Hey Angels and Alphas,
It’s 2021, but carbs are still one of the most talked-about and debated topics in the world of weight loss and sports nutrition.
In recent years, carb-restricted diets such as no-carb or no-sugar diets have become prevalent and shown to be effective for many people. That being said, they still have their drawbacks.
If you haven’t noticed, other approaches that play around with carb intakes (instead of removing it altogether,) such as carb cycling and Keto have gained tons of interest, particularly in the weight loss community.
And while it’s true they were initially developed for more advanced athletes who want to reach past peak performance, carb cycling has recently gotten more and more popular among novice trainees that want to shed a few dozen pounds. Let’s talk about that.
HOW DOES CARB CYCLING WORK FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Carb cycling, in the most basic sense, means alternating the number of carbs you consume every day, week, and even month, essentially creating cycles of low-carb and high-carb intakes. This means eating a lower amount of carbs on some days (or another time frame) and eating higher amounts of carbs on others.
High-carb days usually correspond to those days in which trainees participate in high-intensity workouts, while low-carb days are reserved for rest days or days of minimal activity.
On the days in which you’re killing it at the gym or you’re trying to push past a personal record, carbs are your best friend. This is because carbs are the favorite energy source for the body when it needs energy in quick bursts. Your body burns through them quickly, as well as fat (although burning fat takes longer), so it can utilize them instead of protein.
But on the days in which you barely get off the couch, eating extra carbs basically encourages the body to store that unused glucose in your fat cells. By eating fewer or almost no carbs on a rest day, your body turns to utilizing fat cells for energy.
In the exciting world of sports nutrition, low-carbohydrate availability training sessions have been suggested to create positive adaptations at a cellular level for endurance athletes. That being said, there’s still more research that needs to be done so we can see if this translates into actual performance benefits.
SO… CARB CYCLING IS LIKE KETO?
Far from it! Keto is very low in carbs, high in fat, and moderate in protein, and the goal of Keto is to turn your body into using your fat stores for energy (also known as ketosis.)
Carb cycling, on the other hand, is usually higher in carbs than the mainstream Keto diet, and does not involve the same high fat intake (thus it doesn’t really aim for ketosis.)
That’s not to say the two eating styles don’t have their share of similarities. They both put the emphasis on managing your carb intake, and because of this, some people loosely combine the two regimens and go into a spiral of Keto cycling that gets them nowhere.
If you’ve ever heard of the Frankenstein monster that is keto cycling, it involves following the Keto protocol for most days of the week, and then have one or two days at the end of the week in which you’ll “refuel” on carbs. But those refueling days basically break your ketosis, and offer dieters the benefits of carbohydrates such as fueling them for high-intensity exercise, adding more variety to their diet, and helping them get much-needed fiber.
WHY DOES CARB CYCLING AID WEIGHT LOSS?
The reason carb cycling is so good for weight loss isn’t necessarily because of the carbs themselves. Think in terms of calories, not carbs.
To lose body fat, you have to burn more calories than you’re consuming – that’s obvious. But all of this just happens to be much easier on a diet that prioritizes managing carbs, in which you burn more fat and consume fewer carbs.
Another great reason carb cycling helps you lose weight is that you can lose up to 10 pounds of water weight if you just cut out carbs from your diet. This is because carbs hold onto water in the body. But don’t get it twisted – as soon as you reintroduce carbs into your diet, you’ll gain water weight back pretty quickly.
But probably the best reason why carb cycling is so good for weight loss is that on the days in which you’re being a couch potato or playing desk jockey, you’ll be consuming far fewer carbs and, therefore, calories.
You definitely don’t need to be hoarding all these extra calories if they’re not going to be used, and unlike fat and protein, your carb needs vary vastly from one day to the next.
And finally, when you make the decision to swap simple carbs for protein and veggies, overeating becomes very tricky… because most of us don’t really binge on broccoli and chicken. This has a massive impact on your waistline.
The bottom line?
If you want to lose weight, we all know having a negative calorie balance is an absolute must.
Carb cycling helps you achieve this – especially on the days where it counts. Carb cycling involves eating fewer carbs on your rest days and more carbs when your body actually needs them. And while it’s not really a data-driven advantage over other weight-loss methods, carb cycling can be amazing for you if you’re one of those people that likes to binge junk food on a day off.