CARB AND CALORIE CYCLING
Some people who are looking for below-average leanness and above-average body composition may find it useful to cycle their carbohydrate and calorie intake.
Despite the fancy name, carb and calorie cycling are quite simple concepts.
• Carb cycling refers to eating more carbohydrates on some days; and fewer carbohydrates (and often, as a result, fewer calories) on other days. You could also do a “mini carb cycle during a day, eating more carbs around activity and less at other times.
• Calorie cycling refers to (you guessed it) eating more calories on some days, and fewer calories on other days. This can also include some rudimentary forms of intermittent fasting,
You can, of course, combine carb and calorie cycling, so that, for instance, higher-carb days and vice versa.
We focus on carbohydrates (and not protein or fats) because carb needs are the most variable of the macronuthents, and fluctuating them can have a large impact on many important hormones (namely insulin, glucagon, thyroid and leptin).
Generally, protein remains as constant as possible, although there may be rare situations where a low protein intake is called for.
By changing carbohydrate and therefore calorie intake on particular days, we can keep fatloss going and metabolic rate humming along, without the ill effects of stringent calorie or carb restriction
There are a few cases that particularly benefit from carb / calorie cycling.
People who want to see their six-pack must endure a lower-energy intake for long periods.
Cycling calorie intake (for instance, with a simple higher day / lower day) helps stave off metabolic downregulation that often occurs with a chronic, ongoing energy deficit.
Plus, cycling intake can make an energy deficit feel like less of a “grind” by blocking off “eat less” days into small, manageable units instead of several weeks of miserable hungry slogging.
People who don’t tolerate carbs well may nevertheless use them effectively when active.
So, they can literally have their cake and eat it too – by getting the bulk of their carb intake around their workouts. (Even better, with time and sustained activity, they may become more metabolically healthy, which means improved overall carb tolerance and more dietary flexibility.
People with underlying metabolic issues (such as poor glucose control or elevated inflammation) may benefit from short bursts of fasting. Periodic, brief intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve many indicators of metabolic health.
For people who can do this protocol safely and sanely, short periods of lowered calories (or
no calories) may improve these health markers.
People who are trying to safely manage stress (including training stress) may find that cycling carbs and calories helps them “dance at the edges” of an energy deficit or significant change to their body, without incurring major hormonal disruption.
Periodically “topping up” energy and carbohydrate stores can tell the body that everything’s okay, and starvation is not imminent.
This is particularly useful for:
• females (whose central hormonal regulation systems may be very sensitive to nutritional deficits)
• leaner people (who usually have less circulating leptin)
• anyone who has a relatively lower stress tolerance
Getting enough carbs and energy is key for hormonal as well as psychological health. Many people find they feel mentally sluggish, moody, anxious, and / or depressed in the face of chronic carb or energy deficits. Cycling calories and carbs can help avoid these problems as people work towards below-average leanness or higher-level athletic performance.
People who are trying to cut weight or change the appearance of their physique for competition can also benefit from carb cycling in particular, because carbohydrate intake affects fluid balance in the body.
So there we have it. Carb cycling and calorie cycle is not a magic tool, just a strategy to produce a calorie deficit that some may find beneficial and others may not!