You CAN eat your favourite foods and still lose weight with carb-cycling diet

You CAN eat your favourite foods and still lose weight with carb-cycling diet

July 7, 2021

WHAT if you were told you can still eat your favourite foods AND lose weight?

The carb-cycling diet gives you the ability to do that, allowing you to fill up on carbohydrates – such as bread and pasta – on given days.

It has some basic rules that are rooted in science.

But they are a small price to pay to avoid having to cut carbs – the basis of trendy weight loss diets such as keto, Atkins and Dukan.

Carb-cycling is when you eat carbohydrates on the days you are most physically active, while cutting them back on more sedentary days.

Carbs provide the body with bounds of energy, so are best eaten as a way to fuel your body for exercise.

However, there is nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates, which are an essential part of the diet.

Carb-cycling gives the body a way to manage energy reserves.

Dr Mayur Ranchordas, an exercise physiologist and sport nutritionist at Sheffield Hallam told The Sun: "Most people eat too much carbs for the amount of exercise they do.

"People tend to have a bowl of porridge or cereal for breakfast, crips and a sandwhich for lunch and rice in the evening.

"If you don't exercise, that's a lot of carbs.

"Carb cycling is a bit of common sense; the science behind it is you keep your fat and protein intake relatively constant, but adapt your carb caution and intake based on the activity you do."

Rob Hobson, a London-based nutritionist and head of HealthSpan, told The Sun: “What I like about it is that it doesn’t vilify carbs or tell you to avoid certain foods. 

“A lot of sports people will eat this way to help the body adapt to training.

“But for Joe Bloggs trying to lose weight, you’ll still have to monitor how much you’re eating.

“This is another technique that can help you stick to a diet.”

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, for, told The Sun: “If overall calorie intake, say over a week is reduced, then it can be a good way of losing weight."

But she agreed you still need to monitor your intake, saying: "Just because you may have eaten less carbs on one day, it is not necessarily going to result in weight loss if the next two days have increased intake."

How does it work?

Carbohydrates turn into glucose in the body, which goes into the bloodstream and is then used in the cells of the body and brain.

Glucose is used by your body for energy, fuelling your activities, whether that's going for a run or simply breathing.

Any unused glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen for later use.

If more glucose is consumed that can be stored as glycogen, it’s converted into fat for long-term storage of energy.

The carb-cycling diet is thought to work because on days you eat more carbs for exercise, your body uses them efficiently and is less likely to store them as fat. 

You also should have enough energy to workout without feeling tired.

The NHS says a diet that is low in carbohydrates "can lead to a lack of energy during exercise, early fatigue and delayed recovery".

On days you restrict carbs, there is less excess glucose, and therefore lower risk of storing fat.

The body turns to its fat reserves for energy, which may ultimately help with weight loss.

Although it makes biological sense, and small studies have shown weight loss results, this way of eating hasn’t been studied on a large-scale.

That would need two groups of people randomised to follow either the carb-cycling diet, or just a regular diet, and then see who has the best outcomes. 

Suzie said: “There is no formal science behind carb cycling, it’s more based on individual activity levels and the body’s requirement for energy, which varies day to day.

"However, in terms of weight management and the equation of energy input versus energy output, then balancing the two makes absolute sense.

“For example, if you’re a keen recreational exerciser and are marathon training, then training days will need a higher carb intake than non-training days."

What should you eat?

Carb cycling is used in many forms, depending on how serious you want to get.

You could keep things really simple, by simply cutting back on your favourite carby foods on days you don’t go to the gym, while eating them on days you do.

A typical five days may see you eat two days of high carbs (175 to 275g) and three days of low carbs (100 to 125g), according to Cleveland Clinic.

Rob said you can still eat carbs on your “low carb” days, but not to over-do it.

He added: “You’ve got to make sure you're focusing on healthy fats and protein to get your calories on low-carb days.”

For a balanced diet, experts recommend sticking to more “complex” carbs than “simple” carbs.

Rob said: “The type of carb is important – choose high fibre ones, which keep you full between meals and keep blood sugar levels low.”

Simple carbs are generally those that taste the best – baked treats, packaged cookies and cakes, pastries, breakfast cereals, and white bread and pasta.

They are easier to digest, therefore enter the bloodstream faster and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. 

Switching to complex carbs are going to help steer you toward weight loss.

They are more nutritious and because they are harder to digest, they give a slower release of energy, preventing you from snacking as much.

They include brown rice, wholewheat bread, vegetables, oats, beans and whole grains, such as bulgur wheat, quinoa.

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