Among the hundreds of myths circling in the fitness and bodybuilding community, one of the biggest and most enduring is that if you’re having trouble getting lean, carbs are the main culprit. You must have also heard that ‘carbs are the devil’. That is why there are so many people out there who’ve been fooled into thinking this and who are wasting their time and energy on low carb diets. This type of diet not only slows down their metabolism it can even stop fat loss altogether in the long term, as the body activates its survival mechanism and starts to keep as much fat as possible.
It’s time to put an end to this old fallacy. Provided that you consume your carbs from the right sources, in the optimal amounts and at optimal times of the day, they can become a powerful tool in your quest to build muscle and lose fat.
One of the most clever methods to harness the power of carbohydrates consumption is ‘carb cycling’. The main idea behind carb cycling is to alternate the amount of carbs you consume day to day and week to week. When you think about it, it makes sense. Why would you need to eat the same amount of carbs on the day of a brutal leg workout as when you are just training biceps or just having a rest day?
Simply put, this method allows you to manipulate your metabolic hormones which will help your body burn fat easily. Proponents of this method believe it to be extremely effective at getting shredded. However, some think that this approach is not “one size fits all” and may not be beneficial for everyone.
Each person is different, with a unique body, which means that each person will get the greatest, most sustainable benefits from an approach which is best suited to their lifestyle. That’s why it’s so important to weigh up the pros and cons of this weight loss protocol and determine whether it’s the optimal nutrition strategy for your individual body composition goals.
This leads us to the question: how does carb cycling work and what’s the underlying mechanism? In a nutshell, you fluctuate the amount of carbohydrates you’re consuming every day, which means you alternate between high carb, medium carb and low to no carb days. As we already mentioned, it’s a clever and simple method in that on high carb days you’re eating for muscle building whereas on low carb days you’re priming your body to burn fat.
This means that you will never be on a constantly high car or low carb diet, but always alternating between them which will keep your metabolism functioning optimally. You alternate the carb amount whilst keeping the daily protein and fat intake the same. This also means that the number of calories you eat daily will fluctuate.
You will have a higher caloric intake on training days and a lower one on rest days. It is imperative however that during the entire week you are in a constant state of caloric deficit which is essential to losing fat and which also makes tracking each meal a must.
It all boils down to how hormones work in the body. When you consume carbs, sugar is transformed into glucose and insulin is released to decrease the blood sugar levels. This is great when you’ve just finished your workout and the insulin transports amino acids and glucose straight to your muscles. However, when you’re merely resting and eat carbs, your insulin spikes and your body stops burning fat and uses the glucose as an energy source instead. All the glucose that isn’t used up is then stored as fat deposits.
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