Carb cycling and counting macros. For those of you who don’t know what it is it may not sound that exciting. Trust me I get it, I would rather chase pigeons in Central Park with Voldemort than do math. However, the results you can get are worth it.
What is carb cycling?
First things first, what is carb cycling? Mini disclaimer: it does not involve a bicycle. Your body’s favorite form of fuel and energy comes from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates allow your muscles to be full of glycogen, it is really easy for your body to convert carbs into energy. However, if your body has used up all the carbs, it has to find another way of making energy. In this case your body uses fat that is stored in your fat cells. And when this happens, you lose weight.
Right now you might be thinking: “Wow, that sounds cool, so if I eat very little carbs all the time i’ll be super shredded in no time, and life will be jolly good.”
Sorry to disappoint you, mate, that’s not how it works. Our bodies are made in a way that they adapt to whatever we are doing. So, if you eat high fat and low carb all the time, your body will get used to using fat as a primary source of fuel. Now, that is when you start to plateau, might get metabolic damage, and all that other annoying stuff you probably do not want.
The way to sustain your fat-burn and fat-loss is to carb cycle. When you carb cycle you have low carb days, moderate carb days and high carb days. On low carb days you eat a little amount of carbohydrates (this way your body can use fat as a source of energy), on moderate carb days you eat a moderate amount of carbs, and on high carb days you obviously eat a lot of cabs (enough to fuel your body for the whole day).
How to do it?
Here is the part when the macro counting comes in. Disclaimer: you may or may not have to count things. Firstly your going to have to calculate the number of macro’s you need, you can do that right here: https://www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator/ . Done? Okay let’s move on! You can include 1-2 high carb days per week into your plan, depending on how much you exercise. It is a good idea to plan high carb days on a day that you are going to be quite active. So if you are going to smash out a high intensity workout at the gym, walk around all day, or chase pigeons in Central Park with Voldemort all day, you can definitely go for a high carb day. All the other days will either be low carb days, or moderate carb days.
Okay here comes the easy breezy go to carb cycling guide:
Your protein intake should always stay the same, so the macro numbers for that stay the same. On a low carb day your carb numbers go down and fat numbers go up, and on a high carb day carb numbers go up and fat numbers go down. Let me give you an example:
Let’s say the normal amount of calories I’d need a day is 1700. This means I need 11800 calories a week. Low carb days will be low calorie, and high carb days will be high calorie, and moderate days will be moderate.
In this imaginary world this could be my calories and macro numbers:
Monday: Low carb, 1300 calories, 115 protein, 77 fat, 35 carbs
Tuesday: Moderate carb, 1600 calories, 115 protein, 60 fat, 150 carbs
Wednesday: Moderate carb, 1600 calories, 115 protein, 60 fat, 150 carbs
Thursday: High carb, 2200 calories, 115 protein, 60 fat, 295 carbs
Friday: Low carb, 1300 calories, 115 protein, 77 fat, 35 carbs
Saturday: Moderate carb, 1600 calories, 115 protein, 60 fat, 150 carbs
Sunday: High carb, 2200 calories, 115 protein, 60 fat, 295 carbs
So, the only thing you manipulate is the carbohydrate and fat intake. Protein stays the same. In this imaginary world my most intense workout/movement days would be on Sunday and Thursday.
Why bother? What are the benefits?
- It can improve your metabolic output. Whenever you reduce your daily intake of calories for a period of time, your metabolic rate is going to adapt and start to slow down. This is due to the shift in a particular hormone called leptin, which regulates both total body fat cells as well as incoming energy. Basically, your body gets used to the low calories and that is how you stop losing fat, plateau. Carb cycling prevents this. The high carb days and moderate carb days balance it out, and don’t let your body get used to the calorie and carb deficit.
- High exercise performance. Most people that are looking to lose weight, go on a very low carb and calorie diet. It is very hard to have enough energy to workout, or even drag yourself to the gym when you don’t have enough fuel. If you plan your hardest, most intensive workouts on a high carb day you can keep your performance as well as your fat loss on track.
- It is easier to maintain than most diets. Having high carb days, makes it easier for most people to stick to their diet because it does not make you feel deprived. It is much easier to eat less for a day instead of a week.
Does it have any drawbacks?
Of course it does. Everything in life has pros and cons. One drawback is that it involves doing math, you’ll have to calculate quite a few things before you can get started. Additionally, meal prep becomes a bit more complicated. You’ll have to construct your meals according to the macro numbers you need on a specific day.
All in all, carb cycling can be quite beneficial. It can help you lose fat while maintaining most of your muscle. So, if you’re looking to get toned give it a go. Keep in mind though: you will have to do it for about a week or two to see results. AND you’ll have to do math.