Before we begin, our most popular low carb recipes can be found at the bottom of the article.
Basics of Carbohydrates
Carbs. How many times have you read that word online when researching nutrition information?
Depending on the source, carbs have been the enemy and they’ve been your best friend. They’ve been the reason you couldn’t lose weight and they’ve been the reason you have!
The fact is that all those statements are true. The way you treat carbohydrates will be the determining factor as to whether they will be your best friend or your worst enemy. We’ll get into that shortly. First, we should cover the basics of carbohydrates and how they react in your body.
We’re going to go super simple here as the scientific explanation would result in a 5,000 word essay.
Carbohydrates are the fastest fuel source you can consume from food or drink. They’re often categorized into two groups; complex carbs and simple carbs but rather than thinking about them as black or white, let us say that those are the two ends of a spectrum.
On one end you have simple carbohydrates, most of you will know the simplest form is sugar or sucrose (e.g. white sugar often found in a bowl) but ultimately the most simple form of a carbohydrate would be glucose. Glucose consists of one molecule whereas sucrose consists of two.
When you consume simple carbs, your body can break these down in record time! But only under high-metabolic stress will your body ever require pure glucose or sucrose to function at an optimum level.
What Happens When You Eat Carbs?
Be aware that these carbs will skyrocket your blood sugar, then your insulin level, it will kick-start your pancreas’ stage-2 function then leave you low in blood sugar which can make you feel fatigued, hungry and possibly dizzy.
On top of all that, if you aren’t under high stress such as exercise, your body is not going to make use of the excess calories and it will be stored as fat during the insulin response.
Now we move on to complex carbs. On this end of the spectrum we have sugars where the molecules are joined together in complex chains. Due to the length and complexity of the chain, it can take your body an extended period of time to break them down.
This is the reason they’re favored. The longer it takes your body to break the carbs down, the longer your body has to make use of the extra energy instead of storing it as fat.
The spectrum mentioned above runs hand-in-hand with the glycemic index (GI). You may already know exactly what that is. The GI uses blood sugar levels to measure how reactive your body will be to that particular food.
Examples of high-glycemic foods:
- Rice Cakes and Processed Cereals
- Instant oats
Examples of low-glycemic foods:
- Whole Wheat pasta
- Barley and Bulgar
- Sweet Potato
The GI gives you some indication as to whether you should be avoiding that food or not.
Earlier I mentioned the importance of how you treat the carbohydrate you’re consuming. What this means is you need to stay aware of the timing of your carb intake.
If you consume a small amount of moderately-complex carbs just before an intense bout of exercise, you could be hitting some personal records. If you consume simple carbs at this time however, you could find yourself passing out or feeling hungry mid session! When you feel peckish before bed try to stick to low carb recipes or snacks – if you can, aim for no carbs at all.
If you’ve just woken up and your first meal of the day is a sugary pastry, you’re likely to set yourself up for bad day.
Learning to time your carbs and prepare tasty low carb recipes are the secrets to success when it comes to losing weight!
What is Low Carb Cycling?
When trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy physique, many people will start tracking calories and macronutrients. This is an amazing first step to take if you’ve never tried it before and if done properly, the results will not disappoint.
Tracking nutrients gives you control. You’ll be able to know exactly what’s going in your body and at what time.
Timing is the variable we’re focusing on here.
Carb cycling in the classic sense is when you cycle low carb meals and high-carb meals around your training, sleep patterns and even personal events.
High-carb meals are usually withheld for big refeed periods each week. From one to three times per week and the number of refeeds should be geared around your activity level. For example, once per week is great for the average joe or jane whereas three times per week is best for your hardcore athlete training many times per week.
Some passionate gym-goers will often decide to go completely carb-free rather than just low carb. This is not the most common way, however. The split of high, moderate or low carb meals is set up as follows;
- 50% of your weekly meals will have low carb amounts.
- 30% of your weekly meals will have moderate-carb amounts.
- 20% of your weekly meals will have high-carb amounts.
It sounds simple enough to follow but this classic version is harder on the body in the long-term. Not to mention, if you’re not working out intensely three or more times per week, you’ll likely hinder your weight-loss progress as your weekly carb intake is far too high.
To make it more sustainable, we suggest trying low carb recipes for your regular daily meals. Then introduce just one high-carb meal, twice per week. You still get multiple refeed days, but you won’t be consuming large quantities of carbs throughout each of those days.
The secret to successful carb cycling when you’re not an intense athlete is to find those low carb recipes that you still find delicious but don’t overwhelm the body with energy it doesn’t need.
Does Carb Cycling Cause Fat-loss?
The reason carb cycling became so popular in the last five years is the success so many have had with it when trying to cut weight, either for a sporting event or for the bodybuilding stage.
Mix their success with the power of social media and you can imagine how viral the before and after posts became!
The science behind cycling your carbs to lose weight revolves around timing your meals correctly.
We won’t go into crazy detail here but we will figure out when your high-carb meals should be.
You’ll to ask yourself these questions before deciding that:
- How often do you workout per week?
- How intense are your workouts? (Jogging = not very, heavy resistance training = very)
- When are your workouts?
First of all, knowing how often you workout means knowing how many refeed days you’ll have. If you workout once a week, you’ll only get one refeed – make sense?
Second, the intensity of your workouts is important in determining how high your high-carb meals are! If you just go for a power-walk or a light jog, you won’t want to overdo the carbs. Your body just doesn’t need the excess energy. If you’re running athletic drills, performing resistance training or playing an intense sport then you can get away with a very high-carb meal. Maybe even a sugar-filled dessert, if you time it right!
Which brings us to the factor of timing. If you’re working out in the morning, eat your high-carb meal immediately following the session. If your workout is usually in the evening, your high-carb meal should be immediately after the session. Do you see the pattern here? Good!
If you’re looking for some meal ideas, since most of us reach for carb-based foods first, we have an entire database of low carb recipes that taste amazing!
Example of Carb Cycling with Low Carb Recipes
Carb cycling is not difficult and as long as you stick to your eating schedule, you’ll do great!
Here’s an example of how to follow a low carb cycling plan:
- 1st Day – No workout / 3-4 low carb meals.
- 2nd Day – Intense workout / 1-3 low carb meals and 1 high-carb meal (after the workout)
- 3rd Day – No workout / 3-4 low carb meals.
- 4th Day – No workout / 3-4 low carb meals.
- 5th Day – Intense workout / 1-3 low carb meals and 1 high-carb meal (after the workout)
- 6th Day – Intense workout / 1-3 low carb meals and 1 high-carb meal (after the workout)
- 7th Day – No workout / 3-4 low carb meals.
Make sure you write your schedule down. Plans make all the difference in the world when they’re solidified in writing!
Our Most Popular Low-Carb Recipes for 2018:
We have plenty more low carb recipes featured on our Recipes page.
Italian Sausage Soup with Kale
Lemon Shrimp with Spinach and Tomato