How many of you possess your ideal physique right now?
If you’re like most of us, you either have some extra fat obscuring your muscle definition, or you’re on the other end of the spectrum and need more muscle to fill out your physique.Well, there’s a method of eating that can be used to address either of these scenarios, depending on how it is manipulated. The method is called carbohydrate cycling and it’s efficacy is based on the premise that by exploiting your body’s insulin levels via cycling your daily carbohydrate intake you can maximise its anabolic (muscle building) and anti-catabolic (muscle sparing) effects, while also minimising your body’s ability to store fat and simultaneously boosting its ability to burn it.
Put in simple terms, carb cycling dictates that we consume a high carbohydrate diet on certain days of the week, which would typically be on our most physically demanding days. This is combined with a low-to-moderate carbohydrate diet on the other days, typically on days that are less physically demanding, like rest days. The high carbohydrate days raise insulin levels, fill glycogen stores, keep your metabolism burning efficiently and staves off muscle catabolism. The low carbohydrate days are the fat burning days, as they keep insulin levels low enough to allow for maximum fat burning while retaining muscle.
If your goal is to lose fat and retain, or even gain muscle, you will only have one or two high carb days per week. The other five or six days are your low-to-moderate carb days. If your goal is to gain muscle while keeping fat gain to a minimum, go with 2-4 of these high carb days (the number will depend on your metabolism and workload or, in other words, how many days per week you train and at what intensity). The rest of the week are low-to-moderate carb days.
Here’s how to practically apply the information in the table using a 200 lbs (91kg) male as an example.
On a high carb day shoot for the following totals:
- 300g of carbohydrates (200lbs x 1.5)
- 250g of protein (200lbs x 1.25)
- 30g of fat (while we aim to keep fat as low as possible on high carb days, there will always be an incidental amount in the foods we eat).
- Dividing these numbers evenly over six meals, we get approximately 50g of carbohydrates per meal, 42g of protein and 5g of fat.
A low carb day might look something like this:
- 100g of carbohydrates (200lbs x 0.5)
- 300g of protein (200lbs x 1.5)
- 70g of fat (200lbs x 0.35)
- Again, dividing these numbers evenly over six meals gives us approximately 15g of carbohydrates per meal, 50g of protein and 12g of fat.