Many people are confused when it comes to carb cycling. What is it, exactly? And can it be beneficial for them? While it can work for anyone, carb cycling is an advanced diet strategy that requires testing and manipulation to determine what is best for each individual.

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling encourages people to manage and adjust their carb intake on certain days.  The goal is to consume carbs at a time when they provide maximum benefit and to exclude carbs when they are simply not needed.  You can tailor the carbs for things such as body composition goals, training and rest days, scheduled refeed days, body fat levels, types of training, and for competitions.  An example of a normal carb cyclying diet may include 2 high carbs days, 2 moderate carb days, and 3 low carb days.  Protein intake is similar during all of the days, but low carb days are always high fat days.

What is the Goal?

The goal of carb cycling is to match the body’s need for calories and glucose. The high carb days also serve to refuel the muscle glycogen, aid in reduction of muscle breakdown, and improve performance.  Strategic high carb periods may also improve the function of weight and appetite regulating hormones, leptin and ghrelin.  The low carb days are reported to switch the body over to a predominantly fat-based system, which may improve metabolic flexibility as well as the body’s ability to burn fat as fuel in the long term.  Manipulation of insulin is another big factor for carb cycling.   The low carb days and targeting of carbs around the workout may improve insulin sensitivity.

Just remember, the main purpose of carb cycling is to maximize the benefits of carbs and teach the body to burn fat as fuel. When adopting this diet strategy, each person needs to determine what carb cycling strategy will work best for their individual body type and goals.

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