It’s super easy to get lost in the infinite realm of dieting bull. If you search google for the perfect diet for your goals you will very likely encounter too much self-contradicting advice, weird personal stories and flat out lies that don’t make the slightest bit of sense.
The truth is just about anybody can make progress as long as they have a proper diet, a decent training strategy, and hammer at it consistently. However, there is this is never ending debate about carbs: whether you should avoid them or eat them. Are cycling carbs the key to burning fat and getting ripped without losing any of your hard-earned precious muscle? Is that even possible?
Questions like these are the topic of several never-ending debates. Really the only real reason anybody cares is because we all want more muscle and less fat. Whatever our reasons might be for wanting that, carb cycling might be the way to go so we can get our best physique ever. For a lot of people, it seems that carbs are the worst problem for us. They don’t fill us up, easy to overeat and some people just can’t handle them well.
Either way, they’re worth managing and there is a possible solution that could let you build muscle while burning fat called carb cycling. Yeah, we know that you’re tired of reading about crazy new miracle diets, but guess what — we feel the exact same way.
Keep in mind carb cycling is not for everyone as some people just can’t handle it. Who knows, this might work for you or it might be the worst thing you’ve ever stumbled upon. If you’ve already tried everything and haven’t found what works, you might as well give it a shot.
So What Exactly Is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is one those new trends that’s been gathering a lot of momentum lately. It involves planned increases and decreases in carbohydrate intake (generally calories too).
There are many different carb cycling protocols but most have you alternate between at least two to three types of days:
High-carb days typically call for 2 to 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. They are usually your highest calorie days which also tend to be back and leg days. Your body will need the extra carbs for the intense workout and maybe even an awesome pre-workout.
Low-carb days typically call for about .5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight. They are usually your second highest calorie days which also tend to be your less intense workout days like chest, shoulders, and arms.
No-carb days typically calls for less than 30 grams of carbohydrates. They are usually your lowest calorie days and tend to be your rest days as well. You won’t need any carbs to function since you aren’t working out, although your body will prefer that you eat them.
This all sounds pretty complicated and usually, the only people who succeed are those who are very meticulous in their meal planning and committed to the bone. It can also be a pain in the ass, especially on your no-carb days when you might be feeling grouchy. This meme probably sums up how you act.
If you are going to go do the pain-in-the-ass form of dieting known as carb cycling there are some things you will want to keep in mind.
1. Expect to experience water gain
For every gram of carbs you take into the body you’ll store four grams of water along with this. If you’re eating 200-300 grams of carbohydrates on those high-carb days, this can add up pretty quickly. Leaner people will be quick to notice this since they have less fat. Try not to get alarmed if this does happen to you. It’s a normal process and there isn’t any fat gain. You’ll notice this go away once you deprive yourself of carbs for a few days.
2. Choose glucose over fructose and complex over simple carbs
Carb cycling doesn’t mean you should feel free to eat your favorite candies on a high-carb day (although you probably could get away with it). You still have to make good choices. Why go through all the trouble of planning your meals, going to the gym, working out really hard only to ruin any potential progress with sh*t food? It doesn’t make any sense.
What you want to do is avoid fructose for the most part as this type of carb won’t have the same benefits as glucose does. You also want to stick to complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grains which will give your body the best overall effect so you can feel good, have jack-rabbit energy and get ripped.
3. Decrease fat intake on high carb days
Another key thing to remember about carb cycling is that you should be decreasing overall dietary fat intake on the days you go high-carb. Most people just like to eat whatever they want on their high-carb day (which is fine if you want mediocre results), however, it’s best to lower your fat intake to allow more room for carbs without going too crazy within your calorie intake. Your fat intake should generally be about no more than 30g for most people unless you’re a unique snowflake.
4. You still have to be in a weekly caloric deficit to lose fat
This is probably the biggest most important fact you need to know about carb cycling. This sh*t won’t help you lose any fat if you’re not in a caloric deficit. Even though cycling your carbs does have performance and hormonal benefits, if you are not a caloric deficit you won’t lose any weight whatsoever.
Let’s say that you currently maintain your body weight at 2,500 calories per day or 17,500 calories per week. This means to lose one pound per week, you must create a caloric deficit (per week) of 3,500 calories or take in just 14,000 calories. A standard diet that makes you maintain the same calorie intake on all seven days, this would mean you take in 2,000 calories per day (2,500-500 = 2,000).
Now, since you are carb cycling and obviously want your higher carb days to have more calories, you are forced to get a little fancier with the math. Let’s say you want your high-carb days to be at maintenance (to really milk out all the benefits carb cycling has to offer), and plan to have two high carb days per week. Let’s set those two days at a caloric intake of 2,500 (which is your example maintenance, keep in mind protein should remain fixed throughout).
Now, since those two days equate to 5,000 calories, this means that you have 9,000 calories left over for the remaining five days or about 1500 calories for each day. As you can clearly see, those low-carb days can go quite low in calories, however, after coming off the higher carb day most people find this not to be a struggle as they usually cheat or do some form of pigging out.
If you’d prefer not to bring your low-carb days that low in total calories, just adjust your caloric intake on your high carb days to be a little less. That will give you more calories to spare for those low carb days. Some people tend to focus on their daily deficit, others more on their weekly. Either way, it’s all about balance. If you want to lose one pound a week you have to be at a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories (which has been explained already for the billionth time).
Really, you don’t need much more information to get started on carb cycling (besides your personal stats of course), it’s pretty simple when you keep the main points in mind. Now it’s just a question of if you want to do it or not. Try it out and experiment, see if it’s something you’ll actually like, especially since you don’t know till you try. Many people have used it to achieve a lean ripped chiseled physique, but that’s not meant for everybody, it might be meant for you if you can handle it.