hormones that control your metabolism) and you would have an increase of 50% in carbs only keeping protein and fats the same. If you are an athlete and you have drastically different workouts on different days then this is a reason that you would obviously want to have a high carb day on perhaps, a long run day. My {redundant for those that work with me} recommendation is to add 50g of carb per hour of running. I do not recommend training for a marathon in your peak weeks while also trying to lose weight. The carb cycle should be utilized to help you and fuel you and to properly maintain weight. Losing weight during this time period is going to lead to muscle loss meaning more metabolism loss and you don't want that. 

You may notice some water retention on the day after your refeed day or some actually experience fat loss. It's all dependent on the individual person and you have to find what works for you. If you do experience water retention the day after a refeed (because eating 150g would bump you up to 225g C) then it will go away and you will possibly have lower carb days to compensate for that. Again, you want to keep calories as high as possible to conserve your metabolism. 

Carb cycling is not that tricky as it's just low and high days, but it's just a matter of figuring out what works best for you. 

With love and cycling, 

Katie 

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