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Carb Cycling Diet: Facts About Carbs and Losing Weight

When it comes to weight loss, carbohydrates are often the first thing to go for people on a diet. There are several diets that restrict the intake of carbs, while some eliminate them entirely. A carb cycling diet involves alternating carb intake on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis to lose weight. Read on to learn the diet’s pros, cons, and specifics.

It’s quite common these days to use a carb cycling diet plan to lose excess body fat, maintain physical performance, or deal with stalled weight loss.

Some individuals adjust their intake of carbs daily, while others may prefer a longer duration of high, moderate, or low-carb diets. In basic terms, a carb cycling diet times the intake of carbohydrates so that they’re consumed in high amounts when they provide maximum advantage and excluded when they’re unnecessary.

Originally, this nutrition strategy was designed for short-term use. Endurance athletes traditionally have used carbohydrate cycling to optimize their energy. Some experts claim that carb cycling isn’t a long-term solution for body weight changes. Carb cycling may be effective for weight loss for some individuals, but for others, it may cause negative side effects or may be contraindicated.

These are some of the factors people consider when planning their carb cycling:

  • Some people decrease their carbs while on a diet and then increase their intake during a performance or muscle-building phase.
  • According to one approach, carb intake should be higher on training days and lower on resting days.
  • Athletes often load up on carbohydrates before an event. Similarly, bodybuilders and physique competitors do this before a photoshoot or a bodybuilding show.
  • In another approach of the carb cycling diet, you may keep your intake of carbs very high for one or several days. These days act as a refeed period during a period of a prolonged dieting.
  • The duration and intensity of an upcoming training session is another thing some people base their carb intake on, increasing their carb intake if a training session is lengthy or intense.
  • Many people adjust the amount of carbs they eat based on their body fat percentage. They increase their carb intake as they become leaner.

A usual week-long carb cycling diet plan might consist of three low-carbohydrate days, two moderate-carbohydrate days, and two high-carbohydrate days. Protein consumption is generally similar during all days, whereas fat intake varies and depends on carb intake. A high-carbohydrate day is generally accompanied by low fat intake, while low-carbohydrate days are normally high-fat.

In theory, your intake of carbohydrates will match your body’s requirement for glucose or calories when you’re carb cycling. For instance, you eat more carbs on a carb cycling diet if you’re doing intense training.

This is because carbohydrates provide glycogen to improve performance and reduce the breakdown of muscle. In addition, high-carb days can help regulate the hormones ghrelin and leptin, both of which regulate appetite.

In theory, your intake of carbohydrates will match your body’s requirement for glucose or calories when you’re carb cycling.

Low-carbohydrate days in a carb cycling diet plan switch your body to rely on fat for energy. With a lower carbohydrate intake, fiber intake will also be lower. If you are limiting your carbs, make sure you’re still getting enough fiber and drinking plenty of water to prevent constipation.

A carb cycling diet also affects insulin production. Structuring carbohydrate intake around exercise may help improve insulin sensitivity, which is a key marker of good health.

These are some of the commonly touted benefits of a carb cycling diet:

Weight loss is a popular reason for following a carb cycling diet. If you follow a carb cycling diet plan and also maintain a deficit of calories, you’re likely to lose weight. Reducing carb intake and Increasing protein intake helps you lose weight.

If you follow a carb cycling diet plan and also maintain a deficit of calories, you’re likely to lose weight.

A carb cycling diet may also help you gain muscle and improve physical performance. Increasing carb intake on workout days may also help with glycogen replenishment, nutrient delivery, and recovery, in turn promoting muscle growth. However, further research on the subject is needed.

In general, it’s important to understand the difference between the short-term and long-term effects of carb restriction. According to some evidence, brief and infrequent periods of carbohydrate restriction can be beneficial for a person’s health and body.

However, long-term restriction of carbohydrates may lead to negative metabolic effects. Severely restricting carbohydrates to less than 20 grams a day can result in a process called ketosis. 

According to some evidence, brief and infrequent periods of carbohydrate restriction can be beneficial for a person’s health and body.

Dieters may have reduced metabolic rate, decreased thyroid hormone output, mental and physical fatigue, and impaired fluid homeostasis. 

Other possible ketosis side effects include nausea, headache, and bad breath. Carbohydrate cycling is contraindicated in people with diabetes or who exercise regularly. 

A carb cycling diet may prove beneficial for you if you are trying to improve your physical performance, diet, and health. However, there's no scientific evidence to support its efficacy. 

If you’d like to lose weight, you may benefit from asking a doctor or registered dietician to help you choose a strategy depending on your general health condition, your physical goals, and how reduced carb intake makes you feel.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26721635

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23651522

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11126336

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/389023

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/carb-cycling-101

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