The topic of carbohydrates is a big one in the health and fitness world. Many people see carbohydrates as the enemy and a key reason why weight and fat gain occurs, while others see them as an essential part of your diet, both for energy and satiety purposes.
The important thing to remember is that carbohydrates are not directly linked to an increase in body fat – this comes from consuming too many calories and not exercising enough, and your carbohydrate intake will not matter if you are not sticking to the correct calorie-controlled plan.
However, there are ways in which you should be smart with your consumption of carbohydrates. One of which is carb cycling, which is a common tactic that can make a difference to the water retention in your body, your training performance, and your recovery. But what is it and how should you use carbohydrates to its maximum effect.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is an eating protocol in which you consume more carbohydrates on training days and fewer on non-training days. It is a popular technique that provides more fuel and energy for your workouts, particularly during the more demanding sessions, such as leg or full-body training, and can satisfy your hunger cravings, which usually increase after you work out. Training days are the days when you require the most energy, so increasing carbohydrates on those days will meet that demand, improve performance and maximise recovery.
How To Structure Your Carb Cycling
Firstly, you need to decide how many days of the week and what days you prefer to train on. You will then have a clear plan and can decide how to structure you nutrition. On those training days, an increase in carbohydrates will also mean an increase in calories due to the fact that your protein intake should stay the same throughout.
So, in order to keep your weekly calorie intake to lose body fat the same throughout the week, this will mean that your calories and carbs are higher on training and days and lower on non-training days. For example, if your daily required calorie intake is 2100, you would increase that to 2300 on training days and lower it to 1900 on days which you don’t train. For the most demanding session, you can increase calories even further by 200-300, as the energy requirement is bigger. Map out this plan and stay consistent with it.
The Best Carbohydrates to Consume
Although you will be increasing carbohydrates, it is important to include sources that are going to benefit your health and fitness goals. This means mixing carbohydrates that release energy slowly throughout the day, such as rice, pasta, oatmeal and potatoes with ones that give you a quick hit of energy, such as fruit and natural energy sugar sachets that you can mix into your water.
Carbohydrates are a necessity for your performance and productivity but choosing more artificial sugars, such as energy drinks, soft drinks, chocolate and sweets, will cause blood sugar dips and irregularities and have a negative effect on your overall health. You do not have to have a lot of carbohydrates with your first meal, although it is advised that you have some, so that you have that initial source of energy to start your day.
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