Don’t miss this valuable tip on carb cycling

By Jordana Brown

February 23, 2009


In the April 2009 FLEX, we gave you three pros and cons of carb cycling. Here’s one more to complete your knowledge of this valuable process in the musclebuilding/fat loss process.

Pro #4: It’s a great way to get lean.
Talk about serendipity. When bodybuilders first caught on to the benefits of carb cycling, they would carb deplete four to five days out from a contest, knowing that completely depleting their glycogen stores would allow their muscles to load up on glycogen and look super full right in time to step onstage (see Pro #1 in the April issue of FLEX). This habit produced an awesome side effect, i.e., a good portion of the remaining fat on their bodies was burned away, right when they needed to be cut.

When your body isn’t getting fuel from carbs, it will feed on fat stores to fuel your daily activities. That, by the way, is a good thing, and it’s why longer-term low-carb diets became so popular. But the downside is that eating an extremely low-carb diet can eventually stall your metabolism. So, if you’re looking to get lean, go low carbs for six days and then high carbs for one to kick-start your metabolism again and keep that fat melting off your midsection.

Make it work for you: Limit daily carb intake to about 0.5 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight on workout days and 0.25 g on rest days for six days. On the seventh day, bump carbs all the way up to 3-4 g per pound of bodyweight.

Con #4: Too much carb loading can lead to fat storage.
Unfortunately, there’s no way of measuring exactly how many carbs your body will store as glycogen in the liver and muscle before converting the excess into fat. How many carbs you need to perfectly top off glycogen levels depends on a variety of factors that are close to impossible to figure out without your own laboratory. However, the fact is that once your liver and muscle glycogen levels are full, your body will surely convert into bodyfat any extra carbs you have eaten.

Turn this con into a pro: Most guys should be fine eating 4 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight, but only on the first day of carb loading. If you carb load for two days, drop down to 3 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight on the second day. If you go with three full days of carb loading, take in only 2 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight on day three. This will prevent any extra carbs from being stored as bodyfat.

Special considerations
Although fast-digesting carbs, such as sugar, white bread, white potatoes and fruits are generally allowed in a carb-loading phase, eat them only on the first day. On the first day, when liver and muscle glycogen levels are low, fat storage won’t be an issue. Once glycogen levels are nearly topped off, fat storage is a good possibility – a possibility that increases with the consumption of carbs that spike insulin.

Fruit can also be problematic once glycogen levels are high again. Fruit contains fructose, which can’t immediately be used by the body. Instead, it has to go to the liver to be converted into glucose and stored as glycogen before it can be used as fuel. However, if the liver is already full of glycogen, it will automatically convert fructose into fat. This won’t be a problem on the first day of carb loading, when liver glycogen levels are low; but on successive days, when your liver glycogen levels are high, limit fruit intake.

Finally, on days when you carb load, reduce the risk of packing on fat by limiting your fat intake to less than 20% of your total daily calories.

>> Grab the April 2009 issue of FLEX and turn to page 302 for the full scoop on carb cycling