The term “carb cycling” comes from professional bodybuilders and fitness athletes alike that cycle carbohydrate intake in an attempt to become extremely lean. This method has worked well for many accomplished athletes such as professional bodybuilder Victor Martinez as well as other top bodybuilding professionals that need to get their body fat into the lower single digit range. If you want to explore new ways that can help your physique as lean as it has ever been, then try exploring the concepts of carbohydrate cycling as explained below.
The Basic Concept
Most carbohydrate cycling diets consist of three types of days. These days include High Carb, Low Carb, and No Carb days. This pattern will be cycled based on the individuals goals and how the individual responds to carbohydrates. You may find that your body stays lean and even needs the carbohydrates to obtain a fuller look, such as 2009 Olympia second place finished Branch Warren. The most important aspect is to take notes and try different methods for cycling your carbohydrates – whether the pattern consists of a high day, moderate day, low day and repeats, or if you have prolonged low/zero carbohydrate days followed by one or more high carbohydrate days, etc. Everybody will react differently.
Most plans will be very adaptable to what most bodybuilders eat. You should be eating five to six meals daily. Each of your meals should have enough protein. Protein should be a staple in your diet no matter if you are carb cycling, bulking up, or just maintaining weight. Your fat intake is not to be as concerned about as your carbohydrate intake. This is hard for most people to believe, as it is easy to follow the low fat diet considering ‘fat’ is what we are trying to lose. Of course you should not have an extreme amount of fat in your diet, as eating a surplus of calories, whether it be from protein, fat, or carbohydrate, will keep you from being as lean as you want to be.
High Carbohydrate Days
These days are going to be the days you cherish. Depending on how many meals you’re eating daily (remember, it should be between 5 and 6), will determine how many meals you may pig out on carbohydrates. If you’re eating 6 meals, then 4 out of the 6 meals is generally how many meals in which you can ‘carb up’ on.
You may choose which meals have the majority of carbohydrates, but be sure to always have your pre and post workout meals selected as two of the high carbohydrate meals. When we say high carbohydrate meals, we mean complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, high fiber foods, etc.
Reduced / Low Carbohydrate Days
Guessing that you’re eating the default 6 meals a day, this day will allow you to eat three meals that contain carbohydrates. As with the high carb day, you need to have one of these meals before the workout and another one after. The difference for these meals is that the amount of carbohydrates will be limited. Fruit is recommended as well. During this day, your total amount of carbohydrate intake should be equal to the amount the individual weighs in pounds. So if you weigh 200 lbs, consume no more than 200g of carbohydrates.
Extremely low / No Carb Days
This day is easy for those who cannot keep up with counting calories and grams for each macro nutrient, but will be the most physically demanding day. As the title says, you should have almost virtually zero carbs. Depending on how your body responds to carbohydrates, you might allow yourself to top out at 50 or 100 grams, and even these calories should come from vegetables.
Other Important Diet and Exercise notes
This is simply a diet suggestion based on one macro nutrient out of three. You should fit this concept into your diet that has a good amount of protein as well as healthy fats. Generally, this concept of carb cycling is used for those trying to get lean and some people’s bodies react better to this than others. You should definitely make sure your supplementation, post workout nutrition, sleep pattern, training, and everything else that goes into the 24 hour sport of bodybuilding is in check. It is also recommended to consume your high carbohydrate days on days that you train weaker bodyparts. Because of the increase of insulin activity and super-saturation of your muscles glycogen stores, you will notice these will be your most productive days, as well as the days that your muscles feel more full. This general concept is applied when peaking for a bodybuilding show; depleting the muscle of carbohydrates, then super-saturating them to give that shrink-wrapped look.