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3:1 Carbohydrate “Cycling” – The Most Effective Fat Burning Technique EVER!
A low to moderate carbohydrate and high protein diet will cause much faster fat loss than a high carbohydrate diet. However, it may seem like the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. Fortunately, there’s a solution to these problems and it’s called “carbohydrate cycling.” Some people refer to carbohydrate cycling as “zig-zag” dieting, “Hi-low” dieting, “carbing-up” or carbohydrate “re-feeding.”
Regardless of what you name it, carbohydrate cycling is probably the most powerful fat burning strategy on the planet. Nothing else even comes close. It is the ONLY guaranteed way to outwit the body’s starvation response when calories and carbohydrates are low. Not only do you avoid a negative response, but you also invoke many positive responses that do not occur when holding your carbohydrates and calories at the same low level day in and day out.
That’s the main problem with conventional low carbohydrate diets – they suggest that you drop your carbohydrates and keep them low.
What I am suggesting is that you drop your carbohydrates for a few days, then increase them again before your body figures out what the heck is going on!
Carbohydrate cycling has been a well-kept secret of bodybuilders and fitness models for decades, but anyone can use it to accelerate fat loss or break a plateau. The beauty of this method is that it allows you to get all the fat loss benefits of low carbohydrate dieting without the low carbohydrate side effects. Most important, it keeps your metabolism elevated and prevents you from going into starvation mode.
Why you shouldn’t stay on low carbohydrates for more than three days in a row After three days in a row on low carbohydrates, your glycogen levels will be almost completely depleted. If you were to continue on low carbohydrates for a fourth day, fifth day, or beyond, you would notice your energy and training intensity begin to diminish. You would also notice that your muscles would “flatten out” and become softer. Your metabolic rate would begin to slow down and your thyroid gland would decrease its output of thyroid hormone. Basically, your diet would become less and less effective the longer you stayed on low carbohydrates beyond the three day period. Your body is so “smart,” it simply makes changes in physiology and metabolism to compensate for the prolonged lack of carbohydrates (which it interprets as starvation). That’s why you have to “shake things up” and keep your body off guard by throwing in a high carbohydrate day every fourth day.
High days and Low Days Carbohydrate cycling is based on the concept of rotating low carbohydrate days with high carbohydrate days instead of keeping carbohydrates low all the time. Every fourth day your glycogen levels are restored with a “carb load” or “high carb day” (also known as “high day”). Your energy stays up, your muscles fill out and tighten and your metabolic rate gets a boost as if you squirted lighter fluid on a dwindling fire.
The high day also makes your entire diet easier to stick with because no matter how difficult it is to get through those three low days, you have a “high day” to look forward to (Believe me, eating all those yummy carbs after three days without them is like getting a “high!”). The “high day” also bypasses all the side effects. You get noticeably leaner with every three-day low carbohydrate cycle as your body dips deeply into stored body fat without the carbohydrates readily available for fuel. Surprisingly, you may even continue to get leaner even on the high carbohydrate days because of the boost in metabolic rate.
Carbohydrate cycling also prevents your body from becoming inefficient at using carbohydrates for energy. When you cut your carbohydrates out for a long time, your body begins depending on fat for fuel and it learns how to use fat for fuel more efficiently. You often hear low carbohydrate diet proponents say that the low carbohydrate diet turns you into a “fat burner” while a high carbohydrate dieter turns you into a “sugar burner.” This may be true, but there’s a huge downside to staying on low carbohydrates all the time and becoming an exclusive “fat burner:” Your body becomes lazy and inefficient at burning carbohydrates. When you eat them again after a long absence, your body doesn’t know what to do with them. This is one of the reasons you will simply blow up overnight and gain weight back the minute you re-introduce carbohydrates after a long absence. Unless you plan on never eating a carbohydrate ever again, you’d better think twice about long-term carbohydrate restriction. Low carbohydrate diets are NOT “lifestyle” programs.
What’s the alternative? Carbohydrate load every fourth day. When you carbohydrate load a depleted muscle, the carbohydrates are quickly soaked up by the muscle on that fourth day because the muscles are “hungry” for carbohydrates. By repeated cycles of depletion and re-loading, your muscles become extremely efficient at storing carbohydrates as muscle glycogen rather than partitioning them to body fat.
Fine tuning the carbohydrate cycling method As you get leaner and leaner, you may find that you lose weight too quickly on the 3:1 carbohydrate cycling plan (no kidding!) As you learned in earlier chapters, it’s not a wise idea to lose more than 1.5 to 2.0 lbs of body weight per week. If you lose more than two pounds per week, you are much more likely to be losing LBM with the fat.
If you lose lean mass or drop weight too quickly, you should adjust your high to low day ratio by increasing your carbohydrates (and calories) overall or by keeping your low days the same and adding more high days. You can do three low carbohydrate days followed by two or three high carbohydrate days. Taking two or three high days after three low days will not only help reduce muscle loss, it may allow you to gain small amounts of muscle as you lose body fat. It’s not uncommon for my clients to lose 18-24 pounds of fat in three months, while gaining three to four pounds of muscle in the same period while using the is technique.
It’s very difficult to put down one single example of 3:1 carbohydrate cycling as I’ve described it here and have it apply to everyone. A little bit of experimentation and fine tuning will be necessary to discover what amount of carbohydrate works best for your high and low days. It’s absolutely essential for these types of advanced diets to be customized.
On average, women would consume about 90-130 grams of carbohydrates on low days and about 200 to 250 grams of carbohydrates on high days. Men would consume 150-200 grams of carbohydrates on low days and 300-400 grams of carbohydrates on high days.
The only way to determine how many grams of carbohydrates are right for you is to experiment until you find your "optimal level" and the results start coming.
On your low carbohydrate days, eat protein and starchy carbohydrate in your early day meals (meals one through three), then in your late day meals (meals three to six) eat protein with only fibrous carbohydrates like green vegetables and salad – no starchy carbohydrates! On your high days, you can eat starchy carbohydrates with every meal (and if you’re going to have a “cheat day” make it on a high day).
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