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Carb cycling

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Old 01-13-2014, 04:51 PM   #1
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Default Carb cycling

I'm looking for info on carb cycling but all the sites I find are body building sites. Does anyone know this diet?
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Old 01-15-2014, 01:16 PM   #2
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Oooh, ooh, pick me, pick me!!!! Seriously though, this is a really interesting concept. It's closely tied into IF theory and ketogenic components. I'll assume you already have a basic understanding of glycogen depletion, etc.

I will readily admit a bias as well; I LOVE reading the body-building stuff, their nutritional approaches fascinate me. I can recommend T-Nation for some of their articles; if you just search 'carb cycling' in the articles section, there are several short publications about the theory.

One in particular (titled 'Research Approved Carb Cycling') compares several approaches, and concludes with a recommendation similar to 5:2. It references a study out of Manchester by Michelle Harvie (Ph.D) that was originally presented in 2011 (San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium). Comparing a traditional Calorie Restriction diet, a Ketogenic diet, and an Intermittent Low-Carb diet, the results were fascinating. The carb cycling group lost more weight than the calorie restriction...AND equal to the ketogenic group. Which means - to paraphrase - in this case, people who only ate low-carb 2 days a week experienced the same weight loss as those who ate low-carb 7 days a week! The caveat being that the keto group resulted in slightly higher levels of improved insulin sensitivity (I think it was 14% vs 22%?). This is pretty exciting because eating low-carb 2 days a week is much easier to do rather than every day, and therefore average compliance is likely to be much higher.

The recommended method is to eat normal carb on your workout days, and then two days a week (either separately or consecutively) when you're NOT working out, you eat lower calories AND lower carbs for 'restriction' days. Low-carb days should keep total carb to <50g, and calories are usually ~%60 of your normal daily amount.

As a brief and rough example:
Sun: Active Recovery, Low Carb
Mon: Full-Body Workout, Normal Carb
Tues: AR, Low
Wed: Full-Body Workout, Normal
Thurs: AR, Normal
Fri: Full-Body Workout, Normal
Sat: AR, Normal

There are more complicated methods that include a 'high' carb day in addition to the 'normal' and 'low' periodization; at that point, I think it's getting kind of ridiculous. And it should be mentioned that carb cycling is an advanced method of dieting; ideally you'd have some familiarity already with estimating macronutrient ratios and calories. A less obvious usage of carb cycling can also be found with Martin Berkhan's 'Leangains' approach, which simply includes a shortened eating window every day, and eating higher carbs and calories on workout days and lower carbs/calories the rest of the time. He also has some interesting articles interpreting some nutrition/fitness/diet studies that have come out in the last decade-ish. Mark Sisson (MarksDailyApple) has also spoken about carb cycling/restriction and IF before, with a distinct paleo slant to things.

Personally, I would be fascinated to see a study that compares ketogenic, calorie restriction, carb cycling AND IF(probably the Eat Stop Eat, or 1-day fast methods) diets. I think that there are a lot of interesting correlations between short-term calorie restriction (or fasting) and possible effects on refreshing metabolic functions and overall health markers. Note that I've said 'correlation' to avoid the cause-correlate argument; my personal bias is strongly supportive of the benefits attributed to IF and therapeutic fasting. I think it's also a great deal healthier, and easier, than the gritty side of constant calorie restriction. But I'm sure it'll all get studied at some point.

'Hope this helps!

Last edited by Defining : 01-15-2014 at 01:25 PM.
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Old 02-02-2014, 12:15 AM   #3
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Chris Powell (of TV's "Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition") advocates Carb Cycling in his books. Google his name and carb cycling and you can find a lot of information online. I have one of his books and am attempting to start this way of eating. I've done Atkins long term before, so I think I know what to do. So far, it's kind of hard to remember if it's a high carb or low carb day. And, high carb is relative -- really it's only adding 1/2 cup of starch to meals. Not as "glamorous" as it sounds. ha!
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Old 02-04-2014, 03:51 PM   #4
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I was JUST today seriously considering moving from the slow carb diet, to the carb cycling, and following Chris Powell's Turbo Carb Cycling approach!

One reason is I'm really missing bread, and would be so happy to be able to have a chicken sandwich, even if it is before a weight training session!

I'm just trying to figure out before I start the details. It appears that he recommends for women 1200 on LC days, and 1500 HC days. He doesn't explain how many carbs, but he tries to demonstrate the portion amount on his web site. From everything I read aside from his Carb Cycling rules, we should lift weights on those HC days.

Turbo Carb Cycling loses weight faster and it is LC two days in a row, and HC one day, then LC two days again. He suggests a cheat day on the 7th days, but that sounds like it would be Sunday and I'd rather have a cheat meal on the Sat HC day.

Hope that makes sense from what I've learned thus far!
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Old 02-04-2014, 08:42 PM   #5
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I've never heard of Chris Powell's carb cycling stuff; just goes to show that there's always more to learn.

The numbers I've read suggest to simply 'trade' the calories between fat/carbs for your low/high days. For example
Low day: 10% carbs/30% protein/60% fat
High day: 60% carbs/30% protein/10% fat

The easiest way to calculate this is:
protein= 4kcal/g
carbs= 4kcal/g
fat= 9kcal/g
So just multiply your TDEE by the %'s, and then divide the total kcal for each macro by it's 'value'.

Alternatively, if you have an idea of what your lean body mass is, you can aim for 1g protein/lb of lean body mass. Then just split the rest of the kcal of your target calorie total, and aim for a carb:fat ratio of 1:5 on low days and 5:1 on high days.

Or you can just add 200g of carbohydrates to your normal diet on the days where you're doing resistance training. Eg. http://www.scrawnytobrawny.com/fat-burning-machine (sorry, this is mostly aimed at guys, but it's a simple explanation of another way to cycle carbs).

And here's another article that has specific examples for g/lb guidelines on different days; it also looks at some of the criticism at the lack of clinical studies supporting carb cycling (there are very few studies about it, which is why I was so excited about the one I referenced above ) http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-def...-carb-cycling/

It's often suggested that carb/calorie cycling is most effective because it gives dieters 'wiggle room' on their high days, in order to prevent the feeling of restriction (just like you mentioned about bread, Missy ). As opposed to actually causing a greater rate of weight loss, it's postulated that the adherence is simply better because dieters have more eating options. So the consensus is: if it works for you, keep on with it - if it doesn't work for you, keep trying new approaches.

Carbs are ideally consumed around your workout though (pre/peri/post), for any diet you choose to follow. That's when the insulin response is most beneficial to prevent catabolic processes and support muscle building/glycogen replenishment. The whole idea behind carb/calorie cycling is pretty much 'eat it when you need it', or to moderate your energy intake according to your activity.

Last edited by Defining : 02-04-2014 at 11:30 PM.
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