Carbohydrate Cycling for Fat Loss

December 13th, 2009 by

By Erik Ledin

Ask someone you deem qualified what the best nutritional strategy to maximum fat loss is and you will get one answer. Ask another seemingly qualified individual the same question and chances are you will get a completely different answer. There are a few general constants you can expect to hear; for example, ensuring you are eating adequate amounts of protein and omega-3 fats. There is little argument there. However, the discrepancies arise when the subject of carbohydrate intake come up. Some will say high carbs are best, others say low carbs, and still others recommend something somewhere in the middle. The truth of the matter is that there really is no one best way of approaching fat loss. There are many different approaches that can, and have been, used successfully. Any fat-loss strategy must serve two purposes – one, it must be functional. That is, it has to do what it’s set out to do – promote fat loss in this case for example. Two, it has to be ‘doable’, meaning it has to be a strategy that you can adhere to. A diet that is functional, but one you can’t follow is useless. A diet that you can follow, but isn’t functional is also useless. So, the most important elements to successful fat loss are ensuring that your strategy is customized to yourself, ensuring it’s a plan you will adhere to, and adjusting your program based on your progress, or lack thereof. Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter game and what works for one doesn’t always work for another. With that said, let’s take a closer look at this carbohydrate issue.

Truth be told, there are benefits to having a fair amount of carbs in your diet and there are benefits to keeping them low. So why not use both strategies? Said in a simpler way, why not cycle your carb intake, and subsequently your caloric intake? By cycling your carb intake you get the best of both worlds. Assuming you keep your protein and fat intakes relatively constant, and only manipulate your carb intake, you are automatically cycling calories as well. The first benefit to doing so is that it may keep your body from adapting to what you are doing. Your body will always try to adapt to what you’re doing and the leaner you get, and the more you take your body away from its natural set (or settling) point, the more your body will try to adjust its regulatory processes to halt your progress. This is just in part related to the regulatory hormone, leptin, although there are a number of other relevant hormones at play as well.

NEXT: Read more about leptin and carbohydrate cycling.

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Find out about Erik Ledin, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN), Certified Kinesiologist (CK), Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)