Low carb diets and carb cycling

18th November * 3 min read

This guest blog by a former student is a great read and although most ‘diets’ work for fat loss so long as you are in a calorie deficit and the ‘diet’ is sustainable, carb cycling has boasted some great results of recent years….

“As it is coming up to that time of year where we are all thinking about getting beach body ready for the summer holidays, lets take a look at a way of carb cycling to help with shredding the fat whilst maintaining muscle mass. Many of us will be swayed into the typical fad diets which only concentrate on weight loss and do not consider muscle loss, which not only won’t make you look good on the beach, but will have other negative impacts on your health too. Fitness HQ personal training courses go into more detail about the pro’s and con’s of these diets and look at ways to help sustain a more balanced diet and understand the functions of each nutrient we take in.

Carbohydrates have quite a bad reputation when it comes to fat loss & muscle building purely because they cause an insulin spike (which can lead to your body holding excess amounts of carbs in the form of fat & not burn it). However, manipulating carbohydrate intake can be a huge aid in dropping fat & building muscle too.

If you’re out of shape, the likelihood is that you aren’t tolerant of carbohydrates. The good news is this can easily be reversed with good diet & regular resistance training. Both of which improve insulin sensitivity (meaning carbs don’t store as fat but they go straight to muscle cells). Individuals with poor insulin sensitivity will benefit from hard resistance training & a low carbohydrate diet for a short term period up to 6 weeks, followed by selectively reintroducing the right carbohydrates into their diet. Unfortunately there is no one size fits all method with carb cycling and it has to be down to the feedback your body gives you.

An important factor that needs to be assessed is your overall caloric intake as low carbs means protein and fat needs to be increased. Whilst on low carbs, fat should be the main source of energy making sure to keep saturates to a minimum and your protein intake should be at 2-3g per kg of body weight. This will help make sure you maintain your muscle mass in the process.

Your body is very good at letting you know when to reintroduce carbs and there are some tell tail signs such as; feeling sluggish, disturbed sleep, irritability and a lack of muscle pump when resistance training. If these start to occur its time to reintroduce carbs back into your diet.

Scientific evidence shows that you should have low, medium and high intake days. Low days should initiate fat loss as your body will use fats as the main fuel source and higher days will benefit muscle building

Reintroducing carbohydrates needs to be done slowly; start with 50g (high G.I.) per day (post workout within 30 mins). If this helps to relieve symptoms (detailed earlier) add in low/medium G.I. carbohydrates before bed on days that you train. If after doing this for 2 weeks you are still becoming leaner then you can progress into full carbohydrate cycling.

Providing you’re seeing changes, you can now move onto the method of cycling mentioned earlier. low (0-50g per day), medium (50-150g) & high carbohydrate days (150-300g). There may be slight variances depending on size, gender etc. but determining these days is generally quite simple. High intensity training days will be high carbs, moderate intensity days will be medium and rest days will be low. Remember when adding carbs back in to lower either fats or protein as to not exceed intended calories. As long as you can maintain the right amount of calories or have a deficit you will lose fat and keep your muscle mass in the process”.

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