The Carb Cycling Strategy

I’ve mentioned before that the number 1 rule for losing weight (or adding weight for that matter) is energy consumption vs energy expenditure.

Or energy in vs energy out

 

 

But often people hear this and it can be misleading, yes its right you do need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight (eating less energy than you’re expending) but this isn’t the be all and end all when in fact the TYPES and QUALITY of foods you’re eating to make up those calories WILL play a big role.

The type and quality of food you eat will affect you positively or negatively in these areas:

–    Hormones
–    Blood sugar levels
–    How you feel / energy levels
–    Immune system
–    Risk factors for basically every disease
–    Vitamin and mineral intake
–    Fibre consumption
–    Protein consumption
–    Fat consumption (good and bad)
–    Ability to recover properly from hard training
–    Ability to lose body fat
–    Ability to add strength
–    Ability to add muscle
–    Levels of inflammation and pain throughout your body

And i’m sure I’ve missed a few, and needless to say these areas all interrelated.

But to the point of today..

One of the key macro nutrients we want to address and manipulate when looking to lose body fat (particularly for somebody who has a problem with consuming too many calories) is carbohydrates, particularly processed, man made carbohydrates or or ‘non fruit & veg’ carbs.

There’s a couple of reasons for this, one being that whenever you eat carbs your body produces insulin as part of the digestive process, insulin being a hormone which is very ‘anabolic’ meaning that it will often promote the storage of body fat. When you eat a meal you want your body to produce as little insulin as possible, so ideally the food you eat won’t get stored.

Now not all carbs are equally bad, you’ve got things down one end of the spectrum like sugar which should be avoided by everyone at all times, then there’s things like sweet potato’s, potatoes, rice, quinoa, lentils, oats etc which can have a place in your diet depending on how well your particular body tolerates them and when you’re consuming them (after a weight training workout for example is by far the best time to eat some carbs along with your protein).

A lot of people struggle (myself included) with completely eliminating these ‘non fruit & veg carbs’ from their diet, I myself do eat the better quality ones mentioned above particularly on training days, and I sometime eat spelt bread (although I am not trying to lose weight and if I was I would eliminate a lot of these carbs).

However I am fully aware that even if your goal is to lose weight and it’s best to avoid the ‘non fruit & veg’ carbs, some people find this very hard.

One effective strategy is to cycle your carbs, meaning you have days where you allow yourself to eat ‘non fruit & veg’ carbs, and you have days where you don’t eat any at all. This can be a lot easier to mentally cope with for many people who struggle with the concept of not eating any bread, pasta, crackers, rice etc – and seems to be a lot less daunting than trying to stick to strict guidelines 100% of the time.

So a simple and straightforward way to set this up would be to only allow yourself to eat ‘non fruit & veg carbs’ on days that you do some sort of resistance training, and ideally, the sooner you can get them in after training, the better.

On these days and during these times your body will be a lot more sensitive to insulin (so you won’t produce as much after eating carbs), and the other great thing is a lot of the food and nutrients you ingest around your training hours will be partitioned to your muscles and used to replenish your body after intense exercise, instead of getting stored as body fat.

And using this approach you’ll probably halve the amount of processed carbs you’re eating week to week which in itself should make a big difference over time.

So if you’re doing some sort of high intensity, metabolic resistance training at least 3 days per week (which is ideal) then you’ve got 3 days per week you can relax a bit on the ‘non fruit and veg’ carbs – in fact it can be almost like a reward for some people.

Just BE WARNED – this ‘carb cycling’ approach in NOT an excuse to pig out on the wrong foods on the days you’re allowed to eat them. You should still be avoiding ‘sugary’ carbs at all times, and you want to stick to the good end of the spectrum like the foods mentioned earlier – sweet potato, potato, rice, quinoa, (spelt or dark rye bread if you are going to eat bread) etc. Remember if you’re trying to lose body fat you still have to have some self control, and yes you might be hungry sometimes, this strategy can just make things a little easier and allow you to structure the timing of your ‘non fruit & veg’ carb intake.

If you’re only training 1-2 times per week then this might give you some incentive to add another training session in to earn your carbs, OR it just means you’ve only got 1-2 days per week to eat them, you’re much better off doing more training but take your pick.

Hope this helps some of you, a good strategy to think about if it suits the way your mind works.


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