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Carb Cycling For Fat Loss
Strong As An Ox: Issue 013 Carb Cycling
Welcome to the twelfth issue of Strong as an Ox, my weekly newsletter on fitness, health, and mindset. Last issue we explained the catalyst of all new muscle growth: Muscle Protein Synthesis (referred to as MPS for short). This issue, we will be talking about an extremely effective method for fat loss—Carb Cycling.
Carb Cycling is a simple method that can make dieting both more enjoyable, and potentially even more effective in terms of preserving muscle mass and accelerating fat loss.
What Is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a fairly simple concept—you will manipulate your carb intake throughout the week by having lower and higher carb days. There are numerous way to do this that we will discuss. Carb Cycling can easily be looked at as a way to manipulate carbs and calories.
This can provide both effective results and some mental relief as you reach your higher carb days. Some carb cycling schedules will have you eating as much as 3-4x more carbs on your high days than your low days. I know for myself, this gives me something to look forward to when my calories are getting lower as I progress deeper into a caloric deficit.
Benefits of Carb Cycling
By using carb cycling you will be placing your body in a caloric deficit for most of the week, this will obviously (through the laws of thermodynamics) promote fat loss. The other part of the week you will eat closer to maintenance. This has profound effects for a plethora of reasons:
Glycogen depletion and replenishment - Your low carb days will deplete your stored muscle glycogen—this can be a good thing as it will create a super-compensation effect (your muscles will store more glycogen than normal) on your high days. The benefits of the high days will in fact be the glycogen replenishment because as you diet, your muscle glycogen will be depleted, and this is a negative in preserving muscle mass during a caloric deficit.
Mental Relief - After multiple low carb days in a row, simply eating around maintenance feels great. It can really change the game in terms of adherence. You’ll be much more likely to stick to your diet if you see the light at the end of the tunnel (or low carb days)
Performance - You will likely feel less optimal all the time, that’s simply part of dieting. By allowing yourself to go higher on the carbs, you will produce the chance to keep performance high in the gym—this is key to preserving your strength and muscle mass.
Insulin Sensitivity - By going low carb, you are improving your body’s insulin sensitivity—this means you will be more responsive to insulin (shuttling nutrients to the muscle). This is also know as nutrient partitioning, and you will have more stable blood sugar levels, which is important for weight management and general health.
Increased Leptin - Leptin is the hormone that essentially controls fat loss. By increasing your carbs on high days, you will cause an increase in leptin that will then keep your fat loss productive.
Keep Metabolism Higher - A caloric deficit will, to an extent, lower your body’s metabolic rate due to adaptive thermogenesis. This isn’t necessarily because your metabolism is slowing down—it is simply because you’ll naturally lower your NEAT because overall energy consumption is lower. The extra carbs will provide more energy to keep you moving.
These are the main benefits—it isn’t magic, it works the same ways all diets do: by creating a caloric deficit. This is simply an approach you can try for adherence, or if you’re seeing a stall in your fat loss.
How To Set Up A Carb Cycling Diet
There are multiple ways you could do this. I will touch on a few and how you can apply them to your specific diet.
3 Low 1 High - In this approach you will simply eat low carbs for 3 days—low here will be considered 50g if under 180lbs, and 100g if over 180lbs—then on the 4th day you will have your High Carb day, and then repeat the same cycle.
For this very simple approach we will follow this general diet set up:
Low Carb Days:
1-1.2 Protein per Pound of Bodyweight
.3-.5g Fat per Pound of Bodyweight
High Carb Day:
1-1.2g protein per Pound of Bodyweight
2-3g Carbs per Pound of Bodyweight
.15-.25g Fat Per Pound of Bodyweight.
This will net us around 2100-2200 calories on low days, and 3300-3500 calories on high days if you were a 210lbs Ox—this would work exceptionally well at keeping performance up while melting body fat.
On your low days I suggest keeping your carbs around your meal. Personally, I will do 1 scoop of Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin during my workout—this is 25g of carbs—and I will eat the rest in my post-workout meal.
Others like to have some carbs pre-workout—if this is you that is fine, as long as you are adhering to whatever schedule works best for you. However, if you take this approach I highly suggest having some carbs allocated for your post-workout meal: preferably 50-70g pre-workout, then 30-50g post-workout.
Training Day and Rest Day Cycling - In this approach, you will simply eat less carbs on rest days, and more on training days. This is the diet model I follow year-round whether cutting or bulking.
This is because it makes sense to eat less on days you aren’t training. This will have the added benefit of keeping your performance high on training days, and allowing you to continue in a relatively equal deficit on non-training days as you’ll be expending less energy.
For this, you would remove your pre-intra-post workout carb sources, and increase your fat intake this day.
On Rest Days, you will space the remaining carbs out evenly between your meals. How you calculate this is up to you; however, my suggestion is to figure out your caloric deficit for cutting, and adhere to the 500-1000 calorie deficit on training days. Then, remove an additional 200-300 calories on your rest days.
This can get very, very complicated, but the principles should be easy to understand.
To simplify this, remove 100-150g of carbs on rest days, and add 20-30g of fat.
This will take away 400-600 calories from carbs and only add 180-270 calories from fat for a net difference in 200-300 calories depending on how you have your diet set up.
Don’t over complicate this if you decide to approach this method—just eat less on rest days—nothing crazy, around 200-300 calories less. If you simply remove that amount in carbs you’ll be fine.
3 Low, 1 High, 2 Moderate Days - Hopefully I didn't lose you above, this is a much simpler concept. You will do what you did for the 3 Low Carb, 1 High Carb day with the exception that you will then taper your carbs back down for 2 days before repeating.
On your moderate carb days you will lower your carbs by 100g on day 5, then another 100g on day 6.
Fats will remain at .15-.25g Fat per Pound of Bodyweight until your low carb day where you will increase the amount back to .3g-.5g Fat per Pound of Bodyweight.
This would look like:
Day 1-3 Low Carb Days at 50-100g
Day 4 High Carb Day at 2-3g per bodyweight in carbs let’s say 500g
Day 5 Moderate Carb Day would then be 400g
Day 6 Moderate Carb Day would be 300g
You will then return back to the Low Carb on Day 7, and repeat the cycle.
Let’s Wrap This Up?
Truly, this is for anyone. However, this approach works well for people who are lean and looking to break into the shredded realm—or anyone who has noticed a stall in their fat loss.
As with all diets, as you lose more and more weight, you will have to adjust your deficit accordingly to compensate. Therefore, this approach will not work forever—you will eventually need to adjust to your current weight, or increase your deficit or activity level to see further results.
This is another tool you can keep in the tool box if you would like to switch things up. Personally, especially the 2nd approach, makes a lot of sense due to caloric needs on training vs rest days.
As with everything, this is a general guide—feel free to manipulate this and see what works best for you. However, I would not suggest being too aggressive or having your high carb days out-pace your lower carb days (for obvious reasons).
Overall, your caloric deficit is all that will matter in determining fat loss. This method can make it a much more sustainable and potentially more successful process.
The BowTiedOx website is done—well 99% done. We are running into issues with the membership portion, but expect an email this week with your access code to allow you to make an account. It’s going to change the game with my ability to almost individually coach each and every one of you.
July 30th is the Bodyweight Bench Press Challenge. Simple: put your bodyweight on the bar for bench press, and see how many reps you can get. Submit your video and tag myself in by 11:59pm EST on July 30th. If you do not have a twitter or would rather email, I am not taking those as there will be too many videos for me to post. Start a Twitter and become a BowTiedAvatar lol.
Next month, with an introduction of the website will be when a lot of you start seeing serious results. Week 4-8 will prove to be major for those of you sticking to your goals and executing day in and day out. Stay with it—12 weeks is enough time to make MAJOR, and I mean MAJOR lifestyle and body composition changes.
This is not Legal, Medical, or Financial advice. Please consult a medical professional before starting any workout program, diet plan, or supplement protocol. These are opinions from a Cartoon Ox.