Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Carb Cycling Question

I received the following e-mail from a reader:

All I can say is WOW. Your story sounds alot like mine- except- I am
female and 48 years young.

Would you mind explaining the CARB
CYCLING and how it works? I am very frustrated and do not want to stop
eating low carb but when you do not lose any weight for
weeks...

Thanking you for your wonderful stories of
inspiration. You and your wife are my new HERO'S. You both are proof
low car works.


My response follows....

No problem. And, thanks for the compliments. First, let me say that I am not a professional nutritionist nor doctor. All I know I have learned from books, online, and experimentation.

With regards to cycling. Usually carb cycling is used by body builders. They alternate low carb and high carb with the high carb days corresponding to their heavy workouts. These cycles are typically very short, often just a few days. They often refer to the carb-up days as "re-feeds". Even though I don't work out with weights, I looked at the body builder diet methods because these people typically have extremely lean bodies with lots of muscle and little to no fat.

I have also been reading online diet logs and discussion forums. I have noticed that most people doing Atkins and Protein Power lose a tone of weight the first few months and then the weight loss slows substantially and often results in stalls of weeks or months. It seemed to me that the body adjusts to the diet and the metabolism slows down to conserve energy and hang onto fat storage. Carb Cycling seemed like a logical means to keep the body from conserving energy.

My first experiment was about a month long and used a cycle of low-carb weekdays and high-carb weekends. I'd quickly gain 5+ pounds on the carb-up days and it'd fall off very quickly on the carb down days. I attribute this to water retention as carbs seem to make your body hold more water. I'm not sure if this is the carbs or the salt content in carby foods. I did not gain any weight but lost very little. It took my body about 3 days to slip into ketosis which only left 1 or 2 days for real fat loss.

Next, I adjusted the cycles. I wanted more time in ketosis, so I went to a two week cycle. This cycle consisted of 11 days low carb followed by 3 days high carb. Essentially, my wife and I took every other weekend off the diet. On the carb-up days, we ate whatever our bodies craved and often ate decedent desserts. My results doing this was a loss of about 5 pounds per month, the same as I was losing doing low-carb-all-the-time. One interesting difference is that I consistently lost almost exactly 5 pounds a month where-as on low-carb-all-the-time (excluding the first few months), I sometimes lost 10 pounds and sometimes lost nothing. But the average monthly weight loss was the same.

In conclusion, I can't tell you that carb-cycling works better. My personal experience is that my average weight loss is the same as on low-carb-all-the-time. But, it allows me more flexibility. If a diet is to be a way of life that you stick to forever, I need a lifestyle with flexibility. Carb cycling gives me this flexibility.

1 comment:

Pashta said...

Your experience has been mine as well. I tried doing the quick cycle like the body builders but wound up not losing anything.

I will do the every other weekend thing like you are since it's working for you. Thanks so much for this blog! :)