Calorie and Carb Cycling: Breaking Through Your Diet Plateau
The first thing to understand is that there are two types of dieting: caloric restriction (CR) or weight loss diet (WL). Both methods have their pros and cons. CR is very effective in losing fat mass while WL requires some effort but results in long term weight maintenance. The main difference between them lies in how much energy they require from your body.
In order to lose fat, calories must be restricted. For example, if you want to drop 10 pounds of fat, you need to reduce your daily calorie intake by 500 calories per day. If you are following a CR diet, your goal is to consume less than 2000 calories per day. On the other hand, if you follow a WL diet, it means consuming fewer than 1800 calories per day.
Carbohydrate consumption plays a major role in both CR and WL diets. However, there are differences between the two. One of these differences is the amount of carbohydrate consumed during each phase. In a CR diet, your daily carbohydrate intake is equal to 10% of your calorie intake. Each phase consists of 3 days of high-carbohydrate (HC) and 2 days of low-carbohydrate (LC).
You start each phase with a high-carb day to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles and liver that were depleted during the previous low-carb day.
On the other hand, you consume a larger amount of carbohydrates during weight loss diet (WL). This is because your daily carbohydrate intake is equal to around 30% of your daily calories, and you are also eating 5-6 meals containing carbohydrates per day. There are 4 phases in this diet plan; each phase lasts 1 week.
Another difference between the two diets is that the calorie restriction (CR) diet includes a refeed day once every 4 weeks. During this refeed day, you can eat as much as you want without worrying about your weight loss regimen. The main purpose of this day is to reverse the effects of semi-starvation that you experience during the previous 3 weeks.
Research has shown that both CR and WL are effective weight loss methods. Most people prefer CR because it is easier to follow and doesn’t require counting calories every day. There is no right or wrong method. You should choose the one that works for you. The goal of this day is to prevent your metabolic rate from slowing down due to the prolonged calorie restriction.
Now you know the basic differences between these two dieting methods: CR vs. WL, and their subtypes: high-carb diet (HCR) and low-carbohydrate diet (LCR). Let’s move on to the discussion of how these diets affect your hormonal profile.
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carbohydrate manipulation has been used by bodybuilders and other athletes for many years. It is based on the fact that carbohydrate consumption increases insulin production. This, in turn, can result in increased glycogen storage and an anabolic effect on muscle growth. When combined with weight training, this can lead to significant muscle growth.
Calorie Restriction (CR)
In a CR diet plan, you limit your caloric intake in order to lose weight. The CR diet is a type of diet that provides between 750 and 1500 kcal/day. Most people who use this diet plan strive to consume less than 2000 kcal per day.
By restricting your daily caloric intake, your body draws on its stored energy resources (fat) to meet its energy requirements. This is why calorie restriction leads to weight loss. However, you should not engage in carb-loading immediately after a workout.
When you eat a high-carb meal, insulin levels increase significantly. This is beneficial immediately before or after a workout because insulin drives nutrients (like amino acids) into the muscle cells. But if you are not exercising at the time, high insulin levels can lead to increased fat storage and other nasty effects on your body.
When you consume fewer calories than your body needs, it goes into a metabolic state known as “starvation mode,” in which it tries to conserve energy. Your body thinks that you are in a state of starvation, so it shuts down non-vital functions in order to preserve energy. This is why you feel weak and tired if you don’t eat enough food.
However, your body doesn’t shut down all non-vital functions.
That’s why you should not exceed your daily carbohydrate requirements no matter how strenuous your workout is. In particular, you should not exceed your daily carbohydrate requirements by more than 50 grams.
High-Carb Day (HCR)
High-carb days are based on the idea that over-consuming carbohydrates leads to accelerated glycogen storage and increased cell volumization. This can maximize the pump you get during a workout, and maximize the nutrients going to your muscles. It cannot afford to do that, because it would lead to death. Instead, it focuses on vital functions and switches to a psychological mode in which your body tries to conserve energy at all times.
This has several adverse effects on your body:
Your brain function slows down.
You become less active (anabolic state).
Hormone production is disrupted (testosterone, growth hormone, etc.
Some people believe that the increased insulin sensitivity induced by a low-carb diet can increase fat loss. This is not supported by science. There is no evidence that a low-carb diet leads to greater fat loss than a moderate-carb diet.
In fact, some studies have shown that the low-carb diet leads to a decrease in lean mass. Muscle tissue is more “metabolically active” levels drop).
Growth processes are disrupted (muscle building is impaired).
There are several ways you can manipulate your diet to increase your carbohydrate intake:
Consume fast-digesting carbs immediately before a workout. Consume fast-digesting carbs during a workout. Consume large amounts of slow-digesting carbs before going to bed. Make sure your daily carb intake is significantly higher than usual. Use supplements that contain concentrated amounts of fast-digesting carbs.
than fat tissue. It takes more energy for your body to maintain a pound of muscle than a pound of fat, so the low-carb diet is likely to lead to a decrease in metabolic rate.
The higher insulin levels achieved on a high-carb day can accelerate glycogen storage and increase cell volumization. This is only beneficial immediately before or after a workout because it leads to greater hypertrophy (muscle growth). During the rest period, your muscles repair and rebuild themselves.
You can also manipulate your diet to decrease your carbohydrate intake:
Decrease the amount of carbs you consume. Consume slow-digesting carbs. Wait longer periods of time between meals. Use supplements that contain concentrated amounts of slow-digesting carbs.
The following high-carb days are designed for men. If you’re a woman, you may want to decrease your recommended carb intake by 10 grams.
During the other 23 hours of the day, it’s better to maintain low insulin levels because:
High insulin levels lead to increased fat storage.
High insulin levels reduce muscle loss during sleep.
High levels of both insulin and growth hormone leads to increased protein synthesis. This is beneficial before a workout because you want your body to use the nutrients from your diet for repairing and rebuilding your muscles, not putting on fat.
Low-Carb Days (LCHF)
Research has shown that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets are beneficial for weight loss because they:
Promote a decrease in appetite. Increase the number of calories you burn. Increase the number of calories your body burns throughout the day.
The window of insulin sensitivity is about 3 hours long. It’s important that you consume your carbohydrates in this time period because it takes about that long for your body to absorb and start processing them. If you eat them over a longer period of time, your body will only start processing them after the “insulin window” has closed.
You can increase or decrease this time depending on your own personal schedule.
Research has also shown that the increase in calorie burning is due to an increase in the fat burned (both fat stored in your body and the fat you eat) rather than a decrease in muscle loss.
Although LCHF diets are very effective for weight loss, they are usually not considered healthy because they:
Increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Increase levels of triglycerides (blood fats). Increase levels of LDL (bad cholesterol). But you don’t want to go too far past the 3-hour mark because your body will start processing your carbohydrates into fat, and that’s not what we’re trying to do.
Breakfast (10g of Carbohydrates)
For brevity’s sake, this list contains only the foods you can eat. We’ll get into more details about how many of each you can have in a moment.
Adding extra exercise to your low-carb diet can help improve some of these issues.
Carb Cycling (CC)
Research has shown that post-workout carbs are very beneficial immediately after a workout because:
They increase protein synthesis. They decrease muscle breakdown. They replenish glycogen stores. They decrease fat storage.
Carb cycling is a method of eating that involves high- and low-carb days.
All of these foods can be purchased at a grocery store or farmer’s market.
Food Serving Size Carbs Protein Fat Calories Bowl of brown rice 1 cup cooked 43g 5g 1.3g 200 Low-fat granola 1 cup 33g 6g 4.5g 260 Whole grain bread 2 slices 65g 9g 3.
The reason you want to do this is because eating mostly carbs all the time, as you do on a typical high-carb diet, causes many negative health effects that aren’t seen on a balanced diet with the same amount of carbs.
However, low-carb diets reduce insulin levels, and that makes it difficult to absorb nutrients properly. Carb cycling solves this problem by having you include carbs on your training days.
Carb Back-Loading (CBL)
The basic idea behind CBL is to eat a low-carb, high-protein diet most of the time, but before your heaviest weightlifting workouts you eat a very-high carb meal to refill your muscles with glycogen. After you workout you then have a slightly higher carb meal to accelerate muscle growth.
However, you are probably eating too many carbs if:
You’ve been prescribed medication to control your blood sugar. You’re overweight. You have metabolic syndrome.
You should eat the foods on this list in the quantity listed.
To lose weight, you need to stay in a caloric deficit. A good rule of thumb is to not eat more than 1200 calories per day.2g 12 Cucumber 1 cup sliced 7g 0.4g 0.2g 10 Cup of blackberries 1 cup 15g 2g 1g 36
You should also include nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your diet too.
Beans and legumes are another type of carbohydrate that can be eaten with every meal in small quantities.
They contain slow-digesting carbs, which release energy steadily into your bloodstream over a long period of time.1 cup 90g 26g 4.5g 567 Broccoli 1 cup chopped 23g 3g 0.5g 51 Brussels sprouts 1 cup sliced 21g 3g 1g 64 Cabbage 1 cup shredded 6g 0.5g 0.2g 11
You should also include foods rich in healthy fats in your diet such as:
Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews and flaxseeds. They also have a high fiber content that can help you feel full with smaller serving sizes.
Food Serving Size Carbs Protein Fat Calories Bowl of Oatmeal 1 cup 42g 6g 4.1g 216 Apple 1 medium 29g 0.3g 0.
This means you can eat more food and still lose weight.
Having a low-carb day every now and then is fine if you’re trying to lose weight, but be careful not to overdo it, otherwise your body will think it’s entering a food shortage and will hold on to fat more than it should.
You can have one low-carb day every 2 weeks. That being said, high-carb foods like pasta, breads and potatoes should only be eaten in moderation.
Carbs are a primary source of energy for all of your body’s functions. By eating a diet that’s higher in fat and protein, you risk getting tired or even sick because your body isn’t constantly fueled. While it might seem like a good idea to eat as few carbs as possible if you’re trying to lose weight, this isn’t really true.
Food Serving Size Carbs Protein Fat Calories Cheddar Cheese 1 oz 0.8g 7.8g 7g 116 Almond Milk 1 cup 5g 2g 1g 60 Halibut 1 fillet 17g 20g 0g 110
Carbohydrates are a more efficient source of energy than both fat and protein. That means eating a diet that’s high in fat and protein will make you feel sluggish throughout the day because your body is working harder to process them. Eating a diet that’s high in carbs, on the other hand, will keep you full and energized.
Carbs are also essential to your body for many other reasons. Some of the most important ones are listed below:
They’re a quick source of energy, which provides stamina when exercising. They improve mood. This is especially helpful if you’re feeling down or sad. They promote healthy hair, skin and nails. They boost the function of your immune system.
This helps your body to fight off infection and disease. They provide energy for your brain, which makes it easier to think and function properly.
While all carbs are not created equal, it is possible to have a healthy diet that contains carbs.
What’s more, you can also choose high-quality carbs over the highly processed carbs that are found in foods like pastries, breads and sodas.
High-quality carbs are foods like:
Fruit (not all fruit)
Dairy (for example, yogurt and cheese)
The differences between high-quality and low-quality carbs are:
High-quality carbs are more nutrient dense and have a lower glycemic index (GI).
The GI ranks foods based on how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Low-quality carbs have a high GI and don’t keep you full for long. Instead, they get converted to fat and get stored in your body.
High-quality carbs like oats, sweet potatoes and berries have a low GI and help you to stay full for longer.
The amount and intensity of your workouts partly determines how many carbs you need. For example, if you’re sedentary or only do the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, your carb intake can be less than someone who is very physically active and trains regularly.
It’s recommended that for every 1 gram of protein you eat, you should eat 3 grams of carbs. This is so your body has the right amount of fuel it needs.
You can easily meet this quota by eating a banana (23g of carbs) with a plate of whole wheat pasta (42g of carbs).
The only time you should be limiting your carb intake is if you’re trying to lose weight.
If you are, it’s best to cut down your intake gradually to give your body time to get used to processing less fuel.
After a certain point, however, cutting down your carbs too much can actually do more harm than good.
This is because your body still needs a certain amount of carbs to function properly (as listed above). If you don’t get this amount, you may experience unpleasant symptoms like nausea, fatigue and constipation.
In addition to cutting down on carbs, you’ll also want to limit your fat and protein intake as well. When trying to lose weight, a good rule of thumb is to stick to around 1000 calories a day.
This isn’t something you should stay on for an extended period of time, however. Once you reach your target weight (or get close), you should start eating a little more to allow for minor indulgences here and there.
Once you’ve reached your target weight, you’ll probably want to have a slightly higher carb intake than someone who is sedentary or moderately active.
This is because, as a bodybuilder, your body uses up more glycogen during and after your workouts. If you don’t replenish these stores through the consumption of carbs, your performance in the gym (and overall health) suffers.
The easiest way to figure out your ideal carb intake is by using a macro calculator. This will ask you a few questions about your weight, height, age, and activity level and then give you a precise breakdown of how much protein, fat and carbs you should be eating every day.
The reason these calculators are so effective is that they tell you exactly how many calories you need to be eating every day in order to achieve your goals.
This makes it easy to know how much of each macronutrient you need to be eating. All you have to do is make sure you eat foods that are high in each one and you’re good to go.
Common carb sources
There are three macronutrients: fat, protein and carbs.
While it is possible to survive (not thrive) on a diet that consists entirely of protein and fat, it’s not easy. This is why nearly all diets that are approved by the FDA are high in carbs.
The reason for this is simple: Carbs are an easy way for your body to get the energy it needs in order to function.
There are good carbs and bad carbs. In-fact, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Complex carbs are considered to be good, while refined carbs (white bread, soda) are considered to be bad.
One of the reasons why white bread is bad is because it has a high glycemic index. This refers to how quickly it is converted into sugar in your blood stream.
Processed foods (junk food) are almost always high in refined carbs and should be avoided as much as possible on a healthy diet. Eating a lot of these types of foods can lead to weight gain and a slew of other medical issues.
Here are some of the most common carb sources and where you can find them:
Fruits and vegetables: Most fruits are high in carbs. This includes foods like apples, oranges, berries and many others. Most vegetables are as well. This includes potatoes, carrots, beans and more.
Grains: There are many different types of grains (like bread, rice and pasta) but they all contain roughly the same amount of carbs per serving.
Simple sugars: These include foods like candy, soda and other foods that contain added sugars. In addition to containing a lot of calories, these can also cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.
While many people believe that eating low carb is the best way to lose weight, this isn’t necessarily the case. If you only eat fat, you are likely to lose weight, but your body isn’t getting the energy it needs to survive and perform physical activity.
In order to effectively lose weight while also eating a healthy amount of carbs, you must find the right balance that works for you. This means tracking your calories and macronutrients every day so you can see which foods are contributing to your weight loss and making adjustments when needed.
While it’s possible to live on a very low carb diet, this isn’t necessarily the healthiest way to do it. Carbohydrates can be good for you if you are physically active and your body can process them without much trouble.
The best approach is to eat a balance of all three macronutrients in order to stay as healthy as possible. This means eating carbs, proteins and fats in moderation while staying within your calorie goals.
How many carbs should I eat?
The amount of carbohydrates you need to eat every day depends on your age, gender, activity level and other factors. Look at the recommendations below as a starting place and then adjust them based on your personal needs:
Men: consume between 225-325 grams of carbs depending on your activity level.
Women: consume between 183-275 grams of carbs depending on your activity level.
As you can see, the difference between the two is fairly small and it really just depends on your gender. The best way to find out exactly how many carbs you should eat is to track your calories and macronutrients one week.
After you have a day of eating that’s representative of your normal diet (this means no cheating!), you can enter all the information into an online macronutrient calculator to get your personalized macronutrient goals.
These goals will be different for everyone but should put you in the optimal range for weight loss or maintenance without doing too much exercise or not getting enough rest.
Can I eat junk food and still lose weight?
The short answer is yes! While it may not be healthy, you can definitely lose weight without cutting out all the junk food you want. Eating a diet that consists mostly of donuts, pizza and other junky foods can help you lose weight, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
For one thing, you probably won’t feel healthy and your energy levels will most likely be low. You may also struggle to maintain a low body weight if you eat an extremely junky diet. It becomes even harder to lose weight when the foods you are eating are high in fat and cause spikes in blood sugar that lead to food cravings later on.
While it’s possible to lose weight while eating fast food and other junk foods, this isn’t a long term solution. You will burn yourself out and be more likely to gain weight over the long term. Instead of focusing on how you can eat junk and still lose weight, take a step back and re-evaluate your food choices as a whole.
Can I eat fast food and still lose weight?
As you may have already guessed from the above question, the answer is yes… and no. You can definitely lose weight while eating fast food, however you’re not going to be doing your body any favors in the process.
Eating fast food is just like eating junk food in that it isn’t really good for you and you don’t want to make a habit of it if you’re trying to lose weight or get into shape. Even though some fast food places are starting to offer “healthy” options like salads and yogurt, the majority of their sales still come from high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods that are not going to help you out in any way, shape or form.
Some of these foods are so bad that it doesn’t even matter how little you eat, you’re still going to get a hefty dose of calories, fat, sugars and all that other stuff that will hinder rather than help your weight loss goals.
If you’re going to eat fast food while on a diet, try to make sure it’s not too often and try to keep the order as “clean” as you can. The less processed and pre-packaged it is, the better. So that means skip the fries and get an apple pie instead since you can at least eat the whole pie without worrying about getting a stomach ache!
Can I eat pop and still lose weight?
As with the above two questions, this one also has a short and long answer. In short, yes you can lose weight while drinking pop, but it isn’t going to do your body any favors.
The sugar and calories in soda are extremely hard for the body to process. The phosphorous level is also very high, which taxes the liver and can lead to bone loss. Due to all these factors, drinking soda while trying to lose weight could cause you to experience a slow down in the process.
However, drinking a small amount of pop every once in awhile isn’t going to do any severe damage and if you really want to have a can here and there, there’s nothing to stop you from doing so. Just don’t make a habit out of gorging on the stuff and you’ll be find.
Sources & references used in this article:
Breaking plateaus multi-evaluation computerized weight-training log and system by J Merolle, K Merolle – US Patent App. 11/161,289, 2007 – Google Patents
Carb Cycling Diet 101 by S SA – trainwithshafi.com
The everything guide to the carb cycling diet: an effective diet plan to lose weight and boost your metabolism by M Dustin – 2016 – books.google.com
by Alain Gonzalez| 04/26/16 by CCTA Works – t-nation.com
A Message to Our Customers-Click Here by M Morelli – 2017 – Da Capo Lifelong Books
4 Techniques To Bust Through Your Weight Loss Plateau by HDCC Work – steelfitusa.com
Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger: The Advanced Guide to Shattering Plateaus, Hitting PRs, and Getting Shredded by BT Basics, YGTAS Back – rudymawer.com