Keeping DaniFit with Carb Cycling
By: Danielle Keperling, BS Kinesiology, ACSM Certified Personal Trainer
Your weeks can be pretty unpredictable at this point, so following an eating schedule might be too difficult, and when you feel like you’re falling off the wagon you tend to give up. That vicious cycle can continue and can lead you to feel like you’re out of control.
Let’s take it day by day. Set the tone of your day upon waking. Plan your workout time–whether it’s alone, with your kids, close friend or family member. Maybe you planned to do an outdoor workout and now it’s raining. If your activity level is changing, so should what you’re eating. Carb cycling is a great way to control the fluctuation of calories, give your body what it needs, and can reduce or maintain body fat levels.
Carb cycling involves planned increases and decreases in carbohydrate during the day. When you ingest carbs, they break down into glucose, fueling your body and brain. Your pancreas is signaled to release insulin to shuttle glucose from the blood into cells to be used or stored. What I have found over time is that my carb cycling needs to be less precise and calculated for it to still be effective for me, and maybe it can for you too!
Calculations can be overwhelming and tracking food all of the time can become monotonous. Trust me, I love calculations and tracking, but I understand it’s not for everyone. So, does that mean that everyone doesn’t deserve to be successful? Of course not, and I’m going to share what I know that may help you. We’re going to take a less strict approach to carb cycling, your three macros are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
I’m a visual learner, so here it is. When you carb cycle, think of a playground see-saw, also known as a teeter-totter. By the way, when I’m on one of those things, you can bet I’m rocketing off the ground to fling myself up as fast as I can, allowing the poor person on the other side to come crashing to the ground. If I’m not holding on tight, the shockwave from the crash will send me up in the air. I can’t believe we have these death trap contraptions for our children. Anywho… So, now I know you’re envisioning a see-saw. Carbohydrate is on one end, while fat is on the other. Protein is chilling in the middle as the single pivot point.
When I carb cycle, I think of my macros like a see-saw. My protein is going to stay pretty consistent in the middle, while my carbs and fats go up and down. Our common mistake that takes a big toll on our fitness nutrition is when carbohydrate and fat are in the middle together (higher fat and higher carb foods). Nobody wants to hang out in the middle of a see-saw, that’s no fun!
On my high carb days, my fat should be low, like as low as I can. Not the time to be eating guacamole, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, or fatty meats. I don’t eat endless amounts of carbs, and don’t forget about the very valuable protein supporting my board for my see-saw. No support, no see-saw. With only a minor calculation, I can eat around 2 grams (sometimes a little more) of carbs per pound of body weight on High Carb Days. Protein can stay between 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight. I try to keep my fat grams to 20 grams or less for the day on high carb day. My carb choices are clean carbs like potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, oatmeal, quinoa, black bean or edamame pasta, and low fat/nonfat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.
On Low Carb Days I can eat around 0.5 grams (sometimes a little less) of carbs per pound of body weight, and protein can stay between 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight. My carbs add up quickly on these days even if I’m not eating “carby” foods. Dairy products have carbs, fruits and vegetables have carbs. Many don’t realize it, so that’s why I like to track my food. My fat content is higher on these days. Just like the see-saw, one side goes down, like carbs, then the other side goes up, like fat. My fat grams typically can hang between 60-75 grams. I typically eat less on these days, varying my caloric intake than my high carb days, but this is good!
What should my carb cycle look like in a pandemic like this?? If I know I’m going to workout hard, I eat high carb. Lighter days or just cardio days, I’ll do low carb. These days, I find that I’m doing a lot of cardio and conditioning, so I won’t go more than three days of low carb before refueling my body with a high carb day.
OK, final thought. Keep drinking plenty of water. Since I’m home more, I’ve noticed I’m not drinking as much water as I did when I’m on the go. I go everywhere with my water bottle–never leave the house without it. It’s always a constant reminder to drink. I’ve been letting my water bottle sit around the house, I forget where I put it, or I randomly started my happy hour at noon one day–oops, hahaha! You can start feeling like blah pretty quickly if you’re dehydrated. So keep drinking! Water, that is.