A low carb diet is a popular choice for weight loss, and can be combined with splurge days to be more effective and easy to maintain. Interest in carb cycling diets is on the rise because of the appeal of being able to eat cheat foods and still lose weight quickly. Carb cycling involves eating low carb for a period of time followed by a day of increased carbohydrate consumption. Learning to carb cycle may help speed weight loss and prevent you from dropping your diet when you slip up and cheat.
Carb cycling has many benefits over a strict low carb diet. Psychologically, it can be easier to eat low carb when you know you can have a high carb day every few days. Allowing yourself to enjoy your favorite high carb foods every few days can strengthen your willpower for the days when you eat low carb.
Carb cycling can also be a great fat loss tool. Eating low carb teaches your body to burn it's own body fat for fuel instead of relying on dietary carbohydrates. Once your body increases it's ability to burn fat, your occasional high carb days won't derail this ability and you will lose weight.
Cycling carbohydrates also regulates hormones related to hunger and allows your body to restore it's muscle glycogen stores. This can be helpful if you are an athlete, as glycogen is necessary for exercise.
There are a couple of different approaches to carb cycling. One of the most popular is to eat low carb five days a week and high carb on two days of your choice. The days can be back-to-back or separated by a few days. Your carb intake on high carb days should not exceed about 50 percent of your daily calories, and your calories on those days should be right at about the level that a weight loss calculator suggests for maintenance. On your lower carb days, your carbs should be zero to 50 grams a day and your calories should be lower than on your high carb days.
For a 160 pound female, your carb cycling diet may look like this: Monday: low carb, 1,150 calories, 0 to 50 grams carbs maximum Tuesday: high carb, 1,950 calories, 243 grams of carbs maximum Wednesday: low carb, 1,150 calories, 0 to 50 grams carbs maximum Thursday: low carb, 1,150 calories, 0 to 50 grams carbs maximum Friday: low carb, 1,150 calories, 0 to 50 grams carbs maximum Saturday: high carb, 1,950 calories, 243 grams of carbs maximum Sunday: low carb, 1,150 calories, 0 to 50 grams carbs maximum
Use an online calorie calculator to determine how many calories you need to maintain weight based on your age, height and weight. That is your calorie count for high carb days, with no more than 50 percent of calories from carbs. On low carb days, aim for a calorie count that will create a 1 to 2 lb. loss every week with no more than 50 grams of carbs per day.
You will have best results if you stick to healthy foods as much as possible. Try to choose lower glycemic index carbs for one of your high carb days and higher glycemic foods on the other. This allows you to enjoy all your favorite foods but also encourages fruit and vegetable intake instead of getting all your carbs from less healthy sources such as sugar and white flour. Lower glycemic index carbohydrates have been shown to be better choices for weight reduction than high glycemic carbs, according to a study published in March 2007 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Finding success with a carb cycling diet plan can mean letting go of the idea of dieting and feeling guilty about low willpower and slip-ups that often cause people to give up on their diets. Realizing that eating cheat foods can actually help your weight loss efforts is the first step in getting off the yo-yo dieting cycle. Learning to eat in a way that satisfies your cravings and supports fat loss and lean muscle gain is the key to changing your body composition for good, and carb cycling can be a good tool to use to find dieting balance.
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Fat adaptation for athletic performance: The nail in the coffin?
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition:Effects of a reduced-glycemic-load diet on body weight, body composition, and cardiovascular disease risk markers in overweight and obese adults
- Calories Per Hour