We have all been there trying every health and fitness trend on the planet. Low calorie, keto, intermittent fasting - the list never ends. Enter 2021 and the carb cycle.
What Is Carb Cycling?
With no strict set of rules per se, carb cycling is exactly what the name suggests. Periodic cycling of carbohydrates. The theory fuses elements of a low carb diet with an everything-in-moderation approach, encouraging higher carb consumption on active days, and less on less active days. Think of it as “part time keto” minus the super high fats. For someone like myself with an irregular and spontaneous schedule, this works perfectly because carb days can be allocated according to social or work heavy days!
After around one month of cycling carbs and workouts I surprisingly started to see some abs form and before I knew it I was shredding my way to a six pack! The craziest part is that I was having to actively add more carbs into my diet and always felt like I was adding more food rather than cutting. Miraculous!
The ideology behind carb cycling is that fat stores are primarily used for energy when carbohydrate intake is lower. So if our bodies are consuming lower amounts of carbohydrates overall, fat stores will be the primary source of energy during active workouts and movement.
How do you do it?
Put plain and simply, I follow a four day variation of carb intake and cycle this in perpetuity.
Day one: 0 serving of carbs
Day two: 1 serving of carbs (100g)
Day three: 1 serving of carbs (100g)
Day four: 3 servings of carbs (200-300g)
Over time I have become a lot more flexible with sticking to set foods (ie adding avocado to brekky or pumpkin to lunch), but the below is a great starting point or guide! I also tend to consume swap meal times. For instance if I want oats for dinner I will allocate them to the evening and have chicken and salad in the morning! It seems to work and helps everything feel under control.
Zero carb day: eggs (usually hard boiled; 2 x whites and 1 x whole) with spinach, cut up fruit, fish/chicken and green veggies, protein bar/shake, yoghurt, fish/chicken and greens, handful of nuts.
One (100g) carb day: oats with nut butter and berries, eggs (usually hard boiled; 2 x whites and 1 x whole) with baby spinach, fish/chicken/smoked salmon and greens, protein bar/shake, yoghurt with nuts or cacao, fish/chicken and greens.
Three day (200-300g): oats with banana and nut butter, eggs (usually hard boiled; 2 x whites and 1 x whole) with spinach, fish/chicken/red meat and greens with quinoa or brown rice, protein bar/shake, yoghurt, fish/chicken and greens, and a handful nuts.
After getting into the groove of this, you can then pimp out your plan. Whether it be swapping the type of carbohydrate (but sticking to the good carbs and for example, swapping oats for brown rice), or pimping a meal out with nuts or spices, the option to get creative is endless. Just say you want to go out and nibble on some sweet potato fries with your girls on a Friday - just take the oats out from the morning and you’re good to go! Flexibility at its finest.
The beauty of carb cycling is that unlike keto, close relative of the carb cycle, there is no need to keep your body in a constant state of ketosis. This means that you can be as strict or flexible as you like, and even incorporate things like intermittent fasting. Listening to your body and its cravings is crucial for long term sustainability, and the flexibility of carb cycling allows you to take control and even add little treats!
Of course like always, portion and calorie control are something to be mindful of, as is keeping active. Daily exercise gives the extra boost towards good health and on top of getting your daily 10,000 steps in, a variety of HIIT workouts, steady cardio, active rest days, and weights will get you in tip top shape!