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Benefits of Carb Cycling

Benefits of Carb Cycling

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Carbohydrate cycling is another hotly debated topic in the figure and bikini competition world. There are those who strongly support this method for fat loss and those who feel it's a farce. Armed with some scientifically supported information you can make the decision for yourself whether or not you would like to incorporate carb cycling into your lifestyle.

Carbohydrate cycling is a technique of altering your diet every few days from a state of low carbohydrates/calories to higher carbohydrates/calories and then back to low to repeat the process. The theory is, as long as you are existing in a net caloric deficit for the week you will lose fat and maintain or even add muscle.

This fat loss method has several benefits over a sustained low carbohydrate/calorie method.

First, sustaining low carbohydrates and calories can be both physically and mentally challenging. The toll that it takes can be overwhelming for many, lending itself to self destructive habits like binging, which can completely derail progress, wiping out weeks of fat loss. With carb cycling the psychological benefit is not having to wait very long for what your body and mind is craving carbohydrates. If you know every second, third or fourth day you will have increased carbohydrates and calories for a day it's much easier to stick with a clean eating plan.

Second, when you're constantly in a caloric deficit your metabolism actually may slow down too far. It's your body trying to adjust to your eating habits. So by adding a high carbohydrate/calorie day periodically you are sort of tricking the body. It will speed up the metabolism to accommodate and therefore keep you in fat-burning mode.

Third, when you're constantly in a caloric deficit you will not add lean muscle. It's impossible to do so naturally. With carb cycling you are not on a deficit every day and therefore give your body an opportunity to actually gain lean muscle mass while losing fat.

There is much debate on both how many carbs to consume as well as how many days to go low carb. While it's important to follow what will work best for you, here is a sample plan that can provide you will a base to work from.

2 days low, 1 day high

Days 1 & 2:
- 6 meals
- 4 meals contain 33 grams protein, 5 grams carbs, 12 grams fat
- 2 meals around training session contain 33 grams protein, 12 grams carbs, 12 grams fat
- protein sources from lean meats and egg whites
- carb sources from fibrous vegetables
- fat sources from healthy sources (i.e. nuts, fish oil, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, no sugar added peanut butter)

Day 3:
- 6 meals
- 4 meals contain 26 grams protein, 24 grams carbs, 10 grams fat
- 2 meals around training session contain 26 grams protein, 25 grams carbs, 10 grams fat
- protein sources from lean meats and egg whites
- carb sources from fibrous and starchy vegetables and whole grains (i.e. sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice, rolled oats)
- fat sources from healthy sources (i.e. nuts, fish oil, virgin olive oil, egg yolks, no sugar added peanut butter)

Carb cycling can be performed both during competition prep and off season or not during the weeks leading up to a competition. The only significant difference is caloric consumption. In order to more effectively build lean muscle during the off season low days will not be as low and high days will be higher.

Author: Kristin Shaffer
kristin@figureandbikini.org

Member Comments

Great article Kristin! At least you're coming around to the idea now! :) I'm always in a caloric deficit once I start "cutting" for competition, but this would kill me! I get a lot more calories from fat and a lot less from carbs. No wonder you were ready to kill somebody when you started this! :)
--i1tiger

I've been on a carb cycle for the last 4 months, I've lost 15 lbs and all my lifts in the gym have increased by 20 or more pounds. I plug everything into my fitness pal app and eat accordingly.

I love it
--Nickstrr

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