Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
herf

Low Carb Vs Carb Cycling

Recommended Posts

Basically wonder what your guys' thoughts are on these 2 diets.

I'm a pretty fat guy but making decent gains in the lifting area. 285lbs with about 33% BF.

Carb cycling: 3 day carb cycles

day 1, no carb... 0-10 carbs

day 2, low carb...10-50 carbs

day 3 mid carb....50-150 carbs

each day eat minimum 150g protein

day 2 and day 3 would consist of mainly fruit based carbs. Like canned fruit or possibly fresh, if I get to the store.

That would basically be my plan.

Low carb plan

0-30- carbs per day.

2 green salads per day with a fiber substitute.

each day eat 150g protein.

Weekends would consist of carb ups. Limited to only 2 days.. and not a gallon of ice cream carbs... but fruits and possibly a pizza or a sub.

I know right now pretty much anything I do will work. My goal is not to get to 5%BF but to get to around 20%BF would be nice and go from there.

I'm pretty much an all or nothing in terms of dieting so just restricting calories won't work. I need a structured plan.

Which one do you guys think would work better? I don't count calories or anything like that. I know that is why I'm a fat guy now lol but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You have to think about what you can do long term, as when you deviate significantly from what you did to lose fat you run the risk of putting it back on. So let's look at the pros and cons.

Starting with Low Carb. You've listed carb intake low enough to cause ketosis. Ketosis is one of the few ways you can be on a severely calorie restricted diet and not lose muscle. However, there are a couple challenges we have to overcome:

  • Energy. Combining lower calories and ketosis tells your body to pull energy out and convert it to blood sugar. This includes the glycogen stored in your muscles as it does the fat stores in your body. For burning fat, this is good. For lifting weights, this is bad.
  • Potential for sick feeling while working out. This has the same origins as the energy problem, but some people's bodies react to hard work when they don't have sufficient glycogen stores with being sick, or with a light-headed feeling.
  • Hunger. I found the first 3 days of getting into ketosis to be the hardest. Once you get past that things are a lot better. But with a carb overload on the weekends, you'll be experiencing that every week. After a while, your body will adapt and get used to it, but it will be difficult.
  • Greater potential for stalling/failed lifts. No amount of carbohydrates you consume on the weekend is going to last you all week in ketosis. Your body is actively pulling out of your muscles and your fat stores. It can last you up to 3 days, and that's it.

The long and short of it is that if you style your programming so that you do low-rep high-intensity after your first dose of carbs, and then taper off to higher-rep low-intensity volume work further away from your carbs, you might be able to keep getting PRs. Essentially, you still have a type of carb cycling, but it's just a bit more extreme.

Carb Cycling is a Well Understood Tool. The idea of low carbs when you don't need the energy and high carbs when you do need it is nothing new. It's been a staple component of successful fat loss diets since long before intermittent fasting was dreamed up. In fact all the anabolic diets you find use carb cycling as a key component. Another approach is carb back-loading. Carb back-loading is a style of carb cycling where you have all your carbs post workout--enough to fill in the requirements for that day plus the rest days leading up to that day.

  • Energy. You will have it when you need it. Your muscles can hold on to glycogen for up to 3 days with no carbs. Since most of us work out 3x per week, that's no more than two days without. You'll be able to make your lifts.
  • Hunger. It's easier for the body to get used to this style of eating, but you will have to fight feelings of hunger on your rest days. Some of this has to do with your body learning to manage the blood sugar levels from the carbs you have. If you have your quick carbs directly after workout, and taper to slow carbs in the meal(s) after that your body will stabilize a bit better.
  • Sustainable. Whether you incorporate intermittent fasting or not, carb and Calorie cycling is a sustainable way to lose inches (fat) without sacrificing muscle.

While losing weight, if you average around a 500 Calorie deficit per day you will have a manageable rate of weight loss. It's when you starve yourself for fast weight loss that it comes back on with a vengeance. How you get that 500 Calorie deficit per day doesn't have to be a steady number of Calories. For example, if you need 3000 Calories for maintenance each day, the average you need is 2500 to lose a pound a week. If you do 2200 Calories on your rest days and 2900 Calories on your workout days, you average 2500/day and get the extra energy when you need it.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reply! Carb cycling definitely seems the way to go but seems more of a hassle.

So probably just eat carbs before or after a meal and low carb the rest of the time should be sufficient? Thats not really cycling .. no idea what it would be called hah but it would probably work and keep the energy levels up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eat your carbs post workout if you can. My schedule doesn't really let me do that. Basically I have a high carb day on training days and a low carb day on rest days, and that's how I split it up. Combine that with Calorie cycling so that you have more Calories on training day and fewer on rest days.

That's the approach I've been taking the past couple weeks.

Probably the easiest way to do that is to have a consistent base diet day to day, and you just add on the carbs on training days--keeping all else the same.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That sounds like a good idea, I'll have to give it a shot. I tried the ananbolic diet a while back, lost about 15lbs in 3-4 weeks. Most of which was probably water but it got to be expensive so I had to quit. My lifting suffered also. I'll try to eat low carb and only eat carbs on lifting days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good advice here from Berin. The first thing you need to do is understand the maintenance calorie requirements for a guy with your bodyweight/frame/activity levels. Then look at cutting back on calories to trim at a slow, medium or fast rate (slow is more sustainable and less likely to hurt your progress with the weights, but quick - ala V diet - gets it over and done with and can be psychologically useful). 1-2 lbs a week should be pretty easy for you if you're 33% fat.

I like the carb/calorie/nutrient cycling approach myself - it means I can eat whatever I want as long as I do it on the "right" day. Like Berin says, eat high(er) carb post workout on the training days (when the carbs will help build muscle) and lower carbs on the rest of the week (when they're not needed).

I also tend to eat more on the workout days and less on non workout days (20% above and below maintenance usually) but that's for body recomposition. At anything over 15% fat you may as well just run a calorie deficit every day (or maybe as you approach 15 taper it to a deficit on rest days and maintenance on workout days).

Don't forget to bump the protein sky high (lower calorie and more satiating, as well as protective of muscles) whilst on the cut. For exercise I prefer to do lower volume and higher intensity (keep the % of your 1RM up) - this protects the muscle fibers from the calorie deficit and also ensures you're not losing strength. You should be able to keep gaining strength whilst losing fat if you do it right (although it will be harder, obviously).

Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All good stuff from DK.

With the volume vs. intensity whilst cutting I don't know the perfect/best way to do it, but one thing is absolute: without SOME intensity/heavy weight, your body will have no reason to keep muscle around.

You absolutely must have 1-2 heavy days while cutting. I've done cuts before with varying ratios of volume and heavy lifting, but SOME heavy lifting is absolutely, 100% essential.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All good stuff from DK.

With the volume vs. intensity whilst cutting I don't know the perfect/best way to do it, but one thing is absolute: without SOME intensity/heavy weight, your body will have no reason to keep muscle around.

You absolutely must have 1-2 heavy days while cutting. I've done cuts before with varying ratios of volume and heavy lifting, but SOME heavy lifting is absolutely, 100% essential.

I agree with this!

It's the main reason why I've chosen the Hepburn Routine while on CKD.

Lots of heavy singles @85% of max.

When attempting to cut in the past I struggled with volume.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of the John Broz style stuff is a good idea too - taking a ramp up to the heaviest thing you can lift on that given day, then dropping back from it and putting in some work if you are up to it. Of course, it depends how long the cut is going to go on for and how aggressively you're cutting to really decide what programme you should run.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is great advice! So far, what I'm doing is eating low carb every day. I lift 4 days a week 531 style but with with heavy 4's, 3's and singles. More sets, more weight and less reps. RIGHT after each w/o I drink a protein drink that has about 15 carbs in it. This brings my total carbs up to about 25 for that day. Sometimes I add milk to it and that adds 11 extra carbs. Pretty simple. When I don't lift, I drink a low carb protein drink.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

There's no good reason to go low carb; it doesn't assist your fat loss and impairs your performance in the gym (and mental performance too). Plus diets excluding carbs show up consistently in the scientific trials as the hardest to follow and people have died following low carb diets. The lowest you should go is target bodyweight in lbs x 1g of carbs. You should avoid ketosis unless you have a medical reason for following it.

Nutrient partitioning is a good idea, but pre-workout nutrition is better for body composition than post workout composition. Ideally you want pre-workout nutrition and post work out (both consisting of carbs and protein at 0.25g per lb of target weight - post work out nutrition can have carbs at 0.5g per lb of target bodyweight if you can work the kcals in your favour, and that may be more beneficial) and intra-workout nutrition if the training bout lasts for longer than 60 mins.

For a rough and ready approach to calculating your macro-nutrient breakdown, pick a target weight in lbs and multiply that by 1g for protein, 1g for carbs, and 0.4g to 0.5g for fats. This assumes that you are working out 3 to 4 hours a week.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm. Experiment, we will have to agree to disagree regarding your first paragraph. The parts I can agree with is that ketosis will impair your performance in the gym, and it can be hard to follow. However, having done a ketosis based diet, I can say it does assist fat loss, and if you have special health considerations you would be stupid not to consult your doctor to see if any diet will make matters worse or not. A lack of carbs is not going to kill you unless you have other special health considerations. Also, mental performance is no more affected low carb than it is during any serious cut. Once the body is acclimated (which takes roughly 3 days), mental clarity goes up. Some people (usually folks who are now insulin resistant) even have an increase in mental clarity after that 3 day adjustment. But again, that doesn't happen to everyone. Some people just really don't do well with this approach.

Here are the precepts on dietary advice that I've learned:

  • What works for me, may not work for you, and vice-versa
  • Diet requires self experimentation to find what will sustainably work
  • Ketogenic diets are temporary beasts to help you lose the fat.

The principles behind ketogenic diets operate by manipulating one major hormone: insulin. That does not mean insulin is evil. It's actually pretty important for us weight lifters, as it helps put energy into our system. Now, if someone's body is so far out of whack that they have become insulin resistant, it might be worth taking a break from training and do a ketogenic diet for a month. That can reverse a number of ills from generating too much insulin. While it may not reverse diabetes, this is a dietary plan that is compatible with diabetics. Just keep things well monitored with your doctor while you do it if you are diabetic.

That said, I wouldn't recommend doing a pure ketogenic diet while lifting weights. At best, a cyclical ketogenic diet such as the one that Little Simon George did will fit the bill.

You found something that works for you, and I get that. It might even be more sustainable for more people. However, I will say that the body only "needs" ~125g of carbs a day. That's because the brain is the one organ that cannot burn fat. Muscles and organs can. If necessary the brain will use ketones (fat converted to carb like substance in the liver). But 125g/day (give or take a few) of Carbohydrates will be sufficient to feed the brain's need for energy. Anything above that would be stored as glycogen or fat. Weight training improves the amount that will be stored as glycogen--and perhaps this is where your 1g carbs per target body weight in lbs number comes from. We most definitely don't need the USRDA of 300-400g per day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

This isn't based on my personal experience, this is based on scientific research. It's been the outcome of numerous scientific studies that ketosis is no more effective for causing fat loss than simple calorie restriction.

A lack of carbs may not kill you, and you may not need carbs to survive, but what we can do without and what is optimal are two different things.

Edited to include a couple of references.

Atkins diet under review - slight benefits in short term over normal calorie restriction - no apreicable benefits at one year. That's a fully randomised trial.

In another very well controlled trial, scientists tested four diets with different macro nutrient profiles (here), and the outcome was the same.

The single important factor is the calorific deficit. The method of fat loss is insignificant.

Give that, it seems logical that the diet which provides optimal performance is the most appropriate diet.

Edited by ExperimentB76z

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's the thing. Scientific research, even the golden standard of clinical trials is not perfect--particularly with dietary related advice. And how many times have we had previous recommended advice overturned, even if the previous advice was based on the gold standard research.

It gets back to my first bullet point. Every one of us is a bit different. What works for me, and is sustainable for me, may not work for you--for whatever reason. I don't know what the scientific research you dug up said about low carb/keto diets--but that's the only time I really melted the fat off. And that worked for a short time, which is what keto diets are supposed to be used for. After that initial fat loss in three months, things slowed down to a normal pace. I milked that thing too long, staying on it for 5 months. But for a shot in the arm and to get things moving the right direction, it's a great tool. Nothing else has made me lose as much fat in as short a time.

That brings back bullet point 2: experiment to see what works for you and your body. If something is no longer working, dump it and find something else that does. Your body adapts to whatever you put it through, so if your goal is weight loss, stability is the last thing you want.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

There are an array of factors, which may have influenced your weight loss when you did a ketatonic diet. Or just as likely, factors that influenced your diets which did not attempt to achieve ketosis. We don't know, because your diets were uncontrolled. Your uncontrolled anecdotal account on the one side is not more persuasive than a number of scientific studies on the other.

Granted people need to find out what works best for them, but excluding nutrients is never a good idea and can be positively harmful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In another very well controlled trial, scientists tested four diets with different macro nutrient profiles (here), and the outcome was the same.

Interesting link...the abstract seems to imply that the test was for the effect of Diet vs Diet+aerobic exercise with energy deficit held constant...i see no mention of macro-nutrient composition of the diets used other than a tag that says "fat restricted" did you post the incorrect link or is there something in the full article that has not made it's way to the abstract?

Perhaps you meant to link to this article, the link was in the page you mentioned but it seems to argue that high protein are at least equal and in some ways superior to high carb diets in the population studied. Since weight loss was similar but there were other health benefits to a higher protein protocol.

There are a bunch of studies showing conflicting results...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

You need the full article, which I cannot link you to unless you have a paid pubmed account.

I'll see what I can dig up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

You need the full article, which I cannot link you to unless you have a paid pubmed account.

I'll see what I can dig up.

Edit - sorry, wrong link. Hang on...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

Here you go. This is the article that supports my earlier claim that different macro profiles make no difference (four tested diets).

My method of cataloguing these things at present is, erm, poor :) .

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks! I'm looking forward to seeing the article...this is all very interesting as myself am experimenting with diets and what not to get to a lower BF%.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

It's above - looks like our posts crossed. What BF% are you at now and where do you want to get to, if you don't mind me asking? There are loads of ways / methods, but the principle really is calorie deficit = loss of mass, and providing you don't go below 1% of total body mass per week in total mass reduction, you'll mostly be burning fat.

A balanced diet is going to be better for you than one which excludes nutrients or sources of nutrients (low carb / paleo, blood type, et al).

The calculation I gave above, and basing your macros on your desired bodyweight, rather than current, seems to be supported by the sports science journals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's no good reason to go low carb; it doesn't assist your fat loss and impairs your performance in the gym (and mental performance too). Plus diets excluding carbs show up consistently in the scientific trials as the hardest to follow and people have died following low carb diets. The lowest you should go is target bodyweight in lbs x 1g of carbs.

Surely you're not serious. The *lowest* is 1xBw?! I think I'd be in a coma if I tried that on non-workout days. ~200g of CHO is a fairly large PWO refeed for me. There is absolutely no reason to set such a baseline, especially one so high. That's at least double would I would recommend to someone trying to lose weight. Calories matter, of course, but carbs make you hungrier. Most people seem to find it much, MUCH easier to control their diet when they're controlling their carbs and keeping protien high instead.

And where are you getting your information? Paleo/Med/Low-carb diets always have the *highest* retention, especially relative to low-fat Ornish-type diets. And I highly doubt anyone died because they were following a low-carb diet. There is no metabolic reason for that to be the case. I searched google for "low carb deaths" and couldn't find a single hit, other than links to poorly done studies regarding the "risks" of cancer from following such diets. No one is keeling over because they dropped the carbs though.

I would also add that paleo diet is not inherently low-carb, though it can be. And I would further add that low-carb does not necessarily mean no carb, and does not necessarily mean ketosis. I've been doing roughly 100g of carbs a day for going on 7 years now, PWO refeeds excluded. That is a fair bit out of ketosis, which seems to work best for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

Yes, I am serious and I get my information from medical and sports journals, and peer reviewed papers. I've referenced two in support of my claims above.

Carbs don't make you hungrier. That's nonsense. Potatoes have one of the highest satiety scores there is, at 323 compared to beef which is 176 (which is still high in the grand scheme of things, but nearly 50% of the score of potatoes).

Surely you're not serious. The *lowest* is 1xBw?! I think I'd be in a coma if I tried that on non-workout days. .

Why?

There is absolutely no reason to set such a baseline, especially one so high. That's at least double would I would recommend to someone trying to lose weight.

Why?

High drop out rate of low carb dieters (here).

The 12 month study by Foster and Colleagues into the effectiveness of low carb diets showed especially marked adverse effects on the low carb group, two of whom died (though a causal link has not been established). The adverse effects are alarming enough. Read the foster study and further commentary here and here (the latter two are further support for high drop out rates).

Low carbohydrate diets are inadvisable. Modern carbaphobia is very much like the fataphobia we had in the 80s. Silly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest ExperimentB76z

*getting popcorn* :P

Careful, popcorn contains carbs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×