Every athlete has their own strategy for fuelling their body to help them perform at their peak, whether it’s following a high-protein diet, using protein supplements or embarking on a keto diet plan.
But have you ever tried carb cycling? Here, we’re going to take a look at what carb cycling is, how to fit it into your lifestyle, and how it could support your fitness performance.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is all about alternating your carbohydrate intake. This could mean eating a high-carb diet one day, followed by a low-carb or even no-carb day. Carb cycling doesn’t just have to be on alternate days, it could be for much longer periods too.
The process of carb cycling is designed to support your overall physical performance when it matters. The effects can be similar to those achieved by following a low-carb diet long term, but this eating plan means you’ll have the energy from carbs when you need it most.
Carb cycling naturally regulates how much protein and fat you’re consuming too, as your diet will be more heavily weighted towards carbohydrates.
What are the Benefits of Carb Cycling?
Tailoring your carbohydrate intake can help you to optimise your muscle gain and minimise your fat gain, allowing you to target your diet ahead of a high-intensity session or competition.
Carbs can play an important role in aiding muscle recovery and replenishing glycogen levels. In addition, carbs help to deliver protein to your cells, which can assist in accelerating muscle growth.
Carb cycling could also help you to manage your weight, as it can support you in burning fat while maintaining muscle. If you’re looking to lose weight while carb cycling, remember that you still need to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit, so adjust your training plan accordingly.
The low-carb days of a carb cycling programme will help your body to burn more fat, as it won’t have its usual source of carb-based fuel. This means cardio or HIIT workouts should be performed on low-carb days for maximum results.
In contrast, high-carb days should concentrate on muscle-building exercises, such as weight-lifting.
During carb cycling, it’s important to make sure you’re adjusting your carb intake based on how much energy you’re expending each day, as well as your individual body composition.
‘Good’ Carbs to Focus On
On high-carb days, you still need to be careful about what you’re eating – don’t be tempted to use this as an excuse to eat all the refined carbs and bread you can get your hands on.
Instead, try to focus on these ‘good’ carbs:
- Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa and oats are all good examples of slow-release carbs, which can help you to feel fuller and energised for longer – this can be ideal when you’re gearing up for a high-intensity training day
- Legumes: chickpeas, lentils and other pulses are also classed as slow-release carbohydrates, as well as being a great source of fibre
- Fruit: fruits naturally contain some carbohydrates. Focus on consuming them in their whole form, rather than as fruit juice or blended into smoothies for the maximum benefits
- Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and sweetcorn are the vegetables with the highest carbohydrate content, and can easily be incorporated into a healthy diet
With this in mind, you can still get the majority of your carb intake on a high-carb day from vegetables and other healthy foods, meaning your diet won’t be straying too far from your usual plan.
Klean Support During Carb Cycling
At Klean Athlete, we have a complete NSF Certified for Sport® range of nutrition products to support athletes at every stage of their fitness journey. Carb cycling isn’t for everyone, but if you’re giving it a go, you’ll still need support from protein and other fitness supplements to make sure you’re fuelling your foundation to perform at your peak.
Our Klean Isolate Whey Protein Powder is designed to provide your body with essential amino acids for muscle-building, and we’d recommend using this alongside your carb cycling plan.
It’s also important to support your body during post-workout recovery, and our Klean Hydration formula can help to replenish electrolytes lost during training, so you can keep your body at its peak.