While I don’t own a bike anymore, cycling has always been a favorite workout of mine, even if it leaves my butt feeling particularly sore for days afterward (curse those small seats and my big booty). I like the high intensity of it and that the workout itself is low-impact, so for me, and many others, cycling is actually a really great workout.
Carb-Cycling, however, is a little bit different. Carb-Cycling, according to Brandan Fokken, a bodybuilding.com sponsored athlete, is a low/no carb diet that has periods of high carb consumption to keep you fueled. This type of diet is specifically designed to achieve a desired result, typically fat loss, and should be monitored carefully throughout the process. This is to be a short-term, temporary solution, and should not be sustained for longer than 4 months.
Disclaimer: I do not recommend this method of fat loss for diabetics (I or II), anyone who is prediabetic, has a glucose sensitivity, or other issue that could potentially put you at risk for a medical event. As such, you should not be using this information to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease as the information and content here does not constitute medical advice. Additionally, you should not discount or ignore any advice given to you by a medical professional based on the content and information from LIFTbyLes.com. Thank you!
Carb-Cycling is great for a body recomposition, as it allows you maintain your muscle mass while shedding the excess weight. It comes at a price, though. On the low- or no-carb days, you can definitely feel the fatigue and you brain might feel a little foggy, especially if you’re new to the game and aren’t following your macros accordingly. At the end of each week, however, you should be in a calorie deficit overall, which leads to fat loss. The trick here is to deprive your body of carbs for 1-3 days (typically on lower activity days) then follow it with a high-carb day (usually on a heavier training day) to replenish your glycogen stores and keep your metabolism moving.
Here are a few examples of what your cycle could look like:
But your cycle will vary based on your needs, training schedule, lifestyle, and a number of other factors that should be determined by your coach prior to starting a carb-cycling program.
if you have enough experience tracking your macros and are consistently tracking them; you have been training for awhile; and your diet is cleaned up; but the needle still isn’t budging or you’re still not achieving your desired results, then you can try carb-cycling.
Numbers for each type of Day:
If you decide to try it on your own, then here are some numbers that are good starting points for carb-cycling, once you’ve settled on a schedule that fits your lifestyle and training. You can tweak these numbers if they feel too low or your maintenance macros are different from your initial calculation. Pay attention to these calculations because some are for different macros.
- High-Carb Days: Women should multiply their bodyweight (in pounds) by 1.4. Men should multiply their bodyweight by 1.7. This is for carbs and protein.
- For example, my high-carb day would be calculated: 135 pounds x 1.4 =189g of Carbs and Protein for the day. (The remainder of my calories would be from my fats)
- Low-Carb Days: For women, multiply bodyweight by 0.6 for carbs; men multiply by 0.9.
- Protein: Women multiply by 1.2, men multiply by 1.5
- Fats: Women multiply by 0.5; men multiply by 0.8
- No Carb Days- exactly that, no carbs. If you need numbers, ladies multiply protein by 1.5; guys multiply protein by 1.8. Spitballing here.
- Fats: Women: 1.2 multiplier; Men: 1.4 (again spitballing)
- The biggest thing here is to compensate for the lack of carbs by eating more fats and proteins. Some carbs you will end up getting because they naturally occur in foods, but ideally, you should be aiming for less than 50g of carbs all day.
- Moderate Carbs: If you need to add a moderate carb day, do so sparingly and only if you find yourself struggling with the hi/lo/no days or if a training day is more than you originally thought. You should aim for a ratio between the high and low numbers and adjust as necessary.
Always remember that these numbers can be adjusted for you depending on your lifestyle, training schedule, and goals.
I personally haven’t done carb-cycling before because I haven’t been in a position yet where I felt I needed to cycle. I’m not a competitive bodybuilder or slimming down for summer (let’s be real, I’ll be starting a bulking cycle at the end of September). One of my clients is cycling and I’m still learning the ins and outs of it all. I tried it once when I was very inexperienced in college and quit after 2 days because I didn’t do the research or know what I know now.
Probably this coming spring, after the 2020 Open, I’ll try a carb-cycle on myself to get ready for summer and see how my body reacts to the lack of carbs. Then I have more time to build out my cycle and begin experimenting a little bit with the carb deficits and what is going to work best for me.
If you’d like help setting up a carb-cycle or just need help pursuing a more active and healthy lifestyle, please consider hiring me as your coach. The ups and downs of life are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean your health suffers as a result. Let’s find out what works for you, what doesn’t, and change the bad habits you have into good ones. Let’s reframe your attitude to “can do” and build your confidence through success.
Happy LIFTing, Les