What is carb cycling?

Posted by Anthea England on | Tags: Low Carb & Keto

Cyclic Low Carb or ‘Carb Cycling’: it’s a term used in health circles, but what does it really mean? Put simply, it’s an eating plan which cycles between low and higher carbohydrate days. Think of it like a part-time, low-carb keto plan.

carb cyclingCyclic Low Carb (CLC) is used in our THR1VE Protocol. In this program, there’s two weeks on an entirely low-carb keto plan, then it transitions to a CLC program. Participants have up to 50g of carbs a day on low carb days, ideally less. These fall on days where you’re not doing an intense training session – about three days a week. However, on intense training days, your carbohydrate limit is bumped up to 150g per day.

Timing is key in a CLC program. You should consume the extra carbs within three hours of intense training such as HIIT or Strength training. For even better results, wait for an hour after training to start. On our program, carb limits are increased up to four days a week.

Why cycle?

For one, it stops your body going into starvation mode. Unsurprisingly, that’s not ideal! “Your body can’t distinguish the difference between dieting and starving when you switch up your eating to something a little more restrictive (like reducing your carbohydrate intake),” explains THR1VE Nutritionist Shannon Young. “Your body will adapt by activating regulatory mechanisms to decrease the risk of starvation. This can hinder your desired results.” In short, it can start to hold on to fat.

So what’s the alternative? “Carb cycling allows your body to replenish your glycogen stores, which prevents your body from thinking it’s ‘starving’. By planning carbohydrate intake at regular intervals, and reassuring your body that it isn’t starving, it won’t activate these unnecessary protective mechanisms,” explains Young. You get some wriggle room – and your metabolism will thank you for it.

Can anyone do it?

Essentially, yes – as it can be adjusted to suit your lifestyle and needs. However, Young points out there’s a few groups who should take care. “Anyone taking medication for high blood pressure or diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugar frequently when adapting to a lower carbohydrate diet to make sure medication is modified accordingly. This should be done with the assistance of a health care professional. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also seek advice from a health care professional before reducing their carbohydrate intake.” Noted.

Bonus!

You can work a CLC plan around your social schedule – rather than changing your schedule to fit in with the plan. Ie, you can time your training session before a night out to use your extra carb allowance wisely! Then you can reset with a keto day. Talk about a fun way to cycle.
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