There are many dietary approaches to lose fat. Paleo diets, ketogenic diets, IIFYM, and clean eating diets are all very popular in today’s fitness culture. However, for anyone who is active, and pushes their body hard in the gym, carb cycling may be the most efficient diet method of them all.
Carb cycling refers to eating more carbs on certain days of the week, usually your workout days, and fewer carbs on your rest days. When you train at a high intensity, your body uses glycogen for energy, which comes from carbohydrates. Therefore, you need to eat more carbs on those days to fuel your body, and replenish it after exercise so it begin to recover.
On the days when you’re less active, you don’t need many carbs in your diet. You should focus on whole food protein sources with a little bit of fat, and a lot of vegetables, with minimal starchy carbohydrate and processed food intake.
We know that to lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit, which means you eat fewer calories than you burn. By keeping your protein and fats roughly the same on most days, and varying your carbohydrate intake, you are building in a caloric deficit, because fewer carbs on rest days means fewer calories. Rather than remove carbs altogether, you can keep them in to maximize your performance in the gym, and still see fat loss.
Let’s look at flexible dieting first, or macro tracking. With this method, you’ll be using precise numbers to track exactly what you are eating. It allows you to substitute any food you want into your meal plan, as long as your macros work out at the end of the day. This allows a great deal of dietary flexibility.
You want to have your rest day calories to come out slightly lower than your training day calories, as we mentioned earlier. There are quite a few complex macro calculations you can use, but ultimately they are all just an educated guess – you still need to track your food, measure how your body is changing, and adjust accordingly.
Start with the following macro calculations, and after a week, check the scale. If your weight hasn’t moved, lower your carbohydrate intake by 5-10 grams on both your training and rest days, and go from there.
You’ll want to set your protein at 1g per pound of bodyweight, and set your fat anywhere between .25g per pound (lower if you have higher carbs, and vice versa). On training days, set your carbs at 1.5g per pound of bodyweight. On rest days, set your carbs at .5g per pound and increase fat by .10g/pound.
So, let’s say you’re a 200 pound guy trying to lean up. Using those numbers, we’d get 200 grams of protein on training and rest days. On training days, fat is 50 grams, and carbs are at 300 grams. On rest days, fat would be at 70 grams, and carbohydrates at 100 grams. Make sense?
If you don’t follow flexible dieting, and don’t want to track macros, you can use carb cycling with a stricter meal plan as well. For both days, be sure to put some lean protein with each meal, and vegetables with at least 2 or 3 of your meals.
On the days you workout, add carbohydrates to the two meals before your workout, to fuel up, and add them to the meal after your workout, for recovery. Aim for anywhere between 30-60 grams of carbs at each meal.
If you get stuck, simply take away one of the carbohydrate meals pre-workout, or reduce the portions. This is how you can adjust to ensure you are making continuous progress.
Wrapping it Up
Carb cycling is a very easy way to lose fat and still train hard in the gym. You get to fuel your body to work hard when it needs that boost, and on your rest days, you simply eat a little bit less. It’s intuitive, and easy for most people to follow, as it doesn’t remove carbs altogether, or require any other extreme measures. Just remember, every person is different, so it may take some trial and error to figure out how much your body needs to train hard and lose fat, but once you get your numbers set up, this may be the easiest diet in the world to follow.
Please Note: Before following exercise routines or changing your fitness regime, please consult a certified fitness professional. Always talk with a medical practitioner before following dietary advice or taking supplements.