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Nutrition & Lifestyle

Carb Cycling – Explained

What is Carb Cycling?

You may have heard many people in the Bodybuilding and Fitness industry talking about Carb Cycling, but not actually know what it is, and why so many people are now incorporating this as part of their diet. Carb Cycling is a diet type where the individual alternates a high carbohydrate (CHO) diet with a low CHO diet on alternating days throughout the week. The individuals Fat intake is inversely related to the CHO intake on those days.

The reason individuals utilise this approach, is to bring about the results of a low CHO diet without the negative effects of a long term low CHO diet, which many see as unsustainable. The benefits brought are a reduction of body fat, and an increase in lean muscle, through metabolic functions triggered by adapting CHO ingestion.

The way it is done is as follows…

1 – On days with low to moderate training loads, the individual should eat a high fat diet, keeping starches and fruits (sources of CHO) to a minimum. This aims to lower insulin levels and promote the use of fat as a fuel source.

2 – On days with higher training loads, CHO should be increased (especially post workout), with limitations of fat ingestion. The aim here is to replenish Glycogen stores and upregulate the levels of Leptin within the body. Leptin is a protein produced by fatty tissue which is believed to regulate fat storage in the body. It is known as the ‘satiety hormone’ as it acts to regulate energy balance though curbing hunger.

How does Carb Cycling work?

Carbohydrates are seen as a bit of an Angel vs Devil macronutrient, with it bringing many benefits but also bringing complications when looking to achieve a lean muscular physique. The Angel side of CHO is that they facilitate muscle growth by fuelling workouts and creating a more anabolic environment within the body.

CHO raises insulin levels. Insulin isn’t anabolic like other hormones such as testosterone, but it does have powerful anti-catabolic properties. This means that insulin decreases the rate at which muscle proteins are broken down, which creates a more anabolic environment conducive to muscle growth.

The Devil side of CHO is that they add sugars and calories into your diet, and can increase fat storage. The key here is to choose complex CHO sources, and avoid processed sugar filled options, as well as timing your CHO intake well.

The overall breakdown of Carb Cycling is that you keep your CHO intake low when you require less energy but ramp it up on heavy days where you will use the energy.


How can CNP help you?

We like to try to help make your life easier when adopting techniques with your diet. So here are some suggestions on some products in our range that may be beneficial for use within this protocol…

High CHO Day

Pro Cyclic Dextrin (Complex CHO source)

Pro Porridge (High CHO Meal option)

Pro Recover (High CHO Post Workout Protein Shake)


Low CHO Day

Pro Isolate (Ultra Low CHO Protein)

Pro Lean Caps (Stimulant boost plus fat burning ingredients when feeling low on energy)

Pro HMB (Anti Catabolic Leucine metabolite for retaining muscle mass when in deficit)


Arguments against Carb Cycling

So as with most techniques there are always two sides to the story. The fat loss in this instance may not be down to the structure in which the CHO are ingested in your diet. It may just be down to the fact that you are creating a calorie deficit. Some would say why not just stick with the usual macro split, but reduce portions to hit the deficit threshold.

Another way in which this technique may be unrealistic, is that training may not reflect the protocol of Carb Cycling. Carb Cycling would suggest that training days alternate between heavy and low training loads, which is very rarely the case. Therefore, how does this diet protocol fit with a beneficial training split? Some would say it doesn’t.


What are your experiences of Carb Cycling?

Some people will see great results from this technique, but others may not see the benefit they expect. Metabolic processes and reactions are very different between individuals, so it is important to tweak techniques to best fit with your body and training, to get the best results possible.

Comment on FB or Instagram with your thoughts and experiences with this technique, and any recommendations for your fellow athletes.