Raise your hand if you’ve heard the phrase, “Abs are built in the kitchen, not in the gym.” It’s a fairly common gym mantra, albeit not entirely true. Abdominal muscles are in fact built in the gym, however, to remove the layer of fat over them and reveal your hard work to the world, you have to follow a proper diet.
When it comes to nutrition, one thing our fitness experts can all agree on is the effectiveness of a low-carb strategy for melting away unwanted body fat. Unfortunately, following a traditional low-carb diet for long periods of time can make it difficult to preserve lean muscle mass. As you take away a fuel source for your body (carbohydrates), it searches for an alternative source of energy. Ideally, it would head straight for your fat stores and burn it all off. In reality though, your body has a tendency to break down muscle in the process of losing weight. This is where carb cycling comes in.
The idea behind a carb-cycling plan is to alternate back and forth between low-carb days and moderate-carb days. This helps your body burn fat and preserve lean muscle mass at the same time. Our recommended plan follows a 3/2 split, meaning you do three days of low carbs followed by two days of moderate carbs. At the end of the five days, you repeat the cycle again.
As with any fitness endeavor, the key to carb cycling is consistency. You need to track your fats, proteins and carbohydrates to make sure your caloric intake is in line with your goal. On your moderate-carb day, you should consume enough calories to satisfy your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), plus the calories you will need for working out, cardio, etc. while still resulting in a slight overall calorie deficit.
This may sound complicated, but the calculation is simple. Multiply your lean body mass (LBM) by 1.5 to determine how many grams of carbs you’ll eat daily. You will also multiply your LBM by 1.5 to determine your daily grams of proteins, and then 0.5 for your daily grams of fats. The total calories for all three added together should be 16.5 calories per pound of lean body mass.
- 5g Carbs x LBM = Daily carbs
- 5g Proteins x LBM = Daily proteins
- 5g Fats x LBM = Daily fats
Using the moderate-carb day as a foundation, you can also calculate your macros and calories for your low-carb day. On the two low-carb days, you will keep your proteins and fats the same, but you will eliminate all starchy carbohydrates. This will put you in a deeper calorie deficit, which will help speed up the fat-burning process.
Now, it’s important to note that proteins and fats become a larger percent of your overall calorie intake on low-carb days. This is because you are losing the calories from the starchy carbohydrates, not because you are consuming more. In order to preserve lean muscle mass while you’re in this calorie deficit, it’s important to keep proteins and healthy fats high.
Below you’ll find a sample carb cycling meal plan. As we said before, you can keep the proteins and fats the same on both a moderate-carb day and a low-carb day. The difference will be the starchy carbs, which we’ve marked with dashes so you know what to remove:
4 whole eggs
½ cup egg whites
–¾ cup oatmeal–
½ cup almonds
4 oz. top round London broil
100g green beans
–1 cup brown rice–
1 scoop Best Protein™ shake
1 small banana
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Pre Workout Meal
4 oz. ground turkey (99% fat free)
–2 cups sweet potato–
Post Workout Meal
2 scoops Best Protein™ shake
–¾ cup oatmeal–
4 oz. chicken breast
¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
Don’t forget: carb cycling is only one part of a weight-loss program. To see the results you want, make sure you are doing five days of weight training and at least 30 minutes of cardio a day.
For an extra boost, add Best BCAA Shredded™ to your routine. The amino acid recovery formula was created with peptide-bonded carnitine and citrulline to help your body burn stored fat for energy, while preserving lean muscle mass.