If you have established sound nutritional habits on a daily basis (examples: eating breakfast, protein at each meal, 7-10 servings of fruits or vegetables a day, etc.) you might be free to consider some more specialized nutritional strategies. One of the strategies that I’m actually in favor of is carb cycling. It can be made to be as easy as you want or as hard as you want. I’m going to give you the easy version that I feel is effective for most individuals. It’s as simple as this: Consume a higher amount of carbs on training days and consume a lower amount of carbs on non-training days. Dr. Jon Berardi sums it up nicely when he says, “Your carbs have to be earned”.
First let’s understand what a training day is. A training day is a day where you got a fairly intense workout in. It’s not a day where you did some light aerobic work, went for a walk or played a round of golf. In your heart and your mind you know what a training day is. Second, let’s understand that carbs have two very potent properties which both come from their effect on the hormone insulin. They can be anabolic in nature helping you build lean muscle mass. Or they can help you store body fat. So on training days we want to take advantage of carbs in helping us build lean muscle mass. On non-training days we want to lessen the chances of storing body fat.
On a training day you can allow yourself a higher intake of carbs preferably ingesting that higher intake around your workout window: pre-, during and post-. It’s a day where you can allow yourself some starchy carbs and more fruit than usual. If carbs are up on these days you want to keep fat intake down and protein intake up.
On non-training days, try to limit your intake of carbs from starches. Your primary sources of carbs on these days are fruits and vegetables. Your fruit intake should be a little lower than that of a training day. Protein intake should be maintained on this day and you can allow yourself a higher fat intake.
One more thing to consider. The leaner you are to begin with the higher amount of carbs you consider consider on each day. On the other end, the more body fat you’re carrying around the smaller amount of carbs you may want to consider on each day.
Remember, “Your carbs have to be earned”.