Benefits of Cycling Carbohydrate Intake

December 13th, 2009 by

On the flip side however, most people do not enjoy following a low carb strategy for very long. While there are clearly benefits to doing so, there are other things that need to be considered. Chronic very low-carb intake can actually impair insulin sensitivity and promote insulin resistance (related to ketone exposure). As already noted, low-carb intakes also result in overly flat, depleted muscles and gym performance typically suffers. Throw in a day of high carbs and your muscles fill out, you find yourself more vascular, your workouts are great, and you look and feel much better. There is also research to support the fact that these higher-carb/calorie days may stimulate leptin production (although a short term increase in calories/carbs would only have a short term effect on these hormones mind you), which as we already noted is an important player in the fat-loss game. The one issue on the leptin subject is that it is debatable as to what the significance of this short-term upregulation would be. It may be an increase that is not significant enough or long enough, but regardless, the point is that something is definitely happening as strategies used in an attempt to stimulate these regulatory hormones result in not only continued, but greater fat loss over time . Carbohydrates are also very protein sparing – meaning they prevent protein from being oxidized as fuel – which is an important consideration when muscle retention is a primary focus. Read more

There are psychological factors to consider as well. How you feel on a diet is arguably just as important to your progress as any other variable. There are not too many people that enjoy looking flat and depleted all the time. Add to that the fact that some people simply feel awful on consistent low carb intakes. And let’s not forget one of the reasons most people can appreciate – carbohydrates simply taste good. Of course, there is the flip side as well – there are a number of people who don’t feel good on high carbs either. These are typically those who suffer from a degree of insulin resistance. So in both populations, a carb cycling approach still has great utility.

So to summarize, we want some days where carbohydrate intake and calories are higher and some days where carbohydrate intake and calories are lower. The simplest way to set this is to just cycle your carbohydrates and calories according to your weekly training schedule. For example, assuming four workouts per week, you might have your high days on your two big workouts, medium days on your two easier workouts, and low days on your off days. If you were only training three days per week, you could go with just one high day, on your hardest workout or the workout with the greatest volume, and then make your other training days medium days and again the rest, low days.

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