Carb-Cycling is a dietary tool to help reduce body fat. I tried this for two weeks and was impressed with the results so I thought I would write a short blog on my thoughts so far and how I will approach it going forward. There are many more-detailed articles online regarding how to approach it yourself but this is just my experience so far.
The basic idea behind carb-cycling is that by having “low-carb” days, your body will burn more body fat. When carbohydrates are digested, they are stored as glycogen which is the primary source of energy. When you are glycogen-depleted, the body turns to fat and protein for energy. To keep your muscle mass, it is important to keep protein levels high.
This is the plan I designed to stick to. It had three “medium-carb”, two “low-carb” and two “high-carb” days. I also incorporated some “calorie-cycling”.
Previously I would have aimed for the same macros every day with a cheat meal at the weekend. I would average just over 2000 calories per day with approx 150g of carbs but I was never that strict on myself so it would never be exact same macros every day.
I started the carb-cycling after a heavy weekend in London so I was ready to stick to it strictly. The first three medium-carb days were fine. It is possible to stretch 125g of carbs quite far on these days and I didn’t really feel like I was dieting. I didn’t count my veg in my carbs, just my sweet potato, pasta, oats etc.
The low-carb days, however, were tough. I don’t know if it is the placebo effect of having very little carbs but I was exhausted. There were only 100 calories in the difference so I shouldn’t have felt a huge difference but I did. I kept myself happy by increasing my fats and having peanut butter as a treat. The first Friday on low-carb was very testing - my car broke down and I had to train late in the day. I stayed disciplined though with the promise of a glorious bowl of oats on the Saturday morning!
The high-carb days were great! I had pasta, fizza (fake pizza), protein bars (usually have 20-25g of carbs) and I wasn’t hungry at all. However the big difference was that I didn’t have a cheat meal. I usually have something on at the weekend which I would write off as a cheat meal but I thought this would skew the carb-cycling so decided against it for that weekend. I was in my friends house for “nibbles and drinks”, and although I wasn’t hungry, it was one of the toughest mental battles. I was sitting in front of delicious goujons, sausages, wedges, crisps and dips. I nearly had to sit on my hands! But I did it!
Week 2 played out very similar to Week 1 but I lowered the first few days to 1800 and 1700 respectively because I had a photoshoot on the Saturday (Halloween).
I saw a great change in my body in the two weeks. For the photoshoot I felt like I could have been a lot leaner but I think I had enough definition to keep me happy. I think the carb-cycling (of only two weeks!) worked well but there are other factors that need to be considered.
- I had gone from a weekend of eating and drinking in London so getting back to eating “normally” would have reduced any bloating significantly
- I didn’t have a cheat meal, so overall, my calorie deficit would have been greater than if I had my usual weekend thai or pizza!
- I was a lot more disciplined on myself than I would have normally been because of the photoshoot which would have resulted in a greater calorie deficit than normal.
So to conclude, I think the calorie deficit was the biggest factor. I have another photo shoot in four weeks, just before Christmas and I plan to try the carb-cycling again when I get home from Portugal. I am going to aim for no cheat meals but I will assess how I am looking and feeling and decide week by week if I can eat out or I might be able to plan it into my high carb days. I think I can safely say Dominos is off the cards until after! I will post an update blog when I have more experience but I know a few people were interested in hearing my initial thoughts.
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