What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a form of strategic dieting that alternates (cycles) carbohydrate intake to help promote weight loss. Carb cycling generally limits carbs for two days or less, then follows the restrictions with several days of higher-carb intake. The process helps break through a plateau in weight loss or an attempt to lower bodyfat in an efficient manner and fight off cravings often associated with diets, without inducing the potential risks of other dieting methods such as ketogenic fasting.
How does Carb Cycling Work?
So the body burns carbohydrates in order to provide energy. Many people turn to carbohydrates for energy instead of fat, leading to weight gain and even insulin resistance. Carb cycling turns this process on by eating a diet of mostly protein and healthy fats such as avocados as one source for example, for several days before reducing carbohydrate intake to 20 or fewer grams a day. By restricting the number of carbs you eat, the body is forced to burn stored fat cells as fuel rather than sugar. It is the primary tactic of this process.
Beneficial Goals of Carb Cycling?
1. Promotes Weight Loss
When you give your body a break from carbohydrates, it will burn stored fats for energy. This process is called ketosis and can result in significant weight loss over time. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that after following a ketogenic diet for six months, participants lost an average of 17 pounds with no evidence of metabolic syndrome.2
2. Increases Energy
Carbohydrate that is not used as fuel is converted to fat by the body, increasing energy. During this process, you allow your body to burn fat and intake more calories.
3. Increases Mental Clarity
Carbs also supply the brain with a significant amount of energy. When you stop eating carbohydrates, your body switches to ketosis and burns fat instead. It means the brain must receive energy from other sources, such as fatty acids and ketones. These energy sources affect your mood and clarity of thought positively.
4. Muscle Building
When you exercise, your muscles are depleted of energy. Carbs help replenish these stores to help you train harder and longer. Many people do not consider this when selecting a diet; low-carb diets can cause muscle loss due to decreased energy stores.
5. Helps Eliminate Cravings
Many people who are trying to lose weight experience intense sugar and carb cravings because their bodies crave these as its normal primary source of energy. Carb cycling can help eliminate these cravings by keeping your body in ketosis and limiting carb intake to small amounts.
6. Helps Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Most Americans consume a large number of carbs without ever burning them off. The body stores these carbs as fat and generates insulin to respond to the excess sugar. This process leads to insulin resistance, a significant risk factor for metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and weight gain. Ketosis additionally reduces insulin levels, improving insulin sensitivity and helping your body metabolize sugar faster.
7. Helps Maintain Muscle strength and Activity
Just as the muscles can help produce energy, they also store energy. When the muscles are depleted of energy, they can result in muscle loss. Carbohydrate cycling helps keep these stores up so that you can continue to engage in Physical Activity. Muscle stores can also burn fat for energy, allowing people to engage in high-intensity exercise for more extended periods.
Negative Impacts of Carb Cycling
It is important to note that while carbohydrate cycling may be beneficial for weight loss and maintaining energy levels, it also comes with certain risks.
Some fungus can occasionally develop in the human digestive system when carbohydrates are not provided in adequate amounts. This condition is called Candida and can cause several uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea. It can even lead to infections in people who have undiagnosed diabetes or other conditions that require regular medical attention by a RD.
2. Metabolic Syndrome
Another possible side effect of carbohydrate cycling is metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
A common side effect of low carbohydrate diets is fatigue, caused by low energy levels. It may be necessary to increase protein intake and support your energy levels with high-fat foods such as avocado and coconut oil to avoid fatigue.
By reducing your carb intake, you may also risk constipation. The inflammation of the colon that results from a lack of nutrients can cause constipation in some people. If you experience this issue, try increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to promote bowel movements.
5. Increases Risk of Disease
Although it may be possible to lose weight using this process, there is still a great chance you will experience the adverse effects of carbs. Increased risk of disease and other issues is a significant downside to this diet, especially for those with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes.
How does Carb Cycling Help you Lose weight?
Carbohydrate cycling takes the risk and nutritional loss of other low-carb diets and turns it on its head. Instead of avoiding all carbs, you consume them in moderation to encourage weight loss. Allowing your body to burn stored fat for energy instead of carbs could provide significant results.
This method is also an excellent way for beginners to take the keto diet as long as you correctly follow the plan. It is a challenging diet that can lead to physical and mental fatigue if not prepared. If you are not prepared, the side effects of this process may become more challenging to manage, but the results are proven to be there!
Low carb diets are a great way to lose weight, and carb cycling is one of the most popular diets for this purpose. This method allows you to enjoy the benefits of a low-carb diet while also taking control of how so you're doing that through careful monitoring and scheduling your food and carb intake. If you are looking to start or maintain a low-carbohydrate diet, consider carb cycling as an alternative to other options!
What is Carb Cycling?
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