Carbohydrates get the blame for excess fat on the body and the main contributor to weight gain. And it is true a high concentration diet of mostly carbs will cause additional fat and weight gain provided an equal amount of exercise is not adequate to burn off the additional calories.
Carbs are not the enemy, excessive carbs are. They will add fat to the body.
Carb cycling is used as leverage to help the body perform on those extra physical days in your training regimen (heavy resistance days). On the less physical days or cardio training, less carbs should be ingested. The opportunity is to expend energy on the carb depleted day signaling the body to use the fat on the body as its source of energy.
How is it that muscle is not burned first you may ask? Being that the body may trigger the starvation response and use muscle next as its energy source. In the carb cycling approach you are increasing your protein consumption. The muscle is well fed with protein substituting the carbs for that day with higher quantities of protein and fats.
Another area of concern for most people is the lack of understanding of fats in the diet. What is the function of eating fats and how does it play a role in carb rotation?
Fats get a lot of blame for causing weight gain because a fat gram contains about 9 calories per gram and more than double the calories for carbs.
Fat doesn’t make you fat, excessive calories make you fat. Fats are necessary in our diets and virtually every plant and animal has some form of fat associated with it. It is the most economical way to store energy and used for growth, development and function. Fats are a source of energy.
Fatty acids are needed to control inflammation, brain development and blood clotting. Your skin and hair depend on fats to be healthy. Fatty acids aid in the absorption of vitamins.
The calories we don’t expend are stored in fat cells as a future energy source (adipose tissue). Essential fatty acids are dietary fats necessary for cell function. The body cannot produce fatty acids naturally and they must be consumed.
All of our body’s cells contain some fats and are necessary as part of the cell membrane controlling what goes in and out of our cells.
The fats we eat consist of triglycerides being made from 3 forms of fatty acid and 1 glycerol molecule. Saturated fats are found in meats, cheese, milk, butter and eggs.
Unsaturated fats are found in foods such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, peanuts and avocados.
Polyunsaturated foods are found mostly in plant foods like seeds, nuts, vegetable oils, and cold blooded fish. In natural foods they contain antioxidant vitamins. Polyunsaturated fats contain two main classes of fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. Omega 6 is found mostly in plant food.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that fat consumption between 18 and 40% has little effect on fat in the body.
Carbohydrates eaten in excess or at the wrong times will add fat to the body. The best time to consume carbs is early in the day when your body needs it and tapering off the rest of your meals for the day. Never eat carbs at night, substitute protein instead.
It should be obvious if you want to lose weight and get lean you have to cut out junk food. Junk food is garbage providing no nutritional value. View it as poison to your body.
Carbs are not the villain, but the wrong carbs and time they are eaten is an issue.
Going low carb which many diets suggest can be effective but not sustained. You will lose weight but there will be side effects of going low carb for a period of time. The first thing you’ll notice from going low carb is a drop in physical performance. You will experience hunger cravings, lowering of your metabolic rate, difficulty with focus and concentration and you make get a bit moody.
This is where carb rotation can help. You have low carb days but not long enough to have all the bad side effects to go with it. The positive is getting to a level where your body doesn’t have the carbs to burn but starts attacking the fat.
The rotation of carbs to get the ultimate flat lean stomach is in union with an exercise program. This is not merely an eating plan. That being said, you should start with 2 high carb days. Those are the days when you lift (resistance training) heavy. Those are staggered between 3 low carb days that should provide enough carbs for fuel without becoming excessive. You will have to monitor and make adjustments in your carb intake.
For your high carb day the recommendation is to start out with eating 1 – 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. Start with 1.5 and adjust accordingly. Note always use clean carbs. Don’t count fibrous vegetables as part of your carbs count only use starchy complex carbs. Depending on your activity and intensity look for a starting point for you carb intake. For example a 180 lb. man on a high carb day would consume 182.7 grams of carbs.
Another method of carb rotation is to use a gradual approach. There are three lower carb days in this approach using a gradual lowering of carbs and then gradual increase towards the next heavy day.
Day 1 – 150 grams of carbs
Day 2 – 100 grams of carbs
Day 3 – 50 grams of carbs
Day 4 – 125 grams of carbs
Day 5 – 182.7 grams of carbs
There is a word of caution that on your high carb days you may experience a little bloat. That’s because for every gram of carb you intake you also store 4 grams of water. Those that are leaner will appear to be the most noticeable. It’s part of the process. It’s not weight gain and will recede as you journey to your low carb days.
You want to choose carbs highest in glucose or complex carbs. Use simple carbs near the time you’re going to workout to be absorbed the quickest or complex carbs that will break down into glucose.
The biggest thing to avoid in your carb selection is fructose and anything that has high fructose corn syrup. Limit fruits as your carbs. If you were to use fruit (fructose) on your high carb day it has a high chance of getting stored as fat since it won’t get stored in muscles readily.
Another tip to help you get to those six pack abs is to lower your fat consumption on your high carb days. You don’t want to do high carbs with the same fat intake on your low carb days. You have to adjust accordingly. This will help to offset your calorie intake.
Keep in mind in order to lose weight you must create a calorie deficit. You’re rotating carbs all week and by the end of the week your goal ultimately should be at a lower calorie level. In order to drop a pound of weight you need to shed 3500 calories. Create a deficit.
For example, your baseline to maintain your current weight is 2200 calories a day or 15400 per week. To drop that pound by the end of the week your daily caloric intake would have to drop 500 calories to a total of 1700 calories per day (500 * 7days = 3500 calories = 1 lb.)
Use an app like My Fitness Pal to keep track of your diet. It’s a great tool and is easy to enter data but the best part is the reporting it provides. It will keep track of your macronutrients, proteins, fat, and carbs. So it’s easy to stay on track while also monitoring your calories with daily and weekly stats. An invaluable tool.
Complex Carb Sources
- Green vegetables.
- Whole grains and foods made from them, such as oatmeal, pasta, and whole-grain breads.
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin.
- Beans, lentils, and peas.
- raw sugar
- brown sugar
- corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
- glucose, fructose, and sucrose
- fruit juice concentrate
- refined white flour products