Carb cycling—aka The New Keto—may be just the ticket if you’re training for strength and endurance or if you’re just trying to break up the monotony of a low-calorie diet. Both keto and carb cycling diets focus on managing carb intake, although carb cycling usually allows more carbs than the traditional very-low-carb keto diet. Since carb cycling does not aim to burn fat for fuel, on this plan you won’t be eating the high amount of fat that’s needed for ketosis.
The concept of carb cycling is based on upping your carb intake on some days and cutting back on others. The idea falls in line with how the body naturally regulates itself when you have urges for more carbs on some days and fewer carbs on others. Why not take advantage of the benefits from your body’s natural requirements? There’s nothing dangerous about scheduling your carb intake, but keep in mind any diet that places restrictions on eating may create cravings for the very food you are limiting.
Carbs are meant to be burned
Carbs are OK to eat. They provide necessary fuel for both your body and your brain, and your body loves the starch and sugar found in carbs. When you design a workout to build muscle, your body will burn up carbs (and fat) before turning to protein for fuel. On days when you’re more sedentary, your body may take advantage of the downtime to store glucose from extra carbs in your fat cells. You may wind up with excess pounds and more fat.
While the need for fat and protein remains steady, the need for carbs varies depending on how much fuel you’re burning. Why stash extra calories from carbs when your waistline doesn’t need them?
If you are ready to join the strength and endurance athletes who are aiming for performance goals, you could be ready to start cycling carbs. Or if you like the idea of a structured weight loss plan but you are bored with counting calories, carb cycling may be for you. Here’s a suggested approach.
Try this on a couch potato day
On low-key days when you’ve scheduled a hatha yoga class or a 30-minute jog, substitute leafy green vegetables or lean protein for healthy fat or one or two servings of carbohydrates. If your typical lunch is a turkey sandwich on two slices of whole-wheat bread, leave off the bread and make a meal out of spinach salad with cheese and turkey.
But when you’ve planned a high-energy workout…
If your plan calls for an average high-carb day, complex carbohydrates should make up about 60 percent of your calories. For example, carbs should account for about 900 calories if your total daily intake is 1,500 calories. But when a long-distance run or interval training is part of your day, you’ll need an extra serving or two of fruit, whole grains or beans.