Carb Cycling

Carb Cycling

Carb Cycling:

Carb cycling is a nutrition method / strategy which has been used within physique transformations and bodybuilding for a number of years. However, social media has recently popularised this nutrition method to an extent where it is now deemed as the Holy Grail of nutrition.

carb-cycling-personal-trainer-courses

 

This brief article will outline the benefits of Carb Cycling, how to implement it and how it can help you reach your physique goals including a reduction in body fat and even an increase in muscle simultaneously. Please note that the simultaneous reduction in body fat and increase in lean muscle are mostly experienced in novice trainers or those who have recently started to train after a sustained break.

 

How?

Carb cycling is what it says on the tin. The primary principle of Carb Cycling is to increase the amount of carbohydrates you consume on intense training days or training days with greater volume e.g. Legs and reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume on less intense training days such as an Arms day or a rest day. Having said this, from experience with clients, you can also increase the total amount of carbohydrates on days where you are training muscles / body parts which are lacking behind others in size and strength to encourage development. This could help target perceived weaker physique points.

However, depending on the goal, although you reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume on low intensity training days, you may increase the amount of fat you eat to maintain the overall total calorie intake that day. This protocol would be beneficial to someone who is looking to gain lean tissue but maintain insulin sensitivity. On the other hand, during low carbohydrate days you may wish to keep your fat content the same in order to create an overall calorie deficit for the week. This protocol may be used if you’re looking to reduce weight or shred some fat!

Benefits:

One of the primary benefits of Carb Cycling is the maintenance of Insulin Sensitivity. In a nutshell, Insulin Sensitivity aids your ability to use carbohydrates in a positive manner rather than store it as visceral fat. There will be a free resource available soon outlining the importance of insulin Sensitivity and how to maintain it… keep an eye out on our Facebook page for this great handout!

Another benefit of Carb Cycling is the psychological aspect. It’s no secret that low carbohydrate diets in most cases will promote fat loss in the short term; however, the psychological aspect of low carb diets over an extended period of time is daunting for most clients. Carb Cycling differs in that it offers the client ‘something to look forward to’ in a higher carbohydrate day. We discuss the psychological concerns with dieting in far more detail during our Fitness HQ Personal Training courses.

Energy… The higher carbohydrate days replenish glycogen stores which result in better workouts and more energy. Low carbohydrate diets not only reduce testosterone over a long period of time, or down regulate your thyroid, but they can also be energy zapping which result in poor workouts which results in fewer #gains!

An example of a Carb Cycling routine can be found below for an individual who has a BMR of 2370kcals which results in a weekly maintenance calorie intake of 16590kcals. The client’s ultimate goal is a reduction of body fat: Please note this is just an example for a fictional client!

 

Day Split Routine / Training Intensity Macronutrient Split Justification
Monday Chest & Biceps Carbohydrates – 150g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 1870

 

A medium carb’ day to accommodate medium size muscle groups.
Tuesday Legs & Abs Carbohydrates – 250g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 2270

 

A high carb day to accommodate the large muscle size and high intensity session.
Wednesday Back & Biceps Carbohydrates – 150g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 1870

 

A medium carb’ day to accommodate medium size muscle groups.
Thursday REST Carbohydrates – 50g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 1470

 

Due to it being a rest day the carb’s are halved as less energy is needed.
Friday Shoulders & Abs Carbohydrates – 150g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 1870

 

A medium carb’ day to accommodate medium size muscle groups.
Saturday Legs & Calves Carbohydrates – 250g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 2270

 

A high carb day to accommodate the large muscle size and high intensity session
Sunday REST Carbohydrates – 50g

Protein – 160g

Fats – 70g

Kcals – 1470

 

Due to it being a rest day the carb’s are halved as less energy is needed.
  Total Calories for the week are 13090 which is 3500kcals less than the weekly maintenance BMR. This would theoretically result in a loss of 1lb.

NB This doesn’t take into account their body type or other determinants etc & is used just as an example.

 

Extra Pointers:

The sources of carbohydrates you or your client consume are important. It is advised that you consider the following non-refined sources in place of the refined less nutritious options such as bread or confectionary.

  • Sweet Potato
  • White Potato
  • Green Vegetables
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Fruit

 

It is also vital to consider the importance of nutrient timing. For example, it is advised that you consume your higher GI sources such as fruit immediately post training and the lower GI sources thereafter. The higher GI sources will cause an insulin response which will help replenish the muscle cell and is ideal post training. However, a continued excessive insulin response throughout the day will result in an accumulation of fat over a prolonged period of time.

 

Ease your client into it… It is way too easy to over prescribe carbohydrates to your clients. It is advised that you start off low and slowly increase the amount of carbohydrates you or your client consume as you/they progress. The leaner you are the more carbohydrates you can generally tolerate and a lot of trainers use this to determine your insulin sensitivity. Slow and steady always wins!

 

Gut health… Always consider the health of your client’s gut before prescribing any kind of nutrition plan. During our Personal Training courses and Nutrition course we discuss the importance of gut health in depth. Refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated fats in particular can exacerbate gut problems. Signs and symptoms of poor gut health, a permeable gut or leaky gut include some of the following:

  • Excessive weight gain
  • Flatulence
  • Lose stool
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain / cramps / discomfort
  • Toilet urgency

 

If you or your clients suffer from poor gut health or any of the above symptoms, then Fitness HQ highly recommends you seek a health professional’s advice before continuing with any nutrition or training programme. Also, Fitness HQ will be publishing a free resource on Gut Health in the near future on our social media platforms to help you overcome this barrier… so keep your eye out for this!

 

Fitness HQ hope you found this free resource helpful, for more free information please visit our website and our blog. Alternatively if you would like more information on our Personal Training courses or other fitness qualifications please don’t hesitate in e-mailing us at info@fitness-hq.co.uk

2 Comments
  • Anon
    Posted at 00:02h, 06 August Reply

    Seriously I’ve tried this for myself. It took some trial and error. I found going 3 days low carb followed by depletion workout and then high carb worked best of all the combos I tried. My problem is although it did help get the abs out, I found it a hard method to stick to. Any advice?

    • Fitness HQ
      Posted at 20:33h, 08 August Reply

      Hi Anon, thanks for your comment. What did you find hard, the low calories on your low carb days? A good way to overcome that is to increase your fats that day. That way it still helps support insulin sensitivity but helps keep you full at the same time.

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