Carbohydrate cycling: this seven-point diet strategy will help you keep bodyfat in check while adding muscle
FLEX has frequently described how you can use carb rotation to assist you in leaning out. By reducing carbs on some days and eating more on others, your body is better able to maintain muscle mass while shedding bodyfat. This is such a potent diet strategy that you can also use it during bulking phases to help you build muscle without adding as much bodyfat as you otherwise might. In other words, if you want to get bigger without getting fat, you should give this 12-day carbohydrate-cycling strategy a whirl.
This strategy is the cornerstone of a mass-building plan that we’ve found to be successful for virtually everyone who’s used it. On this plan, follow four days of moderate carbohydrate intake by eight days of greater carb intake more akin to a traditional high-carb diet, which is so effective in adding mass. This seven-point plan allows the individual who struggles with bodyfat to add mass while keeping bodyfat levels in check.
1) Match protein consumption to bodyweight
Protein gives the body the building blocks of muscle growth. You need to consume at least a gram of complete protein per pound of bodyweight daily. Thus, a 200-pound bodybuilder should eat at least 200 grams (g) of protein per day and, equally important, spread it over five to seven meals. The main twist: Count only the protein found in meat, eggs, dairy and milk- or egg-based protein powders. Although vegetables and grains have some protein, don’t include them in your total.
2) Follow four moderate carb days
Carbs help set up the body hormonally for growth. They induce the release of insulin, which gets protein and carbs into muscles for growth and repair. The downside is that when you take in too many carbs, they can be readily converted to bodyfat and stored. Thus, a moderate intake of 1.5 to 1.75 g per pound of bodyweight each day — for, four straight days — is the baseline level to keep your insulin levels up, helping you to grow. A 200-pounder would consume 300-350 g a day.
3) Eat high carbs for eight days
Moving to a high carb intake after four days of modest consumption pushes up insulin levels even more, which helps drive the body into a stronger anabolic state. Take in 2.5 to 3.5 g of carbs per pound of bodyweight. A 200-pounder would eat 500 to 700 g of carbs daily. These eight days of high carbs will saturate muscle glycogen stores, a strong marker for growth.
Repeating the cycle of four days of moderate carb intake followed by eight days of high carbs will help keep your bodyfat from rising too much while you continue to pack on mass. Thus, the four modified carb days will allow you to pull back on glycogen stores and keep you lean while bulking.
5) Make adaptations
We’ve established these cycle lengths as a baseline because they seem to work very well for most people. You can make adjustments to the lengths of these cycles based on your own body’s response. If you’re starting to look softer and think that you’re storing more fat than you should, shorten your high-carb cycle to six days and reduce your carb consumption during your moderate phase to the low end of your target range (1.5 g per pound of bodyweight). Keep in mind that individual variance is always a major factor in a bodybuilding diet, and you need to monitor your body to make sure you’re responding in a way that will allow you to reach your goals.
(6) Thermogenic advantage
Bodybuilders understand the concept of thermogenesis — where food, especially carbs, can be burned off (as a byproduct of metabolism) rather than deposited as bodyfat. Thermogenesis is one reason ephedra products can help keep you lean. They can increase your metabolic rate and help promote the burning of carbs as well as bodyfat. Moving from a lower carb intake to a higher carb intake increases the thermic effect. Thus, a 200-pound bodybuilder will burn off some of those carbs during the eight consecutive days when carbs are higher, helping him to stay lean while continuing to build muscle mass.
Thyroid levels can fluctuate with how much as well as what you eat. For example, dieters often experience a drop in thyroid levels while those who overeat can experience an increase in thyroid levels. Even though the increase is usually mild with overeaters, the benefit is less fat storage and greater muscle growth as slightly higher thyroid levels not only help stimulate fat burning but increase protein synthesis. Moving from a lower to a higher carb intake may change hormone levels and might help you look like a bigger bodybuilder, not a fatter one.
Carbohydrate cycling is a simple but potent formula for muscular growth. Often, when bodybuilders enter bulking phases, they overeat to make certain they’re providing their bodies with all the protein and nutrients they need for maximal growth. The result is more stored bodyfat than desired. By using carbohydrate cycling, you help control the hormones of your body, giving yourself an anabolically desirable environment for maximal muscle growth without the unwanted addition of extra bodyfat.
GUIDE TO CARBOHYDRATE CYCLING Follow the numbers for your bodyweight to help you pack on quality poundage during your bulking phase. Carb intake for Carb intake for Bodyweight four consecutive days eight consecutive days (pounds) (grams per day) (grams per day) 160 240-280 400-560 170 255-298 425-595 180 270-315 450-630 190 285-333 475-665 200 300-350 500-700 210 315-368 525-735 220 330-385 550-770 230 345-403 575-805 Protein intake Bodyweight for all days (pounds) (grams per day) 160 160 170 170 180 180 190 190 200 200 210 210 220 220 230 230
To order Chris Aceto’s training and nutrition book, Championship Bodybuilding, visit www.chrisaceto.com