Carb Cycling 101
Carbohydrate consumption is a hot topic right now in popular media. Should we eat carbs? Should we eat low-carb? What about no carbs?
Let’s get back to the basics and first answer the question “What is a Carb?”
Carb is a short-hand expression for Carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is one of the three macronutients that make up our body’s energy which we measure in units of kilocalories or calories for short. It is essential to bodily function on a cellular level.
My recommendation is to first focus on quality carbohydrate consumption and secondly to consider Carb Cycling.
Carbohydrates are not the ‘bad guy’ in your current diet. I would never suggest someone eliminate an entire food group, however what the average American considers a carb is often-times junk food and I hope to educate you a little further regarding heathlful carbs and a balanced approach to consumption.
Why care about carb cycling?
Carbs are important in our diets, but the wrong ones (sugars, too much starchy foods) can increase inflammation, lead to food cravings, impact our gut bacteria in a negative way, raise blood sugar, etc. Quality is imperative. It is even more effective when you add in intermittent fasting (tactic of shortening your feeding window each day.)
Fantasic carbohydrate options are dense in vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function optimally. They should be fiber-rich so we get that satiated, full feeling. You should be eating things like: berries, organic fruits, leafy greens, squash, quinoa, lentils, split peas, figs, black beans, and seeds such as chia and hemp hearts. My family loves canned pumpkin, broccoli and organic apples.
Carby cycling is made up of two main components. Simply put, there are days that you eat more carbohydrates, and days you eat less with intentionality. On “high carb” days, possibly up to 50% of your daily caloric intake (if you are seriously lifting weights and are exercising with intensity) are quality carbohydrates. Then there are days you aren’t exercising as hard (maybe you are doing HIIT style training or things like pilates and yoga) these can be your lower carbohydrate days. Possibly your carboydrate intake would be 25% of your daily caloric intake. The purpose of a low-carb cycle is to increase fat loss by moderating insulin and positively impacting fat storage The purpose of a high-carb cycle is to facilitate moving glucose into storage in muscles and liver as opposed to fat stores. Physiologically speaking, an increase muscle mass can be instrumental in fat loss/weight loss for men and women.
Lower carb diets do not work long term for many people. It’s better to learn how to consume carbs in a lasting, sustainable lifestyle that also meets your weight and body-mass goals. Keeping in mind that bio-individuality is key.
Calculating net carbs: net carbs are are the carbohydrates our body breaks down to use (starches and sugars), whereas fiber and sugar alcohols don't count as net carbs because our body doesn't have to break them down for use.
Total carbs - Fiber (and most sugar alcohols) = Net Carbs
The Inside Scoop
Want to know the difference between popular diets? Confused about the new keto craze? The difference between low carb, cyclical keto and full keto? Each of these requires the restriction of carbs, although ketogenic diets are much stricter (often 75% fat/5% carbs). Cyclical keto allows for higher carb (aka refeeding days) vs full keto is fully restricted all the time. Please choose wisely and fully investigate what’s best for your body. For some women low carb diets eaten long term can impact thyroid function (typically 50grams/less daily); We know that female hormones are particularly sensitive to carb metabolism, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can be instrumental in processing carbs efficiently or leading to more fat storage. The follicular phase (more insulin sensitive/first 2 weeks of menstrual cycle) with higher estrogen levels and lower progesterone is a more ideal time to consume higher carbs vs the luteal phase (after ovulation/last two weeks of menstrual cycle) with lower estrogen levels and higher progesterone, women are less insulin sensitive and therefore not as carb tolerant.
To watch me talk all about Carb Cycling watch my WJLA Appearance below. Simply click to view.
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