Officially created and implemented in late 1980’s by Franco Carlotto, Carb Cycling is one of the easiest diet patterns to follow. It can help in both, to reduce fat and to gain muscle mass. Unlike other diet patterns, it allows you to have periods to have your favorite food.
In Carb Cycling, you use periods of carbohydrate restriction coupled with carbohydrate loading or refeeding.
Carb Cycling has two phases, Low Carb Days (Glycogen Depletion Phase) and High Carb Days (Glycogen Replenishment Phase). During low carb days, you go usually as low as 50 grams of carbohydrates per day. And during High Carb Days, you can go as high as 400-600 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Some people also refer this diet as cyclic ketogenic diet, as it uses periods of ketosis during low carb days or no carb days.
There are many types of carb cycling. Few are very famous as 3 days of low carb days followed by one high carb day, or 5 low carb days followed by one or two high carb days. Other known types are (low carb day : high carb day) 1:1, 10:3, 1:2, 2:1, 7:2, 3:2. You can choose any type according to your goal. More low carb (low calorie) days in a week than high carb days can allow you to reduce more fat, and more high carb (high calorie) days in a week than low carb days can allow you to gain more muscle mass.
Basically, carb cycling is always combined with caloric cycling approach. In which, you use restricted caloric intake approach on low carb days and maintenance or slight above than maintenance on high carb days. On low carb days, you keep your fat intake high, and on high carb days, you keep your fat intake low.
Exercise and Carb Cycling
Exercise and high or low carb days are set accordingly. On low carb days, you can train small muscle groups or keep your workout intensity low. And on high carb days, you can train large muscle groups or keep your workout intensity high and make it worth it.
According to science, there are two main hormones responsible for the regulation of fat storage and muscle synthesis in carb cycling, Leptin and Insulin. Leptin has been one of the most focused topics in past decade in health and fitness industry. Hypothalamus (region of the brain), control fat storage and hunger with the help of Leptin (and few other hormones also). Increased leptin levels leads to decreased hunger. Whereas, low leptin levels leads to decrease in metabolism (less energy expenditure by cells), and increased hunger. On the other hand, Insulin is known as fat storing hormone, but it is also an important hormone to initiate protein synthesis. mTOR, initiate protein synthesis in the presence of higher levels of leucine (amino acid) and insulin.
In carb cycling, professionals try to manipulate both insulin and leptin. By going to low carb phase, they try to increase insulin sensitivity. The more insulin sensitive the body ll be, the more effectively it’ll help in protein synthesis. And on the other hand, when body’s leptin levels starts falling down, they introduce an high carb day to keep leptin levels on mark, so that metabolism doesn’t fall and body keeps using it’s stored energy (fats) on normal pace.
Who can follow
Anyone, who wants to loose fat or increase muscle mass can follow carb cycling. The difference between both ll be numbers of high carb vs low carb days. For example, one who wants to gain muscle ll keep more high carb or high calorie days than low carb or low calorie days. The one, who wants to loose fat ll do the opposite.
In the end, carb cycling is one of the easiest and most effective diet patterns to follow while still you can have your favorite food on some or most of the days of week. It has many other health benefits as well, like increased insulin sensitivity, improved lipid profiles, better blood glucose regulation, improved body composition, increase in lean muscle mass, etc. Still, there is an ongoing research on carb cycling.
We strictly recommend to consult with your physician or dietitian before following any diet plan on your own.