Here’s How to Eat More Carbs and Lose Weight: Yes, It’s Possible!
When was the last time you heard: Eat more carbs to lose weight? Like, never, right? But it turns out you can enjoy your favorite potatoes, lentil pasta, whole wheat bread if you do it right. The trick to making it work, and getting your body to incinerate fat, is in the timing. There's new diet method sweeping the nation called "carb cycling" and essentially it uses the timing of your food groups to lose weight. Essentially you'll eat two days "on" carbs and two days "off" of carbs, and 2 "medium carb" days, and this combination prompts your insulin response to kick in and burn fat like your body was a gas-guzzling semi-truck.
To Learn How to User Carb Cycling to Lose Weight We Went to the Expert
Until you get the hang of it, carb cycling is a little bit complicated since you have to hone in on exactly when to pile on the pasta and when to pull in the reigns. And since athletes are the ones who get this right most often, combining their carb intake with their most intense workout days, The Beet asked Kim Bowman, the nutritionist for high-intensity training community F45, to be our guide to doing it right. Bowman gave us the full "how-to" of carb cycling for effective weight loss. Plus she shared a sample meal plan to guide you through the first week. The best news: Carb cycling works perfectly with a plant-based approach.
"If you're already vegan, you're halfway there," Bowman says since you will fill up on healthy carbs such as potatoes, squash, beans, and legumes and avoid unhealthy animal fat when you need more protein on low-carb days. Bowman notes that the carb cycling diet approach is "beneficial for vegans since it helps you stay on track with what you eat throughout the day." And, if you already try to intermittent fast, Carb Cycling is a walk in the park since both methods require you to be mindful of when to eat.
How it Works: Carb Cycling by the Numbers
When you follow carb cycling, your carbohydrate intake will vary between a high-carb day, where 45 to 50 percent of your daily intake will be carbs, followed by moderate-carb days, where 30 to 35 percent of your daily intake is made up of carbs, and very low-carb days, where 20 to 25 percent of your daily intake is made up of carbs. These ratios will help your body burn fat for energy on the very low and moderate days. Think of the high carb days as maintenance, since the extra calories will help your body recover from tough workouts and the carbs will be used to rebuild muscles that get worn down by all that exertion in the gym.
When you start to do it, carb cycling is easier than you think it will be, and because you get to eat carbs fully two days a week, many people who follow this weight loss strategy think that it makes it easier to stay on track, feel energized, and lose weight fast, in less than a month.
What exactly is carb cycling?
"Carbohydrate cycling is a protocol whereby carbohydrate consumption varies from high, moderate, or low on a daily or weekly basis" Bowman explains. "Depending on your body composition goals, the daily ratio of healthy carbs may be lower than usual before cycling back to a higher ratio. The aim of carbohydrate cycling is to fill the glycogen storage in the muscles and liver without storing excess glucose as fat. However, it’s important to note that not all carbs provide the same nutritional benefit."
The Beet: How would you describe Carb Cycling to a friend?
KB: "It's the concept of being more mindful and regulating your cravings. iI you can time your carbs and be mindful you can really regulate how hungry you are, you're stabilizing your blood sugars. if you're not mindful you're going to be eating foods all over the place. Cravings are stimulated by changes in blood sugar. Carb cycling helps monitor that so you don't have really high days."
The Beet: Which carbs should I avoid and which ones should I eat?
KB: "On high carb days, focus on consuming quality complex carbs like oatmeal, quinoa, and beans. On low carb days eat non-starchy vegetables and avoid simple carbs like white rice, baked goods, cookies, store-bought products that drive up blood sugars. Simple short-chain carbs make you feel hungry quicker than if you eat complex carbs, because they're full of dietary fiber and break down more slowly. More people should eat this way anyway."
The Beet: What does a sample week look like?
How you use carbohydrate cycling depends on a variety of factors, including your current body composition, weight loss goals, training routine, and usual eating habits. For example, an athlete may be going through a ‘lean phase’ for fat loss by lowering his or her carb intake for a couple of weeks before reintroducing carbs back during a ‘building phase.’ While there is variation between approaches, a typical weekly carbohydrate cycling protocol may look like this:
2 High Days: Sunday and Monday, eat your highest intake of carbs, 45 to 50 percent
2 Moderate Days: Tuesday and Wednesday, eat moderate carbs, 30 to 35 percent
3 Low Days: Thursday to Saturday, eat your lowest percentage of carbs: 20 to 25 percent
The Beet: What does a typical meal plan look like for a high carb day?
The meal plan for a high-carb day will fall on Sunday and Monday. Forty-five to 50% of your daily intake is carbs this is approximately 175 to180 grams of carbs per day. Here is the exact meal plan with recipes.
Breakfast: Oatmeal and Fruit
- 1 Cup Cooked Oats
- ½ cup mixed fruit (strawberries, blueberries)
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp all-natural organic peanut butter
- ½ tsp raw honey (agave if you're vegan)
- 2 tbsp walnuts
- Lunch: Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Tofurkey Sandwich with Golden Baked Yams
- 1 large Ezekiel Tortilla
- 1 Tbsp Hummus
- 1 Cup Arugula or Mixed Greens
- 3-oz Sliced Tofurkey
- Sliced Cucumber
- ½ Small Yam, baked
- Apple, Sliced with Almond
- Grilled Tofu Burrito Bowl
- 3-oz Grilled Tempeh
- 1 Cup Brown Rice or Quinoa
- ⅓ Cup Black Beans
- 1 Tbsp Pico de Gallo
The sample menu is based on a total daily caloric intake of 1,500 calories. Note that macronutrient distribution will vary depending on body weight, age, and gender.
The Beet: Is Carb Cycling healthy and effective for vegans?
KB: "Yes and it's actually easier. If you're macro heavy on carbs such as a plant-based diet, you're more than halfway there. Your body is cycling through periods of high moderate to low carbohydrates intake so it's good for someone who's plant-based to have a steady flow of carbs. And, if you're macro heavy on carbs and you eat lots of beans and legumes you're more than halfway there."
The Beet: Is Carb Cycling good for athletes and can it help you build muscle?
KB: "Carb Cycling is something that has been used by a lot of athletes and they normally follow a modified version: 45%-50% carbs on moderation days and 20-25% carbs on low days."For example, an athlete engaging in carbohydrate cycling may be going through a ‘cutting phase’ with the goal of fat loss. Therefore, this individual may lower his or her carbohydrate intake for a couple of weeks before reintroducing carbs back during a ‘muscle building phase.’
The Beet: Will I gain weight or feel bloated on a high-carb day?
KB: "You will not gain weight if you follow the meal plan properly, and pay attention to the ratios. Bloating only depends on the types of carbs you're eating and if they are high in fiber."
The Beet: Will I feel hungry on a low-carb day?
KB: "No, because you will still have a good amount of protein and healthy fats that will make you feel full on low-carb days. Some foods I recommend eating are avocados, nuts, seeds, beans, nutrient-dense salads, and fatty fish if you're not vegan."
The Beet: How quickly does the average person lose weight?
KB: "Weight loss will take about 3-4 weeks depending on your diet and body. But, in terms of feeling good and having more energy, you'll start to notice the difference after the first week."
The Beet: If I want to lose weight, should I consider eating fewer carbs?
KB: "Yes, but don't restrict your calorie intake at all. If you're not noticing weight loss results look at the carbs you're eating and aim to eat lower calorie carbs like starchy vegetables."
The Beet: What advice do you have for anyone starting carb cycling for the first time?
KB: Don't get discouraged, just try it. Focus on cutting out refined and process carbs and if you do that already you're already on the right track.
The Beet: You're the nutritionist for F45, what workouts should I do on a low carb day?
KB: "More cardio-based workouts, like a light jog, lower HIIT session, and pilates"
The Beet: What kind of exercise should I do on a high carb day?
KB: "You should do a lot of weight training to utilize that fuel."