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What are your thoughts on carb-cycling?

by (682)
Updated about 19 hours ago
Created October 05, 2011 at 4:09 PM

After doing LC, VLC, Medium Carb, and High carb I have settled on some form of carb cycling for the time being. I have found that I do not function well in ketosis for extended periods of time but I do enjoy being in ketosis occasionaly.

I am not well informed about the science but from what I have read there are benefits to ketosis. However there also is discussion that there may be dangers to being in ketosis for extended periods of time. Paul Jaminet discuss the potential of cancer being related to long term low carb diets.

Many of the links are in this post about safe starches asked earlier today: http://paleohacks.com/questions/68656/dr-ron-rosedales-recent-posts-about-safe-starches-what-do-you-think#axzz1ZvEZ24jM

On the note of carb cycling.

1) I have heard that hunter gather societies did and do go for periods with medium to high carb intakes and then periods with almost no carb intake. This would put them in ketosis occasionally while allowing them to use carbs as an energy source at other times.

2) It is a common practice in modern fitness and bodybuilding circles to carb cycle. They carb cycle with rice or other starchy foods in order to gain muscle mass and lean out. Carb cycling is also suggested to people for weight lose. (I have found that carb cycling has been beneficial for me in keeping muscle mass and healthy low bf%)

Carb cycling could be done a multitude of ways. I am currently playing around with carb cycling and IFing by eating two meals a day. One day I will go all meat/fish and vegetables for both meals and another day one meal I will eat a ridiculous amount of starch and the other meal will be meat based. I am still tweaking. I am sure you could carb cycle by going a few days high-moderate carb and then a few days low carb.

What do you think about using carb cycling as an alternative to the same amount of carbs every day? What about carb-cycling for those who are plateauing on weight loss? Would carb cycling have any disadvantages compared to constant medium carb diet?

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282 · May 10, 2013 at 9:04 PM

Gilliebean, what do you consider VLC and moderate carb? I know this post is from a couple years ago but I'm curious :) Thanks!

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2231 · October 06, 2011 at 12:32 AM

pulse?? please explain

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2231 · October 06, 2011 at 12:31 AM

the supperversity blog has a lot about carb cycling, as does lyle mcdonald. no pone can really answer it for you. it is based on how you feel and handle it. if it works, makes like peachy and happy then do it!

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682 · October 05, 2011 at 6:44 PM

sounds a lot like my diet.

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 6:43 PM

I'll probably do that one of these days to check. For now, I've been using pulse as a proxy. Also, re Annie's point, I find this paper by Dr. Lindeberg et al interesting re tubers vs grains: http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/DiabetesStudy.html

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78422 · October 05, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Yeah Beath, u r probably right. I still it would be cool to have concrete data via finger tests.

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2707 · October 05, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Agree stick w/ the natural whole food safe starches, avoiding the more fructose heavy and you should be fine. Once again you may need to tweak based on your own health and needs (diabetic, althlete, etc)

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3946 · October 05, 2011 at 6:21 PM

I think the type of carbs also matters. Slow, starchy carbs rather than a quick fruit fix.

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 6:19 PM

I'm not sure it will raise your blood sugar if you are carb-adapted. I.e., yes, if you eat carbs after having been LC for a long period of time, your BG will be disproportionately high (why you need to add carbs back in before doing an OGTT). But I wouldn't think you'd have the same problem if you ate carbs on a periodic basis.

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Cycling carbs also gives you additional flexibility for meal options.

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7 Answers

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13983 · October 05, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I think it's great! Both for plateaus and for those looking to cut BF to single digits. Cycling carbs also helps maintain thyroid function.

[When not pregnant] I like to do two days VLC, one day moderate carb and then three days VLC, and one day moderate carb - each week. This works well for me for both weight loss and hormone regulation.

If you want to get into the science, I suggest reading through Lyle McDonald's material or get the book Mastering Leptin.

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 5:34 PM

Cycling carbs also gives you additional flexibility for meal options.

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282 · May 10, 2013 at 9:04 PM

Gilliebean, what do you consider VLC and moderate carb? I know this post is from a couple years ago but I'm curious :) Thanks!

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3946 · October 05, 2011 at 6:27 PM

In addition to the good answers you've already received: I believe carb cycling helps those of us who have been VLC for a long time add in small amounts of carbs without the undesired ill-effects. There are many of us who are VLC who are now unable to "tolerate" extra carbs without significant weight gain. I think that cycling, adding carbs only after a good workout, or possibly a once a week cheat meal or day (Paleo carbs only, starchy preferred), can help us VLCers add carbs without unwanted side effects.

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2707 · October 05, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I have been doing the same thing, only not as extreme.

I do 16/8 IF daily, usually have 2 meals a day, if I have a third it is very light (usually more of a dessert I guess).

Days I work out (3x/week) I go up on the carbs (sweet potatoes, squash, bananas), and the rest days higher fat - more coconut oil, more fatty cuts of meat, avocado etc.

I am really happy with this approach and seems to work best for me in terms of energy levels, maintaining weight or even when trying to lose fat (rest days just bring down the calories a bit).

Also feel like I am able to tolerate carbs much better now. Previously if I was too eat something that had more sugar in it than I thought, say a sauce, I would definitely get lethargic and get a bit of brain fog.

That's me anyway :)

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1457 · October 06, 2011 at 1:45 AM

I had been doing zero/vlc for a few weeks with carb reloads about every 6 days. I liked it. However I am not trying to lose weight anymore and working on training for a triathlon so I have settled on vlc breakfast/lunch with about 100g carb + 100g protein for dinner (plus whatever fat is in the meal naturally). This gives me plenty of glycogen for my workouts on average and helps me get to sleep easily at night.

I don't actually know if this is good for me but I do feel great on it and am still leaning-out in the process.

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5516 · October 05, 2011 at 6:41 PM

I have been doing this on accident and by feel for the past few weeks. I generally IF and eat two meals a day. The first meal is fatty meats and green vegetables. My second meal is lean meats, starch, and some fruit. I find the evening carbs help me sleep better. I would not though that my total carb intake is still only around 20-30% probably

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682 · October 05, 2011 at 6:44 PM

sounds a lot like my diet.

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78422 · October 05, 2011 at 6:10 PM

My only problem with carb cycling is that will rise blood sugar in diabetic level for entire day since you are lowcarb otherwise. Has anybody did measure ?

That said, I like the concept, and it may help weight loss, stress reduction and deals with what-if-it-turns-out-one-day-that-we-are-all-wrong-about-carbs problem.

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2707 · October 05, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Agree stick w/ the natural whole food safe starches, avoiding the more fructose heavy and you should be fine. Once again you may need to tweak based on your own health and needs (diabetic, althlete, etc)

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 6:19 PM

I'm not sure it will raise your blood sugar if you are carb-adapted. I.e., yes, if you eat carbs after having been LC for a long period of time, your BG will be disproportionately high (why you need to add carbs back in before doing an OGTT). But I wouldn't think you'd have the same problem if you ate carbs on a periodic basis.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094
78422 · October 05, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Yeah Beath, u r probably right. I still it would be cool to have concrete data via finger tests.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0
3946 · October 05, 2011 at 6:21 PM

I think the type of carbs also matters. Slow, starchy carbs rather than a quick fruit fix.

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2231 · October 06, 2011 at 12:32 AM

pulse?? please explain

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15003 · October 05, 2011 at 6:43 PM

I'll probably do that one of these days to check. For now, I've been using pulse as a proxy. Also, re Annie's point, I find this paper by Dr. Lindeberg et al interesting re tubers vs grains: http://www.staffanlindeberg.com/DiabetesStudy.html

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28 · May 10, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Check out Kiefer's Carb Night, or Drs. Hellers' Carb Addicts Diet. You basically fast for breakfast, and/or protein/veg's only for breakfast and dinner, then sensible but hearty protein/carb/fat/veg's dinner, to be eaten within one hour. Same process every day, regardless of when you work out (I believe).

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