Is carb cycling for you?
DISCLAIMER: The following is not intended as health or nutrition advice. This is purely informative. It is up to you to decide what is best for you and your body.
Carb cycling is a dietary approach that I’ve found quite a bit of success with.
Now, we all define “success” differently, and a successful dietary approach can mean different things to different people, so I’ll more clearly define what I mean when I say I’ve had “quite a bit of success with carb cycling”.
My main goals from my diet are to aid in keeping body fat low, but to also provide enough energy to perform at a high cognitive level amidst a busy work schedule, and to fuel some pretty gnarly workouts where I also look to perform at or near my best.
I find that most dietary approaches, or “diets”, that are solely focused on improved body composition, are too restrictive, and aren’t sustainable.
Especially as many of them leave you zapped of energy, and I pack way too much into a day to be zapped of energy from a highly restrictive diet, purely for the sake of a couple less percent body fat.
In general, my diet typically includes lots of grass fed, pasture raised meat, organic fruit, raw honey, and raw cheeses or formed dairy. I find with these foods, I get the best balance of optimal benefits: burning body fat/keeping it low, coupled with high performance and function.
I’ve also been known to indulge on the weekends, or at special events, and will include potatoes and maybe a small amount of grains on high carb days, which we’ll understand more about as we read on.
Let’s learn more about this approach to eating, and arm you with more information to see if carb cycling is something you want to give a try.
Introduction to Carb Cycling
Carb cycling is a dietary approach in which you alternate your carbohydrate intake on a daily, weekly, or even monthly or yearly basis.
Carb Cycling is commonly used to help burn excessive stored body fat, optimize hormone balance & response, improve physical performance, and to shake things up when trying to bust through a plateau, whether with weight loss and/or physical performance.
**I will note that very little research has been done on carb cycling, so much of these potential benefits or use cases are anecdotal, including my own. That said, a quick YouTube search on carb cycling, uses, and benefits, will yield a lot of potentially useful results. .
Carbohydrate intake, when carb cycling, can be extremely variable, and is something that can be tweaked and adjusted to see what yields the best response for you personally.
So don't be afraid to experiment a little, but also remember that you need to stick with a specific regimen for some time (at least 4 weeks) to have a true idea of what's working, and what could be tweaked and adjusted.
How Does Carb Cycling Work
Carbs are your body’s primary fast burning fuel source. In the presence of carbs (glucose) in your system, your body won’t lean on it’s more slow burning fuel source, fat.
If cutting out carbs allows your body to then burn fat, why not just cut carbs out entirely?
This is where low energy and sustainability come into play.
As mentioned above, one of my goals from my diet is to also have energy for cognitive function and to get lots of stuff done in a day, both mentally and physically.
Oftentimes, this calls for a faster burning, more readily available energy source, (glucose) which is what our body yields from carbs.
However, too many carbs results in too much stored energy, and thus, weight gain, and the accumulation of body fat.
This is where the magic is at in carb cycling.
The idea behind carb cycling is that there is variability in your carbohydrate intake, which leaves room to be in states where carbs (glucose) aren’t present, and thus, you are more likely to burn fat, and then also provide bursts of quicker burning energy in the from of glucose from carbs from time to time.
Anecdotally, I, and many others have found this to be the sweet spot for burning more fat, or keeping body fat low, but also having the mental and physical energy to get stuff done throughout the day, and to crush your workouts if you so desire.
It’s in this variability where you can have some fun, playing around, experimenting with, and tweaking actual carb cycling schedules.
Types of Carb Cycling Schedules
I’ve personally played around most with daily, weekly, and what I would call a feast/famine schedule, all of which I’ll walk you through briefly.
Once you understand carb cycling conceptually, and how creating your own schedule, you can create any kind of schedule you’d like.
This would be a schedule for carb cycling based on a 24 hour period. Typically, you would do a combination of intermittent fasting, then eating low to no carb for the majority of the day, and eat all your carbs essentially in one meal.
Usually, this meal would be timed around your workout, with you consuming either a higher carb meal beforehand, or a higher carb meal post workout.
I’ve had a lot of success with this approach by implementing an intermittent fasting schedule, where I don’t eat for 14-16 hours, starting with my final meal of the evening, and into the next day. Then, when I’ve broken my fast for the day, I would eat high protein, moderate fat foods devoid of carbs, then workout/train, and finish the day with a higher carbohydrate meal of 100-200g carbs.
By beginning your day with intermittent fasting, and then a low to no carb approach for the majority of the day, you are making it a lot more likely that your body will be burning fat as it’s primary fuel source.
Then, only at the end of the day, after a workout, and further expending my body’s fuel reserves, I’ll refeed with a higher carbohydrate meal to aid in recovery and get me going the next morning strong.
This schedule is based on our 7 days in a week calendar cycle.
In this schedule, you have low, moderate, and high carb days, thus cycling your carbs from day to day across the span of a calendar week, rather than over a 24 hour period as in the above schedule.
A typical week for me in this schedule will look like the following starting with Monday and ending with Sunday:
Low – Moderate – Low – High – Low –Moderate – High (Note how i make room for more carbs on the weekends)
FEAST / FAMINE
A Feast/Famine schedule is going to implement a one day a week “refeed”, and is typically for someone trying to focus more heavily on lowering systemic inflammation and/or reducing body fat.
In a Feast/Famine approach to carb cycling, you would typically have 6 days of low to very low carbohydrate intake (usually 25-75g per day) capped off with a higher calorie, high carbohydrate day.
In many circles this is known as a “cheat day”.
Oftentimes this is called a “cheat day” because it’s the day where you eat everything you couldn’t eat during the week and want to eat, or are craving.
And this is true, however, I like to call it a “refeed” day, because you should also focus on getting higher quality foods in that your body can use, and truly refuel the reserves you spent all week, rather than a bunch of empty calories.
In short, try to combine eating some junk foods you want, with higher quality carbohydrate choices like fruit, potatoes, and whole grains.
I’ve actually written a more complete guide to carb cycling that will help you create a schedule based on sex, body type, and weight. It’s complete with a recommended food list and other useful information.
To check it out the Complete Guide to Carb Cycling.., CLICK HERE
To watch a really solid 5-minute primer on the various types of carb cycling and potential use cases CLICK HERE
[STUDY] GlyNAC supplementation improves, well, just about everything.
Increases in cellular oxidative stress and declines in mitochondrial function are well known defects that develop over time, and are major hallmarks of aging. However, many of the underlying mechanisms that cause this, and subsequent interventions are not known for this.
Correlationarily, common defects associated with increased oxidative stress and impaired mitochondrial function, such as inflammation, insulin resistance, and endothelial dysfunction are commonly present in older adults.
Basically, older adults commonly have known hallmarks of aging present at the cellular level such as increased oxidative stress, and decreased mitochondrial function, however, they don’t yet understand much about the correlation and what causes it.
More recent discoveries outlined in a study on PubMed titled, GlyNAC Supplementation Improves Glutathione Deficiency, Oxidative Stress, Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Inflammation, Aging Hallmarks, Metabolic Defects, Muscle Strength, Cognitive Decline, and Body Composition, shows a link between glutathione deficiencies and defects associated with aging,
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione is known as the “master antioxidant”, as it’s the main antioxidant your body produces endogenously (from within).
Being your body’s internal “master antioxidant”, glutathione is the most important regulator of inflammation, oxidative stress, and more.
Knowing this, the link between what appears to be pretty much all biomarkers and signs of aging (as indicated by the title of the aforementioned study), and glutathione deficiencies seems pretty clear.
How do you increase glutathione levels?
Since glutathione is produced within the body, you don’t get it from food, and supplementing orally with actual glutathione doesn’t seem to work, because the glutathione supplement won’t make it in the same chemical state from your gut to your bloodstream.
To increase glutathione levels, you must supplement with glutathione precursors, providing your body with the key nutrients it needs to make more glutathione on its own.
These are the amino acids glycine and cysteine (with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) being the bioavailable precursor to cysteine). This combo is also known as GlyNAC.
I consume 3 capsules each of Thorne’s Glycine and NAC about 30 minutes before bed, to keep my levels high, and get a proactive jumpstart on staving off the effects of aging. With this stack, you should notice pretty quickly that you sleep better, and everyday stress and anxiety levels should improve. Click HERE to purchase the stack at 30% off.
Track it to hack it.
It’s difficult to improve upon something if you don’t know what you’re improving.
I write down all my workouts, and track improvements. But by also writing everything down, I can track how my body responds to nuance and change in my workouts and training.
The same goes for sleep.
Once you start tracking your sleep with a wearable device (I use a Whoop strap), you can start testing variables and see how your lifestyle habits, and any changes you make impact your sleep.
Over the past weeks,I’ve been discussing many lifestyle oriented sleep hacks that you can implement and test by tracking your sleep. To check out some of these sleep hacks, go and check out prior week’s editions of “The Weekly Thread”.
Aging is the aggressive pursuit of comfort.
In an above segment I discussed some research on a link between a molecular deficiency at the cellular level (glutathione) and aging.
Let’s meditate on another cause of aging…
The aggressive pursuit of comfort.
As humans, along with pretty much all things in nature, evolution, progression occurs from stress.
We got to this point in human evolution because our grandparents had it tougher than us, and their grandparents had it tougher than them.
Now, we’re at the point where we live in so much abundance that it’s easy to seek comfort.
But comfort doesn’t force growth.
The privilege we now have, is that for the most part, we’re able to stimulate our own growth through our own strategic pressures, our own stressors.
One way is to do things that get us the heck out of our comfort zone.
If aging is the aggressive pursuit of comfort, then anti-aging would be the pursuit of discomfort.
Lean into discomfort.