Carb Cycling

Mar 23rd, 2015

Category: Nutrition

Carb Cycling

Low carbohydrate diets are great for fitness enthusiasts that want to lose bodyweight. However, if you want a lean, muscular body AND you are serious about your performance, you should start eating like an athlete. Elite level athletes consume anywhere from 30% to 60% of their total daily calories from carbohydrate sources, and yet most of them display high levels of muscularity with low levels of body fat year round. This is possible because elite athletes train more often and typically at higher intensities than your average fitness enthusiast. Their frequent high volume, intense training schedule creates a huge metabolic demand. This demand is what allows them to eat more carbs before lunch than you do in a week.

 

So the million dollar question: How can someone who isn’t an elite athlete incorporate carbs into their diet to achieve improved performance, recovery, and ultimately a lean muscular physique? The answer is Carb Cycling. Carb Cycling is a nutritional strategy that focuses on adjusting your daily carbohydrate intake based on your activity level and body composition goals. A Carb Cycling diet can be designed to support and achieve any fitness goal including weight loss, weight gain, decreased body fat, increased muscle mass, enhanced strength, and improved endurance.

 

CARB SCIENCE

Carbohydrates’ key metabolic role is to supply the body with an immediate energy source during bouts of moderate to intense exercise. The body can efficiently metabolize carbohydrates to the usable form of energy, glucose. Carb consumption influences certain hormonal responses in the body. If utilized correctly this can promote lean muscle growth, support the body’s ability to burn fat, and enhance repairing of damaged muscle tissue. The key hormone responsible for these benefits is insulin. The pancreas produces insulin to manage and balance the blood glucose levels in our body. Insulin works by promoting glucose (free energy) uptake to the cells in our bodies for storage as glycogen (stored energy). Insulin also promotes a favorable environment for protein synthesis (muscle repair) to occur.

 

Carbs are the most efficient macronutrient to be metabolized into glucose, thus creating the most rapid elevation in blood glucose and insulin. Carbs are rated and categorized by the insulin response they produce in our bodies in what is known as the Glycemic Index. Carbs that have a high glycemic ranking cause a rapid elevation in insulin production, while carbs with a low ranking produce a gradual elevation in insulin production. The majority of your carb intake should come from low glycemic foods causing a stable level of insulin production throughout the day. Consuming high glycemic foods is favorable only before and after intense physical activity, to aid in maintaining energy levels for training and to promote recovery.

 

Before you go on a carb binder, there is an ugly side to insulin. Over consuming carbs, especially simple high glycemic foods, will lead to sharp spikes and valleys in insulin levels. Overtime your body will become resistant to insulin and cause your pancreas to increase production, leaving a lot of unbound insulin circulating through the body. This can lead to increased cortisol levels, increased fat storage, depression, Type II diabetes, and a slew of other nasty health problems. So while insulin can be very beneficial in aiding you on your quest to a lean healthy body, it must be managed and controlled to avoid any negative health effects.

 

PROGRAM DESIGN

Carb Cycling is a nutritional strategy that focuses on manipulating and adjusting your daily carbohydrate intake based on your daily metabolic demand. Simply put, Carb Cycling is a diet that increases or decreases the amount of carbs you eat depending on the physical demands of your daily activities. Since carbs fuel performance and recovery, days that you incorporate moderate to intense resistance training should have your highest carbohydrate intake. These are known as “high days.” High days are utilized to enhance recovery by replenishing the body’s depleted glycogen storage and improving the repair of damaged muscle tissue. Inversely, rest days and/or days you only perform low intensity cardio should have the lowest carbohydrate consumption. These are known as “low days.” Low days are utilized for increasing the body’s ability to burn fat. Low to moderate resistance training sessions should have a moderate carb intake on those days. These are “medium days.” Medium days are utilized for maintaining energy levels during your training sessions.

 

As noted previously in this article the majority of your carb intake on all days should come from low glycemic food sources. High glycemic carbs should only be utilized on High and Medium days’ pre and post workout. Protein consumption should remain constant throughout the entire week and come from lean animal sources and quality protein powders. Fats are inversely related to carbs due to insulin’s inhibitory effect on fat metabolism and promotion of fat storage. So High days should have the lowest fat consumption, and Low days should have the highest amount of fat intake. Dietary fats should come from healthy whole food sources that contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Below you will find a list of sample foods for the individual macronutrient categories.

 

Carbohydrates:

Low Glycemic: Beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, vegetables, thin-­‐skinned fruit, quinoa
High Glycemic: Breads, pasta, rice, thick-­‐skinned fruit, oats, wheat, honey, dextrose, table sugar

Protein:

Lean Animal Source: Grass fed beef, fish, eggs, chicken, turkey, elk, bison, venison
Powders: Ion Exchange Whey, Micellar Casein, Egg, Hydrolyzed Whey

Fats:

Food Source: Avocado, walnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, natural nut butters, olives,
Oils: Olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, red palm oil, and Omega 3 supplements are highly suggested for everyone
Now that you have an idea of what to eat and the basic principles of how to structure your days, its time do some math and figure out your daily macronutrient breakdown. Your current lean body mass (LBW) is necessary for the following calculations. To calculate your LBW, first multiply your body weight (BW) by your body fat percentage (BF%). Now subtract that number from your body weight, and this number is your LBW.
BW – (BW x BF%)=LBW

 

Male

High Day
Carbs: 1.5-2.5 (g) x LBW
Protein: 1-1.5 (g) x LBW
Fat:  .2-.3 (g) x LBW
Medium Day
Carbs:  1-1.5 (g) x LBW
Protein: 1-1.5 (g) x LBW
Fat:  .35-.4 (g) x LBW
Low Day
Carbs:  .5-.65 (g) LBW
Protein: 1-1.5 (g) x LBW
Fat:  .45-.6 (g) x LBW
(g)=grams
LBW=Lean Body Weight (lbs.)

Female

High Day
Carbs: 1-1.25 (g) x LBW
Protein:  .75-1 (g) x LBW
Fat: .15-.2 (g) x LBW
Medium Day
Carbs: .5-.85 (g) x LBW
Protein:  .75-1 (g) x LBW
Fat:  .25-.35 (g) x LBW
Low Day
Carbs:  .3-.45 (g) x LBW
Protein:  .75-1 (g) x LBW
Fat:  .4-.45 (g) x LBW
(g)=grams
LBW=Lean Body Weight (lbs.)

 

            Take note that once you have calculated your macronutrient ranges, only foods from their main source count towards the daily totals. For example, you wouldn’t count the 1.5 grams of fat in a serving of oatmeal toward your fat total. I suggest that everyone start with lower end of their macronutrient ranges and slowly progress to the higher ranges as you lean out and increase the intensity of your training sessions. For weight loss, I recommend 1-­‐2 High days, 2-­‐3 Medium days, and 2-­‐3 Low days. For lean weight gain, I recommend 2-­‐4 High days, 2-­‐3 Medium days, and 0-­‐2 Low days.

 

SUMMARY

Remember that everyone will respond differently to changing his or her diet, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t see a ripped six-­‐pack after the first week. This article should be utilized as a reference guide to designing your own Carb Cycling template, not as a Bible on Carb Cycling.

 

True success will evolve from your ability to apply these principles over the long haul and make a lifestyle change, not a crash diet.  Now go forth on your quest of health and fitness greatness. If you have questions regarding the content of this article or general questions related to health & fitness please feel free to email me, GShinoskie@ZoneAP.com.