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Carb cycling: Balancing your carbohydrate intake to maintain your level of physical performance

According to the study, ‘carb cycling is a nutritional strategy in which you alternate your carb consumption on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.’ Picture: Pexels

According to the study, ‘carb cycling is a nutritional strategy in which you alternate your carb consumption on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.’ Picture: Pexels

Published Dec 28, 2022


The use of carbohydrates has long been a contentious issue. Many effective diets limit carbohydrates, and others even completely forbid them. However, no macro-nutrient — including carbohydrates — is inherently evil.

You should adapt your carbohydrate consumption to your unique needs. Some people now "cycle" their carbs in order to alter their overall carb consumption.

Carb cycling is this, claims a research titled, "Low-carbohydrate diets lead to higher weight reduction and improved glucose homeostasis: a randomised clinical trial"

According to the study, "carb cycling is a nutritional strategy in which you alternate your carb consumption on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

"It can be used by individuals to shed fat, keep their physical performance high while dieting, or break through a weight loss plateau. While some people change their carbohydrate consumption on a daily basis, others may go longer periods with low, moderate, or high carbohydrate intake," the article adds.

Carb cycling, in essence, seeks to timing carbohydrate consumption to when it offers the greatest advantage and to avoid carbohydrates when they are not required.

Your carb consumption may be programmed based on a number of variables, including:

Body composition objectives: Some people may cut back on carbohydrates while on a diet and then reintroduce them when they are "muscle growing" or doing well.

A common strategy is to consume more carbohydrates on training days and fewer carbohydrates on rest days.

Scheduled refeeds: Another well-liked strategy is to "re-feed" during a protracted diet by consuming a lot of carbohydrates for a day or many days.

Special contests or events: Just as athletes frequently "carb load" before an event, many physique competitors will do the same before a bodybuilding exhibition or picture shoot.

Training style: Depending on the rigour and length of a given workout, people will adjust their carb intake. More carbohydrates will be consumed if the workout is longer or more vigorous, and vice versa.

Body fat percentages: Depending on their body fat percentage, many people may cycle their carbohydrate intake. The more high-carb days or blocks they incorporate, the leaner they get.

Two high-carb days, two moderate-carb days, and three low-carb days can make up a normal weekly carb cycling diet.

According to Dr Shawn M. Arent et al. in their paper "Nutrient Timing: A Garage Door of Opportunity?“ protein intake is often consistent day-to-day, whereas carbohydrate consumption affects fat intake.

In general, a hig- carb day is low-fat, and a low-carb day is high-fat. A sophisticated diet method known as carb cycling calls for more manipulation and programming than a standard diet. It's beneficial to speak with a trained nutritionist to get it properly.

According to Dr Arent et al., "Carb cycling is a relatively novel nutritional technique.

"The biological processes that underlie the manipulation of carbohydrates are the foundation of science. Carb cycling diets have seldom ever been the subject of controlled investigations.

According to the aforementioned studies, carb cycling aims to match your body's calorie or glucose requirements. For instance, it supplies carbs before or after a strenuous exercise session.

Your body replenishes its store of muscle glycogen during the high-carb days, which may enhance performance and lessen muscle breakdown.

Strategically timed high-carb periods may also enhance leptin and ghrelin's ability to control hunger and weight. Your body is said to transition to a primarily fat-based energy system during the low-carb days, which may enhance metabolic flexibility and your body's capacity to burn fat as fuel over the long run.

"Manipulating insulin is a significant part of carb cycling. The low-carb days and planning carbohydrate intake around exercise may increase insulin sensitivity, a crucial health metric.

This strategy may, in principle, reinforce the advantages that carbs provide.

Despite the fact that the processes underlying carb cycling support its usage, it is nevertheless important to exercise caution while using this strategy due to the dearth of direct evidence.

To determine whether carb cycling is secure and efficient, a great deal more clinical trials involving people are required.

The processes behind carb cycling have been shown in studies to be favourable for weight reduction. Theoretically, maintaining athletic performance while urging your body to burn fat for energy is possible with carb cycling.

According to Dr Ju Young Kim, author of a study titled "Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Reduction and Weight Loss Maintenance“, as with any diet, a calorie deficit — that is, eating less than your body burns over an extended period of time — is the primary mechanism behind weight loss.

You will probably lose weight if you combine a carb-cycling diet with a calorie deficit.

However, novices may find it challenging to follow the plan due to the complexity of carb cycling, which can also lead to misunderstanding.

Contrarily, many folks could like carb-cycling's adaptability. For certain people, this could increase long-term success and adherence.

Consider these more healthful carb options when organising your high-carb days. Instead of categorising carbohydrates as "good" or "bad" think about opting for unprocessed carbohydrates whenever you can. These consist of:

Whole grains: Grain that has not been altered is healthful and may provide a number of health advantages. Oats, quinoa, and brown rice are a few examples.

Vegetables: The vitamin and mineral content of each vegetable varies. Consume a spectrum of colours to achieve a healthy balance.

Whole fruits: Similar to vegetables, each fruit has a distinct flavour. Berries stand out among fruits because of their high antioxidant content and low glycemic load.

Legumes are a fantastic source of slow-digesting carbs that are rich in nutrients and fibre.

Tubers: Sweet potatoes and potatoes fall under this heading.

Those attempting to optimise their nutrition, athletic performance, and health may find carb cycling to be a helpful tool.

If you want to establish a protocol and carbohydrate intake levels that are right for you, you might want to think about seeing a dietician.

Additionally, before making any dietary changes, it's crucial to speak with your doctor if you take any drugs or have any medical issues, such as diabetes.