What is carb cycling and should you be doing it?

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(Picture: Getty)

If you like food, the idea of a no-carb diet is probably your idea of hell.

Pasta, pizza, bread… pasta. All off-limits. We cant compute.

Aside from our personal cravings, theres plenty of evidence to suggest that cutting out carbs completely isnt actually effective for weight-loss – particularly in the long-term.

And official NHS advice states that wholegrain carbs are a really important part of a balanced diet.

But carb cycling – a diet that staggers the amount of carbs you eat – could be a viable alternative.

(Picture: Getty)

Carb cycling is when you vary your carb intake on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

What that means is that on some days you eat more of them and some days you eat less.

You can do it based on your activity – so, say you go the gym three times in a week, on those three days you would eat carbs normally. On the other four days of that week you would eat a low-carb diet.

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The idea is that you get the benefits of a low-carb diet without the fatigue and possible muscle-loss – so in theory it is more sustainable.

If you dont judge it by activity, another simple way to do it is to eat low-carb for three days followed by two higher-carb days. And you can choose to continue at the weekend or not.

But is it healthy? Will it actually help you lose weight? And, most importantly, is it safe?

Nutritionist Charlotte De Curtis, think there are certainly benefits.

There can be a number of benefits to carb cycling when done correctly, Charlotte tells Metro.co.uk.

When it comes to fat-loss, many of my clients enjoy the flexibility that carb cycling brings when used in line with a calorie deficit, often improving diet adherence and long term success.

There is research to suggest that cycling carbs around your workouts can also be beneficial for gaining muscle, improving physical performance, along with aiding recovery.

Other research suggests that high-carb re-feeds, after a state of lower carbohydrate intake, may have a positive effect on hormones during a diet, particularly the thyroid hormones and leptin, which is one of the hormones responsible for balancing hunger.

As with any diet, theres plenty to consider before getting started, but Charlotte doesnt think theres anything particularly worrying about carb cycling if its done properly.

Although there are no “dangers” as such, cycling your carbs in this way can often be complex in nature for beginners, leading to confusion and
lack of adherence, she explains.

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Something else to be aware of is that you may gain water weight on your high-carb days and, cutting down too low on carbs, on your non training days may feel too restrictive and increase your cravings for sweet foods.

We have all been there. Trying to be healthy and ending up raiding the vending machine at 3pm.

So how can you make carb cycling work for you? Charlotte has some pointers.

Carb cycling can absolutely be implemented into a balanced and healthy approach for both fat loss, performance and general health.

Depending on the goal, by ensuring that you are eating enough calories to cover the energy that youre expending, from one day to the next and that your carbs are coming from sources that are dense in nutrients – think veggies and starchy carbs – this will illicit the maximum benefit.

So its all about balance – making sure youre offsetting your exercise and activity with enough food to keep you energised.

If youre tempted by a low-carb diet but cant quite say goodbye to your breakfast bagel habit, then this could be the perfect diet for you.

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