Is Carb Cycling the way to go?
Proper diet and training strategy is widely known to be the blueprint behind any athletic advancement, but the fitness industry has been divided over the debate as to which diet reigns supreme for those looking to add muscle while restricting fat gain.
One can feel safe assuming that’s the goal for the majority of gym-goers, whether it be the average lifter looking for a fresh start in 2016 or the physique competitor hoping to attain their best-ever body for an upcoming show.
Carb cycling is one of the diet regime’s that’s gathered huge momentum in recent years, and the ultimate nutrition guru, Chris Aceto, has devised a seven-step plan to manipulating your carbohydrate intake to sculpt your best look yet. If you’ve heard, or read, of his name name—anywhere—then you know it’s solid information (Aceto has trained many elite Mr. Olympia-level competitors and is the current nutritional coach for Shawn Rhoden.)
We’ve broken down the carb-cycling strategy into a step-by-step detailed strategy, highlighting both the good and bad of this particular method, one of many that claims to be superior to the rest.
1. The Protein-Per-Pound Theory
Before we get to the numbers regarding carbohydrates, the seven-step plan outlines the protein-per-pound of bodyweight formula, a strategy almost as old as bodybuilding itself and the common method for most lifters.
Weigh 200 pounds? Eat 200 grams of protein per day. You’re a slightly sleeker 120 pounds? Eat 120 grams of protein.
There are those out there who feel this to be an unnecessarily high figure due to the fact carbs can perform similar functions to protein when it comes to feeding muscle growth, but Aceto insists that you should “only count the protein found in meat, eggs, dairy and milk- or egg-based protein powders.”
2. Carbs In Moderation
For the first four days of your 12-day program, intake should stand between 1.5 to 1.75 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight, a figure that’s designed to trigger the release of insulin, a key hormone in fat retention/gain/loss.
For example, a 150-pound person taking in 225 grams of carbs per day will merely be digesting enough to activate the hormone without piling anything on those love handles.
3. Eight-Day Carb-a-Thon
Here’s where carb-cycling can be fun, especially if you’re transitioning from a low-carb diet that’s resulted in a plateau.
For the next eight days, the guide recommends boosting your carb intake to somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight, meaning a 150-pound person can consume up to 525 grams per day, which can be a lot to digest.
Of course the difference between 2.5 and 3.5 grams of carbs per day is quite vast, but we’ll get to that shortly.
4. Rinse and Repeat
After your high eight-day load of carbs, dropping back down to the “moderate” amount can seem like something of a chore, but this is what carb-cycling is all about, putting the body into the slightest state of “shock” without feeling any real detrimental effects.
In this instance, “shock” is a very loose term, considering that the “moderate amounts” can still be considered quite generous.
Here’s where playing with your figures is essential, and verging between the lower and upper extremities of your carb allowance will allow you to squeeze the most out of your carb cycle.
The aim is to manipulate insulin levels and glycogen stores so that your body sees the effects of the process without numbing your brain and making you walk around like the cast of The Walking Dead.
If you’ve been generous and gone with 3.5 grams of carbs during your high-carb phase, drop closer to 2.5 grams for a 12-day split and reassess. There is no one formula.
6. Thermogenic Influence
A higher carbohydrate intake means thermogenesis will also be encouraged at a more intense level, but again, we don’t want to pile our plate so high with carbs that we move past triggering this effect and into fat gain territory.
Coming from a personal viewpoint, learning not to be afraid of carbs can be a massive obstacle, but learning restraint once past that phobia is arguably an even greater hurdle.
7. Thyroid Levels
Lastly, thyroid levels are a gauge of whether one might be overindulging on carbs—therefore increasing—or not getting enough carbs on board—therefore decreasing thyroid levels.
The gland plays a large role in our metabolism and the release of hormones that keep us keep fat gain in check and poses another factor worth monitoring in order to determine whether what, and how much, we’re eating pertains to our goals.