Carb cycling can be simply explained as a form of zig-zag dieting. It is a method which uses a period of low carb days with a high carb day every now and then. The theory behind this is that during the low carb days, your body will be in fat burning mode. However, due to the low carbs, it will slowly become more sluggish and your metabolism will drop.
Once this happens, implementing a high carb day will be very beneficial because it will spike your insulin levels and give your metabolism a boost. This will increase fat burning and you will be able to go on another short period of low carbs.
The Carb Cycling method has been proven to be very effective and is employed by the top fitness models and personal trainers around the world. It is sustainable for as long as you wish without being too demanding or stressful on your physical and mental well-being.
However, many beginners make a few common mistakes with carb cycling.
The first mistake is not knowing how long to be on a low carb diet. This will take some experimenting. If you gain weight easily and you are overweight, it may be better to be on a low carb diet for 5 to 6 days. If you have a higher metabolic rate and just wish to lose a few extra pounds, a short period of 3 to 4 days of low carbs followed by a high carb day will suffice.
The important thing is to monitor how your body is reacting to the carb cycling. If there are no positive results, just add another day or two to the low carb period or add another high carb day (depending on how you exercise) because your body may need the extra carbs.
The second mistake is not consuming the correct amount of calories daily. You are aiming for a 500 to a 600 calorie deficit daily. You do not want to go above or below this range. If you go below, your fat loss will be slow. If you consume too little calories, your metabolism will adjust to your lower calorie intake and you will not lose weight either.
Many beginners don’t count their calories. Since carbs are calorie dense, when you cut out your carbs, it’s essential to keep track of how many calories you are eating… You may have heard calories don’t count when going low carb but an extra 500 calories that aren’t being used or energy will just get stored as fat. Period..
The third mistake is not locking down your macros. Fat is not the enemy. It lubricates your cells and body, helps absorb nutrients, and is needed for your body. Yes, they produce glucose which is needed for your brain and muscles, but if you eat too much protein, it will turn into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis. There are no storage depots for protein. It either goes to your brain or muscles, hair, skin, nail, etc., or it gets turned into sugar. Bummer right. When it comes to protein though if you are weight training and really fatiguing your muscles, they will definitely need the extra protein to recover faster.
Protein is key, especially if you’re working to tone your body gain muscle. It’s the building block of the body and without enough of the amino acids they produce for your brain (Essential Amino Acids) you will die.
Fats are essential to health and fat burning DON’T NEGLECT THEM! When eating low carb, you need to up your fat intake to make up the calories. Essential fats such as EFA (i.e. essential fatty acids such as EPA & DHA). Not to mention, your body can’t absorb nutrients such as vitamin D, E, and K without fat. When you are on a low carb diet, fats are literally your best friend. Adding Extra Virgin Olive or Coconut Oil can help you reach your calorie goals because let’s face it when on a low carb diet it’s super easy to skimp on the calories without even trying.
Carbs are the only macronutrient that is not essential or required for health or living. You can totally eliminate carbs from your diet and live but fats and proteins are essential and must be included in your diet… period… If you are not tracking you are not keeping information and it will be hard to determine where you need to make changes to start seeing results.
Not eating enough carbs can cause your performance to suffer and your brain performance to suffer (because your brain needs glucose). If you are doing a lot of HIIT Training. Your High carb day should be the day before a HIIT workout or the day of a HIIT workout. Experiment and see which one works for you.
The fourth mistake is exceeding your calorie intake on a high carb day. A high carb day is also known as a “cheat day”. Many people go crazy on their cheat day and stuff themselves with all types of junk food. This is wrong. You only want to aim for a caloric surplus of about 600 to 700 calories. That’s it.
If you exceed your calorie intake by 2000 calories, those excess calories are going to be converted to fat. You would have undone your previous low carb cycle. That will be unproductive, to say the least. So, watch your calories closely.
Again, I have lost weight by going to town on the weekends (I’m talking gaining 8-10 pounds over the weekend) and fasting a few days a week (I’m talking not eating a thing for 1-2 days) and literally dropping the 8-10 pounds of water weight I gained over the weekend and dropping an extra 2 pounds. Good stuff right….
The point is, find what works for you and stick to it. If you are getting results by utilizing any of these mistakes, then, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing. There is no one-way approach for this. But… If you start to see the scale getting stuck implement these tips and see if they work for you 🙂