Carb cycling has become my go to eating plan. Along with clean eating, and following the 80/20 rule, I have found it to be the easiest, and most effective for my busy lifestyle. Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but if you are training, and wanting to lose fat you need carbs in your diet.
Many women ask me what carb cycling is and how they incorporate it, so here is a beginners guide to carb cycling.
What is carb cycling?
Carb cycling is basically alternating high carb days and low carb days. Always use carbs from clean foods not junk foods. You want to chose from unprocessed, whole grain, high fiber carbs.
Some examples would be:
-brown rice, quinoa, barley, whole grains
-sweet potatoes, starchy veggies
Our bodies need the right combination of carb, protein, and healthy fats.
Protein- Think of protein as the furnace. It breaks down more slowly, and helps you feel fuller longer. It also promotes muscle growth and repair.
Carbs- Think of carbs as the kindling. The right kind of carbs will kick start your energy levels and keep your fat burning furnace hot to burn more calories. Healthy carbs are crucial since they break down more slowly than the non-healthy carbs, and they keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady.
Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) eaten in moderation help the development and function of your eyes and brain and help prevent heart disease, stroke, depression, and arthritis. Healthy fats also help keep your energy levels steady and keep you from feeling hungry. Examples of healthy fats are avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, nuts and nut butter, greek yogurt, chia seeds, spirulina, and grass-fed cheeses.
Why carb cycle?
The high carb days help promote muscle growth and low carb days help minimize fat gain and even promote fat loss. High carb days can help with over all fitness performance and strength gain, while low carb days will help maximize fat burning.
How to start carb cycling?
First, you need to figure out how many days a week you will have high and low carb days. High Carb days should be placed on your heavy training days. Low carb days will be placed on lighter activity days. Plus, you are able to work in reward days to keep you from feeling deprived. Here are a couple example of high carb/low carb plans:
Monday- Low carb
Friday- Low carb
Saturday- High carb with a reward meal
Sunday-High carb with a reward meal
Intermediate (easiest to follow, for someone with light to heavy activity, StrongHer girls, this would be a good plan for you):
Monday- Low carb
Wednesday- Low Carb
Friday- Low carb
Saturday- High carb
Advanced (for someone with multiple heavy lifting days and athletic performance):
Monday- High carb
Friday- High carb
Saturday- Low carb
Advanced 2 (for those who need rapid weight loss or to lean out, think body builders or fitness models ):
Monday-Low carb day
Tuesday-Low carb day
Wednesday-High carb day
Thursday- Low carb day
Friday- Low carb day
Saturday-High carb day
Keep in mind, with every meal you will be eating high fiber, non-starchy veggies (think asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, celery, cucumber, onions, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, peppers)
What does a high carb day look like?
On high carb days you will be eating a protein, fat, and carb at almost every meal. An example of this would be:
Breakfast-Protein + Carb + Fat
Snack- Protein + Carb
Lunch- Protein + Carb
Snack (if needed)- Protein + Carb
Dinner- Protein + Carb
What does a low carb day look like?
On low carb days you will still start your day off with a protein, fat, and a carb. It's the rest of the day that will look different. Here's an example of a low carb day:
Breakfast- Protein + Carb +Fat
Snack- Protein + Fat
Lunch-Protein + Fat
Snack (if needed)- Protein
Dinner- Protein + Fat
Remember to keep your portion sizes right. Proteins should be about the size of your palm, carbohydrates the size of your fist, healthy fats the size of your thumb, and veggies is 2 fists full. If you are still hungry at any point, you can add more veggies to your meal or snack.
I hope this basic look at carb cycling gives you a better understanding of it's benefits, and how it can work for you! If you have any questions please feel free to contact me. If you are looking for a workout plan to coincide with your carb cycling you can join the StrongHer program. Or if you are looking for that extra edge by incorporating supplements, I take this MNS3 product while carb cycling.