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Carb Cycling

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

When you get into the single digits left for weight loss goals, losing even .5% bodyfat is cause for celebration and dancing in the streets. I *only* have 7-8lbs to lose as a goal milestone, but I've been stuck for over 3 months.

When I had 40lbs to lose, just cutting out soda and walking more was enough to lose weight.

When I had 30lbs to lose, I needed to eat cleaner. I eliminated processed and fast foods.

When I had 20lbs to lose, I had to cut back carbohydrates. 160g carbs was simply too high for me. Eating less than 100g carbs trimmed off fat nicely.

Now that I have less than 10lbs to lose, what to do?

I'm experimenting with carb cycling. This is a technique used by bodybuilders to trim fat before competition. While I am not even close to a bodybuilder, I thought it might do the trick to kick start fat burn again.

Basically it works by alternating no carb, low carb, and high carb days. No carb clears out fat storage hormones (insulin). High carb resets leptin and muscle growth hormones. Both of which can get out of whack on very low carb and very high carb diets. Carb cycling, the theory goes, juggles the hormones around to optimize fat loss. It's supposed to work better when a person is already at normal or low body fat levels. So I'm giving it a try.

I'm also upping the intensity of my workouts with circuit training to increase both calorie burn and resistance. I'm all about efficiency, and circuit training is more bang for the time buck. It's been pretty brutal this week, but I think it's working.

My plan is something like this:

No carb (less than 40g): Veggies/Protein
Low Carb (less than 80g): Veggies/Protein/Fruit
High Carb (approx 100-120g): Veggies/Protein/Fruit/Starch

"No carb" isn't exactly 0, and "high carb" isn't exactly high for my purposes.

It's cycled like this:

Mon: No Carb
Tues: Low Carb
Weds: High Carb
Thurs: No Carb
Fri: No Carb
Sat: Low Carb
Sun: High Carb

That means a couple of days a week and on weekends I can indulge in a side of mashed potatoes, rice, bread or even a small dessert.

My exercise routine is alternating between short, high intensity (elliptical/spinning/circuit x30mins) and long, low intensity (walking/cycling x1hr+) - 3x HIIT and 4x LIIT.

Tues: LIIT
Weds: HIIT
Thurs: LIIT

I'll let you know in a few weeks if this does the trick.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • IRP1114
    Lowering carbs does seem to do the trick for most. Hope it works out for you. I like that you are varying to your energy needs :-)
    1459 days ago
    I've always done well on carb cycling diets! Good luck!
    1459 days ago
    EGALITAIRE: Excellent questions!! I was going to wait to explain more of the concept until after I tried out the n=1 experiment on myself for a couple of weeks. I don't know if this will actually work, so I was holding off on getting too deep into it until I had more 'evidence' in my trial. But you all are getting into some very, very good questions and ideas, so I'll try to compile all this into a follow up blog.

    Great discussion, all!
    1463 days ago
    This is a great discussion - I love hear all the different perspectives and experiences.

    I am interested in the concept of needing extra carbs on a high intensity exercise day - what would happen if one didn't carb load - that being a relative term.

    My carbs are between 40 and 80 most days, but I don't cycle intentionally, just vary the menu.

    I am increasing the number of Tabata protocols I do each week, and I do a long (2+ hour) ride each week. I don't notice feeling like I need extra carbs on or after those days - for those of you who feel you need extra carbs - what are the indicators?

    1463 days ago
    LadyRose: I think you and I have the similar ideas about "rest day". :)

    Hmm...I think this would be a good topic for a blog!
    1463 days ago
  • DEELB1
    emoticon interesting
    1463 days ago
    *whew* didn't want you to think I was knocking your plan! :)

    "What do you think? Does rest day mean 'sedentary'?"

    Honestly, I truly believe you need some total down, do nothing time. I know that a lot of people get fidgety and antsy when they just sit and/or are still. Most people just don't know how to be still (count me in that) but by constantly feeling like you need to be doing - again, fast track to burnout.

    The big thing on a 'rest' day to keep in mind: it's about recovery - mind, body and spirit. If you enjoy taking a stroll on the beach, by all means do it - stop, look at shells and rocks, laugh, throw sand at each other (if you're walking with the hubby or a friend) or just take the time to be in nature and don't think about heart rate, number of miles/steps, etc. And if you can do a little bit of stretching along the way, even better!

    I think about the life pre-industrialization: people worked hard, then came in for the night, had dinner, then sat and talked, prayed, laughed with family, then went to bed at a decent hour to start it all over. They usually had 1-2 days where they did the minimum, then just hung out the rest of the day.

    That all make sense?
    1463 days ago
  • BILL60
    I agree with SALONKITTY's remark. I do high intensity cycling 3X weekly and have to repair by consuming some carbs. I couldn't limit my carbs on those days. Let us know how it goes. And BTW, you're doing incredible well. The very best to you.
    1463 days ago
  • ADZY86
    I'm really intrigued to see how this is going to pan out. Keep us posted. Right now I just do low carb cos I find it easier, but I've read time and time again that you do need to 'confuse' your body to keep it burning. I do this with my workouts, but not yet with my food.
    Hope it works out.
    1463 days ago
    Nice idea if you can stick to it. I couldn't keep track of that kind of program but then I'm lucky if I can remember what day it is.
    1463 days ago
    Yes, also looking forward to seeing how this works for you. I am in a somewhat similar place - with more to lose - but have plateaued for a few months after dropping weight quickly and regularly.

    My main goal is health, so I am patient with finding out what will make the scale move - I have been tweaking my exercise, although not as scientifically as would be needed to actually know what's working and what's not.

    I have not really changed my diet much.
    1463 days ago
    They're always coming up with something, aren't they? I read it on a bodybuilder forum. The more extreme measure is the ketogenic diet. I've been trying to avoid it, but if carb cycling doesn't work, then that may be a last resort.

    "Keeping the body guessing" is why I'm cycling high/low carbs AND exercise!
    1463 days ago
    Good luck with this and I am curious to see how it works. I have tried it before but just could not committ to it fully. It was just easier to eat low carb. Maybe the new year.
    1463 days ago
    Sounds like an interesting concept, hadn't heard of it (although my son, the "Bodybuilder", heralds the concept of "keeping your body guessing" by constantly changing his workouts.

    you mentioned a while back that the Low Intensity of long walks, hikes etc. of more than an hour or two were most effective in burning fat. Maybe a long leisurely work on the weekends....
    1463 days ago
    Great thoughts, LadyRose! The strength training is included in my circuit training. "Rest" days are included in the LIIT - very leisurely activities like walking around a park. :) I didn't think of rest days as necessarily sedentary.

    What do you think? Does rest day mean 'sedentary'? By low intensity I mean very low, like walking. The weekend walks on the beach and cycling are at a very leisurely pace - like 50-55 HRM.
    1463 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/24/2012 7:58:52 PM
    Good call SalonKitty... was just going to mention that... with the HIIT workouts, you'll be burning through your glycogen stores pretty quick, so will need to put the high carb day before those workouts and maybe the day off, or at least as part of your post-workout meal, then you can drop the carbs.

    Can't wait to see how the experiement works!

    PS - You ARE a bodybuilder! You're doing the work to build an awesome, healthy body!!

    PPS - that brings up a question: where's the weights in your exercise routine? I'd suggest 1-cutting a couple of LIIT days and making those weight training days (doesn't have to be complicated, just some body weights or if you're at the gym, lift really heavy things.) and 2 - add a rest day in there! Not a 'doing less' day, an actual rest day to allow the body to recover. All -IIt and no rest is an equation for overtraining.
    1463 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/24/2012 7:22:52 PM
    Great point, SalonKitty! The research I did on carb cycling didn't mention exercise, so I'm kinda fitting this in with some of my fitness goals. I think you are on to something, though, that perhaps I should sync up my high intensity days with higher carb. Thanks for the thought!
    1463 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/24/2012 4:24:16 PM
    I think it's a good idea to give this a try, Vhalkyrie...what I am curious about is if the no/low/high carb days should be somehow sync'd up with the types of workouts you're doing...did you find any info suggesting that, or does it not matter?
    1463 days ago
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