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Today we're talking about a new diet that is literally depopulating overseas: the carb cycling diet or, better to say, carbohydrate cycling. What is it about? Of a technique which, as its name suggests, is based on the organization of a quantitative and temporal cycle, i.e. on an intake of carbohydrates which varies according to the day or period.

Curious to know more? Then you just have to keep reading!

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling is a very strict diet originally used by competitive athletes and bodybuilders with the intent of reducing body fat, gaining muscle mass or storing more carbohydrates for long duration exercise such as a marathon. Nowadays it is becoming more and more popular among people who want to start lose weight, although it must be said that much of the weight that one could lose would come from water.

Indeed, the body needs carbohydrates to function as it should. Carbohydrates, protein and fat are how you get your energy, measured in calories. But 1 gram of carbohydrates or protein has only 4 calories, while 1 gram of fat has 9 calories. Experts generally recommend getting 50%-55% of daily calories from carbohydrates, 10%-15% from protein, and less than 28% from fat.

Sure, some carbs are healthier than others. They are found naturally in dairy products and plant-based foods such as beans, grains, fruits and vegetables. They are also added to processed foods, in the form of sugars or starches.

When carbohydrates are digested, they break down into glucose, which the body uses for fuel. When you stop relying on carbohydrates to fuel your body, you may feel less craving for carbohydrates and have more energy.

Carb cycling diet example: how to cycle carbohydrates

Carb cycling involves alternating between high-carb and low-carb days. There may also be “carb-free” days. You usually have a high-carb day when you plan to do vigorous exercise. These days, your body needs more fuel, so you can eat 2 to 2.5 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight.

carbohydrate cycling

On days when you are less active, you eat fewer carbohydrates. On low-carb days, you can eat 0.5 grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight. You can include a "carb-free" day, where you consume less than 30 grams of carbohydrates for the entire day. Another option is to follow a plan where you eat a low amount of carbohydrates for 3 days: about 100-125 grams each day. Then, on your most active days, eat a high amount of carbohydrates (175-275 grams) for 2 days.

How the Carb Cycling diet works on our body and why cyclic carbohydrates are good for you

When eating foods containing carbohydrates and the glycemia salt, the pancreas produces more of a hormone called insulin that drives glucose into the cells. There the glucose is converted into energy, stored for the future or transformed into fat. When cells absorb sugar from the blood, the pancreas signals the cells to release stored glucose, called glucagon. This push and pull ensures that the body has the right amount of sugar.

But when you eat a high-carb diet, your body can make too much insulin. This can lead to weight gain and an increased likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Taking short breaks from carb cycling can give your body a chance to burn fat instead of carbs and muscle tissue. But it's important to remember that if you don't get a lot of exercise or vigorous training while carb cycling, the high-carb days could cause your weight to gain.

There isn't much research on the long-term effects of carb cycling, but it's generally safe for a short time. Make sure your overall diet is healthy, in order to keep blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check.

How to do carb cycling, or carbohydrate cycling

Your carb cycling plan will depend on several factors, including your overall health and exercise goals. Here is an example of a week:

Day 1 (High Intensity Training): 175-275 grams of carbohydrates

Day 2 (low intensity training): 100-125 grams of carbohydrates

Day 3 (High Intensity Training): 175-275 grams of carbohydrates

Day 4 (light intensity): 100-125 grams of carbohydrates

Day 5 (high intensity): 175-275 grams of carbohydrates

In short, it's not complicated. But… is it safe? Depends. In general, yes, but we can record side effects. In particular, when you reduce carbohydrates for a few days, you may experience:

  • Sleep problems
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Swelling
  • Mood problems

This is the so-called "carbohydrate flu", which usually does not last long. Drinking water and electrolytes can help. Being an extreme practice, carb cycling is not suitable for everyone. You should not try if you:

  • Pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Underweight
  • If you are managing a current or past eating disorder
  • Don't even try it if you have adrenal gland problems.

Meal suggestions for cycling carbs

carbohydrate cycling

Here are some tips to help you choose the best carbohydrates to eat:

  • Choose fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber.
  • Opt for low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.
  • Stock up on legumes, including beans, lentils and peas.
  • Eat lots of whole grains.
  • Limit refined grains, added sugars and highly processed foods.

At that time? Are you convinced by the idea? Think you want to try it? All you have to do is go to your trusted supermarket with a shopping list and see if it works!