Carb cycling is a top fat loss tactic, known as a zig-zag dieting approach, that many coaches use, including myself, to get their clients in tip-top shape. I may not start out a client on a carb cycling method right in the beginning because I like establishing a solid intake of calories and amount of carbs and fats they can start out eating while already losing fat – I may start the carb cycling process once they have that last bit of fat to lose, say around 5-10 pounds, before they’re ripped. None-the-less, carb cycling can be an awesome strategy toward achieving that lean, hard, ripped six-pack, but you have to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Right now I’m going to cover a few of the mistakes people make when they try to cycle carbs for efficient fat loss.
#1. Not knowing how long to stay low-carb.
I’ve heard it from people before, “I tried carb cycling and it just didn’t work for me.” Yeah, well that’s probably because you were doing something wrong, and this reason right here could’ve been it. Too many people don’t deplete their glycogen stores enough before incorporating that high carb/refeed day. I like to put it this way, “You have to EARN those carbs!” Make sure your workouts are hard and intense and that you are actually depleting your body of the glycogen before throwing a high carb day in. Everyone is going to be different, so you’re really going to have to experiment with this. If you have a slower metabolism and have a lot of fat to lose, you can probably go 6-10 days without having a refeed. If you have a faster metabolism and only have 5-10 pounds to shed off before achieving your goal, you may only go 2-4 days low carb before having the high carb day. You’ll have to play around with things and find out what works best for you. The number of days you allow before having a high carb day will depend on many factors: the intensity of your workouts, the duration and frequency of cardio, time to recovery, plateau in fat loss, stringy looking muscles, fogginess and impaired cognitive function, and metabolism/hormonal profile changes. If you have three days of a low carb intake, and then one day high carb, yet, after a week, you don’t see significant progress doing it this way– stretch out the low carb cycle to 4 days or 5 days and see how your results improve.
#2. Not knowing how many carbs to refeed with.
This is the antagonist to number one and another method that you are going to have to play around with as the experimentation goes on. In general, I can refeed a client from 300 grams of carbs to 1,000 grams of carbs in one day – it really all depends on the person. Sometimes, I have females (usually figure or fitness competitors) who are eating more carbohydrates on their refeed days than I am! It’ll depend on many factors once again: metabolism, genetics, how much fat free mass you are carrying, how lean you are, how intense your workouts and cardio sessions are, how long you’ve been low carb, and other variables. If you have a high carb day and then two days later, you’re back to feeling like crap, you likely didn’t eat enough carbs on your refeed. You should be back to feeling like normal, having great workouts, getting a great pump, etc. for at least 3 to 4 days following a high carb day. Likewise, if you wake up the next morning after your high carb day bloated to the gills, totally uncomfortable, so full you can’t train properly… you likely ate too many carbs. As I’m sure you’ve already noticed, you’re going to have to try out many different ways going forward to find the right strategy that works for you – this is the fun stuff!
#3. Looking at a high carb/refeed day as an “all-you-can-eat binge-fest”.
Too often I hear about people having refeed days and then they tell me what they ate, “Oh, I went out to breakfast and had all you can eat pancakes with a side French toast, McDonald’s for lunch, a ton of pasta and garlic bread for dinner, dessert with every meal…” You get the picture. Believe it or not, you can gain fat on your refeed days if you do not handle them properly. That’s why I never advocate “cheat days” or whatever the hell people call them these days. First off, that’s a sure way to set off an eating disorder (binge eating… I know, because I’ve had it before). Second, you never know how many calories you are eating by doing it this way, so you can be overshooting your caloric intake by 2,000-10,000 calories depending on the damage you’re doing! Your refeed day is definitely going to be higher in calories than your low carb days, but not by thousands of calories. I like doing “controlled” refeeds, where I still follow macros, but I’m still able to eat a bunch of tasty foods due to how many carbs I need to eat. My macros may look like this: 150 grams of protein, 75 grams of fat, and 700 grams of carbs. Do you think I’m really getting all of those carbs from brown rice, sweet potato, and rice cakes? Hell no! I’d be so full after every meal if I chose to do that. This is where flexible dieting comes in, and I’ll have some pop tarts, a favorite cereal, muffins, white pasta, ice cream, waffles… I’ll play around with things that aren’t very nutrient-dense, but are HEAVY calorie-dense, so that I hit my calorie intake goal and carbohydrate macros by the end of the day.
Those are the top 3 mistakes I see people making while trying to carb cycle and I hope they helped you, if you are a person who has fell victim to one of them. As always, if you need any additional help, feel free to email me! [email protected] .com !