Knowing the science behind why carb cycling works is important for anyone considering adopting this regime. Without understanding the principles of this diet, it’s difficult to follow it correctly. Here, we look at the basics so you can be well informed.
Carb Cycling – The Basics
Carb cycling is relatively new in terms of dietary approaches. It is backed up by science based on carbohydrate manipulation’s biological mechanisms. Yet, there are few official studies which have directly investigated carb cycling diets. Many people have found this regime a successful one, however. Elite athletes have been using this method for years to boost their performance. Dieters are also starting to recognize the benefits.
So, how does carb cycling work? Essentially, this way of eating aims to match up the body’s requirement for glucose or calories.
For instance, it supplies carbohydrates on days of intense training or workouts. It achieves this by planning in days of high carbohydrate intake on those days.
High carbohydrate days refuel glycogen in the muscles. This too can reduce breakdown of the muscles and improve sporting performance.
When high-carbohydrate periods are strategically planned, it’s possible to boost the functioning of appetite-regulating hormones. Ghrelin and leptin are both hormones associated with hunger and appetite. Both can be better controlled with carb cycling diets.
On low carbohydrate days, the body switches to a different way of producing energy. Without the glucose from carbs to fuel it, it predominantly begins to burn fat. This, in turn, helps to improve the body’s metabolic flexibility. It also helps the body to adapt more effectively to burning fat as a fuel source over the long-term.
Another major element in carb cycling is how it allows insulin to be manipulated. If you target your carbs around your workouts, it can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This is a sign of good health. It helps to protect against conditions like diabetes.
It also helps to maximize the many benefits that carbohydrates provide.
Is Carb Cycling the Same as Keto?
Many people think that the keto diet and carb cycling are the same things. This isn’t true. Although there are some similarities, the two regimes are very different.
The keto diet is extremely low in carbohydrates. It also involves eating a lot of good fats and moderate amounts of protein. The main aim of the keto diet is to burn fat as fuel by getting into ketosis.
Usually, carb cycling involves eating more carbs than you would have in the classic keto diet. It also doesn’t involve eating the same large amount of fats. Therefore, ketosis isn’t the aim of a carb cycling regime.
Nevertheless, there are some similarities. Both emphasize the management of carbohydrate intake. Also, both diets involve counting macros. Macros are the specific number of grams of fats, protein and carbs you eat every day. This means that some people combine both regimes. This is known as keto cycling.
The keto cycling protocol involves eating a keto diet on most days. These will be interspersed with either one or two days of eating more carbs. These are called re-feeding days. They are designed to break the ketosis. By doing this, dieters can receive the benefits of consuming carbohydrates. Their fiber intake is increased, their athletic performance is fueled, and their diet is more varied.
Some nutritional experts say that restricting carbs in the long-term could impact on certain hormones. Insulin and thyroid hormones are vital for healthy body composition.
If you try keto-cycling, balance in these hormones could be better maintained. This provides a distinct advantage over the standard keto diet in which carbs are restricted over an extended period. Not only that, but the common problems associated with keto diets are reduced or eliminated. Issues such as bad breath don’t become prevalent since some carbs are still being consumed regularly.