Carb Cycling by Maria Khaled RD, LD

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Carb cycling is such a fascinating topic that for whatever reason does not get spoken about too much. You may have heard of the term thrown around here and there whether it be at the gym or at the supermarket. But, just what is carb cycling?

I remember back in the day when I use to hear a few of the bodybuilders at the local gym in New York talk about how they would carb cycle in order to get in prime shape for a bodybuilding competition or to strut their stuff in summertime on the beach, lol. But, how exactly did this carb cycling work?

I had an idea at the time that it had something to do with varying your carb intake based on days of your workouts/rest days, but was not exactly sure of how they applied carb cycling to their own routines. So, what truly is carb cycling all about?

Carb cycling involves adjusting your carbohydrate intake over a set interval of time. It may help you lose fat or maintain physical performance while supporting weight loss goals. (Healthline)

Now we know there are 3 macronutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fat that we look at in our diets. We know protein helps build muscle and the types of fats eaten are equally important- saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, and monounsaturated and so on throughout our journey to wellness.

The question is where do these very important carbohydrates fit in within the framework of macronutrients when desiring to lose weight?

Remember, no macronutrient is entirely bad and the goal is to tailor your carb intake to you as an individual. In order to make changes to their overall carb intake, some people now cycle their carbohydrates and engage in “carb cycling.”

Typically, carb cycling is a dietary approach in which you alternate carb intake on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Some people may carb cycle from day to day, while others may do longer periods of low, moderate and high carb intake.

Overall, carb cycling aims to time carbohydrate intake to when it provides maximum benefit and exclude carbs when they’re not needed.

With carbohydrate cycling, you are allowed to program your carb intake based on a variety of factors such as (Healthline):

Body Composition goals: Some people will reduce carbohydrates during a diet and then add them back during a “muscle building” or performance phase.

Training and rest days: One popular approach is a higher carb intake on training days and a lower carb intake on rest days.

Scheduled refeeds: Another popular approach is to do 1 day or several days at a very high carb intake as a “refeed” during a prolonged diet.

Special events or competitions: Athletes often “Carb load” prior to an event and many physique competitors will diet the same before a body building show or photoshoot.

Types of Training: Individuals will tailor carb intake depending on the intensity and duration of a particular training session. The longer or more intense the training is, the more carbs they will consume.

A typical weekly carb cycling diet may include a variation of carbs on any given day. You may have 2 high carb days, 2 moderate carb days, and 3 low carb days.

Since protein needs will stay fairly consistent based on your activity levels, carbohydrate and fat levels will vary based on need.

When you’re having a high carb day, usually this means low fat and those fats should be predominantly the healthy ones such as mono and polyunsaturated fats. In addition, if you are having a low carb day, this usually entails high fat.

Although research is limited around the long term effects of carb cycling, positive results are being witnessed. The idea behind it is to maximize the benefits of carbohydrates and teach your body to burn fat as fuel.

However, it is advised to be cautious about this approach due to the lack of studies on how carb cycling can affect you long term. What it known is that many more studies are needed to find out whether carb cycling is safe!

Continue on your wellness journey into transforming into the greatest version of yourself and contact Nutrition Wellness at 407-698-3121 today!

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