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Are you very carb sensitive and have had difficulties dropping the fat or plateaued?
Eating a ketogenic diet and carb cycling for fat loss could be an approach worth trying to break that plateau.
Practicing carb cycling is intended to help avoid adverse effects of long-term high-fat dieting by enabling the body to replace carbs recurrently.
We will discuss what is better, keto or carb cycling, and refeeding for workout performance.
What is Carb Cycling
Carb cycling commonly means having 1 day a week where you top up of refeeding your glycogen stores.
The process involves dramatically reducing carbs consumption for many days to a level that would be challenging to sustain for extended durations of time.
If you were following a keto diet, essentially, you would eat anywhere around 20-50g carbs on your normal days. It generally amounts to 70% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carb intake.
You would then choose a refeed day to one which best suits you.
For example, people who work 9 till 5 Monday to Friday may have success having a refeeding day on the weekend when spending time with friends and family.
Practicing this way of eating has a few notable benefits.
It gives you the energy to perform exercises for the next week.
It rewards you for a job well done by strict dieting during the week. Eating your favorite higher carb foods once a week gives your body the chance to replenish what is needed.
We’re talking healthier and nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Not processed or junk foods such as pizza, ice cream, and candy.
When you limit carbs and calories over a period, it decreases your leptin levels.
Leptin is the hormone of energy expenditure and responsible for regulating appetite.
Carb loading boosts leptin levels and keeps metabolism from adapting to a long-term low carbohydrate lifestyle.(1)
You can have more energy, lose fat more comfortably, and experience less sugar craving.
With each carb cycling cycle, you shouldn’t experience any loss of muscle mass or energy.
Carb Cycling for Fat Loss and a Keto Diet
If you have a significant amount of weight you want to lose, then combining keto and carb cycling will speed the process.
You can achieve rapid fat loss by turning to ketones and refueling with carbs for intense workouts every so often.
To be in ketosis, then you need to eliminate virtually all carbs from the diet for an extended period.
During a number of days, the body uses stored carbs for energy. Once the body finishes processing stored sugar, it switches to ketones for energy by going to your fat stores.
Carb cycling on keto is essentially a variation called a cyclical ketogenic diet.
Carb Loading Recurrence and Timing
Carb loading or refeeding once a week is good when you exercise intensely, such as distance running or weightlifting.
If you don’t push yourself in the gym to the peak, you shouldn’t need to overeat carbs when carb-loading.
Your body also would prevent starvation mode using this carb cycling method.
You avoid adjusting to low amounts of carbs, which potentially decreases your metabolism, reducing thyroid hormone production, etc.
Mini refeeds a few times a week after working out is also an option.
The goal is to shock the body with a flood of carbs. If you overeat sugar too often, it becomes normal for your body.
You won’t experience as many benefits since it’s more or less a typical diet.
Higher protein, higher fat, and low carbohydrate diets can be good for dropping weight.
To get an idea of low carb high-fat foods see our keto diet food pyramid for quick reference.
A keto diet and carb cycling are good as it follows the two major principles of long-lasting weight loss. It works by keeping your body guessing and keeping up your metabolic rate.
The average person will experience excellent results by refeeding once a week.
An Example of Carb Cycling
You’ll receive the greatest benefit from carb loading when you use it on days you exercise or do most of you’re physical activities.
Days at the gym or playing sports is a good example. It usually means to deplete glycogen levels then refill them after exercise.
First, you must choose a refeed day when you will eat high carbs.
You would eat around 80%-90% healthy carbs for the day. Or 2-3 times your body weight in pounds.
An example is if you weighed 200 pounds, you would look to consume 400-600g carbs for that one day.
It may seem like a lot, but remember you’re limited fats and protein to under 10%-20%.
Essentially it means all the calories come from carbs on this day.
Following a cycle of six days on and one day off, you would evade the unpleasant side-effects that can start.
When your glycogen stores (carbs) are in a depleted phase, leptin levels increase, which helps regulate appetite.
The high carb day will support you through the difficult and limit low carb days. It gives you goals and things to look ahead.
The low carb days you would eat under 10% carbs. If you’re keto dieting, then typically you eat 20-50g total carbs daily.
Protein consumption is about 20% of the day’s calories, so look for about 80g protein if you weighed 200 pounds.
Everybody is different, and you can change the exact numbers to suit your preferred meal plan.
Stick with what works for you, and if you hit a weight loss plateau, then try different strategies.
If you are progressing with weight loss, then there isn’t any need to reduce net carbs or try carb cycling for fat loss.
Low Carb Foods to Eat
Regardless of if you follow a ketogenic diet and carb cycling for fat loss, it’s always good to try to include as many fibrous vegetables as you can.
A low-carb food list including vegetables is endless. Aim to eat as much as you can. Green leafy veggies are best but here are some top foods for a keto diet:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Sea Vegetables
- Herbs & Spices
Higher Carb Foods to Eat
When you’re refeeding day is ready, you want to choose healthy foods to get the maximum amount of nutrition.
Here are some of the best veggies and fruits you should be eating on your high carb meal plan days.
- Sweet potatoes
When it comes to fruits, pretty much anything goes as long as it’s fresh. Some of the popular fruits are listed below, but let your imagination run wild.
Long Term Carb Cycling, Yes or No?
The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. It depends on many factors but most importantly how it can fit into your lifestyle and fitness goals.
Cycling carbs are merely boosting protein and fats consumption for an extended duration then raising carbohydrates for a day before the cycle repeats.
An easy way of looking at it is during refeeding eat more carbs and minimal fat. Any other time you aim to eat more fats with minimal carbs.
It’s a tool to stop your body from adjusting to low carb consumption.
In my experience, when I ate higher net carbs up to 100g, it still helped my body to adapt to using fat.
Following a keto diet and refeeding every once a week or fortnightly helped me to socialize and eat with family and friends.
Even if you’re not in ketosis 7 days a week, you still have the many health benefits that accompany a prolonged high-fat eating meal plan.
You don’t want to be that person who always refuses to eat everything thrown at them. Or resist going out to eat with family and friends just to stay in ketosis.
Enjoying the little things in life is crucial to happiness.
Some people find it hard to achieve this and remain in ketosis. Sugar cravings and snacking is a top culprit.
Long-term carb reduction is extremely difficult to handle, especially after a lifetime of high-carb eating.
Before beginning a carb cycling or ketogenic diet, discuss with your doctor whether it is safe for you.
If you don’t always eat high fat, you could increase the span of the “high carb days” to two or three if you favor.
Eating an Atkins diet, you could eat low carb Monday to Friday then have the weekend to eat what you wish.
If fat loss is your primary goal then eating many carbs will kick you out of ketosis. By the time you back in it, you’ll only be adapted for a couple of days.
We hope you have a better understanding of carb cycling vs. keto for weight loss and how to incorporate it into your meal plan.
Do you use carb cycling for weight loss while following a low carb or LCHF diet?
If so, we would love to hear your benefits and results.