Regardless of your goals, be it to gain muscle mass, improve strength, lose fat or improve athletic performance, carbohydrate cycling is an effective way to alternate low carb days with high ones.
This method is easy to implement and allows us to maintain an ideal weight without further complicating our daily routine.
Benefits of carbohydrate cycling
Variations in carbohydrate consumption have the following benefits:
Muscle building and sports performance
Accompanied by strength training, the carbohydrate loading phases induce the creation of muscle mass. Having a caloric deficit will not help build muscle.
- In beginners, it favors mass gain and fat loss.
- In advanced it facilitates the development of lean fat-free mass, alternating higher than low days.
- Regarding the periods of definition, maintaining high carbohydrate days prevents muscle loss, or reduces it in large quantities.
- Improves performance by maintaining the loading phase mainly on days of heavier training.
A low level of leptin translates to less energy and difficulty in performing any activity. Therefore, it is important to maintain this increased hormone, which is made possible with the periodic and limited increase in carbohydrates.
How Carbohydrate Cycling Works
Hormones are responsible for regulating weight and metabolism, and for keeping all body functions stable. In this case, there are two essential hormones that must be taken care of and controlled: insulin and leptin.
By reducing body fat, leptin levels are reduced. When leptin is at high levels, it decreases appetite and also influences energy expenditure. Therefore, by controlling leptin we can control our appetite.
Carbohydrate cycling helps give that signal that there is enough energy to survive, as the periodic and limited increase in carbohydrates will increase leptin levels.
Fat gain or loss is directly related to caloric excess and food choices. The periodic refills of carbohydrates induce the construction of the performing muscle strength training, while the low – carb diet are relatively low in calories, which in part may have advantages but do not help build muscle mass.
The fact of doing this kind of carbohydrate recharging on a regular basis will help us maintain the necessary hormonal balance to be able to burn fat without losing muscle.
Who can take advantage of its benefits?
Carbohydrate cycling is indicated for people who are close to their ideal weight and who are looking to lose a little fat and replace it with muscle.
For people who want to gain a large or very large amount of muscle, it would be more convenient to perform a traditional bulking phase, since with carbohydrate cycling the muscle gain is slower.
The same happens in those people who want to lose a lot of weight. In this case, you should focus on a hypocaloric diet , reducing the intake of carbohydrates, to lose weight more quickly.
Different methods for carbohydrate cycling
As for the options to perform a correct carbohydrate cycling, there are a great variety of methods with different combinations. Those that will be exposed next can be considered as the most basic but very effective.
# 1 Method to gain muscle mass faster (5 days high and 2 days low)
When looking to minimize accumulated fat , while increasing muscle mass, the ideal is to increase the high phase to 5 days, and 2 days low in carbohydrates. Protein intake must always be high (around 2 grams per kg of body weight per day).
At this point, the toughest workouts should be scheduled during peak days to take advantage of excess calories and maximize muscle hypertrophy .
# 2 Method to lose fat, maintaining the muscle (2 days high with 5 days low)
This option is the one indicated to lose fat and maintain muscle mass.
It consists of 5 days of low carbohydrate intake and two high days. Among the advantages, it is easy to adapt to the daily routine since it is more similar to the typical eating routine. On the days of the week we can be more strict with food, and on the weekend we can take the opportunity to eat more and increase the intake of carbohydrates.
# 3 Method with alternate days
It is based on alternating a high day with a low one.
It is important to schedule your workouts to be done on days when you eat the most carbohydrates and to rest on other days.
How the meal should be programmed in each cycle
Finally, this section is one of the most important, since if we do not know how to feed ourselves in each cycle we will not be able to obtain good results.
High carbohydrate days
- You need to consume 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
- Enough healthy fat to complete the remaining calories.
- 4 to 6 grams of carbohydrate for every kg of body weight.
It is advisable to choose sources of complex carbohydrates, which are those that provide a higher level of energy and try to avoid or not abuse refined carbohydrates.
Low carbohydrate days
These days the ideal is to use a ketogenic approach , that is, reduce carbohydrate intake a lot and maintain a constant source of protein and foods rich in healthy unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Finally remember that the aforementioned are only guidelines.
It is necessary to play around with these parameters since factors such as sensitivity or resistance to insulin or other hormones may be involved, as well as the genetic potential that can vary between people, that is, what works for another person may not work for you to you, and vice versa.