Diet Tricks: What is Carb Cycling?

List: Posted: 01/31/12

Carbohydrate cycling is an innovative form of dieting developed in the last few decades.  Along with the Ketogenic diet, it is the most successful way to shed fat while still retaining muscle.  Popular among the body building community, Carb Cycling has helped some competitors get down to as little as 4% body fat!


Carb cycling is also psychologically gratifying compared to other diets.  For example, with Atkins (a close cousin to carb cycling), you need to restrict all carbs which means you are always craving sugars, wheat, and other grains.  The same can be said for the Keto Diet.


Carbohydrate cycling, on the other hand, allows you to indulge yourself in carbs once every three days.  Only two days a week do you have to restrict your carbs completely.

How Carb Cycling Works


Carb cycling works like most diets.  Your calorie consumption is less than the amount you burn so you lose weight.  However with low fat diets, your body tends to break down muscle for weight loss.  Carb cycling targets fats specifically to retain hard-earned muscle. 


Here’s how it works.  Your liver metabolizes carbs into glycogen that is injected into the bloodstream.  When your cells work, they take the glycogen out of the bloodstream and use it for energy.  The blood can fill up with glycogen if you eat too many carbs and when this happens, your body converts excess calories into fat. 


If you work hard enough, you burn all the glycogen in your blood and your liver needs to find more carbs to make glycogen.  If there are no carbs, it will either turn to proteins in your muscles and convert that into glycogen, or burn fat for energy.  You want the latter to occur so that your love handles will shrink rather than your biceps.


Why Carb Cycling Works With Your Body


Carb cycling creates the perfect environment for your body to choose fat instead of muscle when looking for energy.  It does this by filling up your liver with glycogen to make it think it doesn’t need to break down proteins in your muscles.  It then depletes glycogen in the bloodstream so that your body metabolizes the adipose tissue.


The most common form of carb cycling is a three day rotation.  On the first day, you can eat as many complex carbs as you wish.  The following day, you must restrict carbohydrate intake to one gram per pound of body weight.  On the third and final day, you cannot eat any carbohydrates – this is where most fat loss occurs.  By this time you will be probably be craving carbs, but the good news is the next day you can eat as many as you want. 


Since you are not depriving yourself of carbs constantly, your cravings are easy to keep in check.  Plus, with carb cycling, you don’t have to count every single calorie that you ingest, making it a pretty intuitive and easy to maintain diet.


Once you learn the concept of carb cycling, you can tweak the plan to fit your needs.  Some people require more carbs, some less.  Others may want to have two high carb days followed by two low carb days.  Whatever you prefer, carb cycling is a proven way to lose fat quickly while still maintaining muscle mass.



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