Athletes commonly vary between easy and hard days in training. It can be an advantage to plan food and nutrition around these training cycles and use a technique called carb-cycling. As sports nutrition shows us, some diet changes can help enhance our athletic performance, particularly in weight sensitive sports. They can even help us lose fat and improve performance, which is particularly helpful as we get closer to a race or competition.
WHAT IS CARB-CYCLING?
If you alternate your intake of carbohydrates when training, that’s called carb-cycling. Some people choose to alternate daily, weekly, and even monthly, with each cycle featuring slightly increased benefits. Some cycling includes low-carb diets, while others include moderate-carb and high-carb.
Carb-cycling is mostly used by athletes to enhance and maintain performance levels. However, it’s also an effective strategy when losing weight and fat in particular.
It’s especially helpful when battling the frustrating plateau that we often hit when trying to lose excess weight.
Carb-cycling is appealing to athletes who want to regulate their carbohydrate intake and only eat them strategically, using them to help maximize performance when needed.
TRAINING DAYS AND CARB CYCLING
Through sport and nutrition science, we know that carbohydrates give our bodies a boost when athletic training. High-intensity days or sports that require more endurance have a higher carbohydrate demand. During more leisurely or rest days, carbohydrate intake is lower because not as much energy is required.
An example of what a week of carb-cycling could like includes two days of high-intensity training with high-carb intake (175-275 grams per day); two days of lower intensity training with moderate-carb; and three days of rest or low-impact exercise with low-carb intake (100-125 grams per day).
Of course, how you approach carb-cycling all depends on your body and your specific training needs. Other factors include your body fat level, your body condition and athletic goals, and whether you have a competition on the horizon.
The theory sounds promising, but it’s the science of sports nutrition that makes carb-cycling and dietary changes based on training most appealing. Manipulating carbohydrate intake is a newer strategy with promising results. When applying this technique, you are anticipating your body’s needs for both carbohydrate and glucose energy.
For athletes, when your days are full of exercise and high-intensity athletic training, you increase your carb intake and lower your fat intake. Carbs give you more energy and refuel energy faster, which enhances your power and endurance. They also help support your muscles and may even reduce muscle breakdown and soreness.
CARB-CYCLING FOR WEIGHT LOSS
Those who use exercise and sports to lose weight or maintain body composition may also find this approach to be helpful.
When you’re strategic about your carbohydrate intake, you can control your body’s release of certain hormones which regulate appetite and weight. It can also improve insulin sensitivity, which supports weight management.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PRODUCTS FOR PERFORMANCE
When done correctly, carb-cycling can help enhance athletic training and performance. It can also help you to lose and maintain your weight.
Not sure how many carbs you are actually eating? Try tracking your food for a few days on an app like My Fitness Pal to get a nutritional breakdown of your diet.
Sports nutrition stores can help you find the right products to support your carb-cycling endeavours. For example, Bindi Natural Sports Hydration is an electrolyte hydration powder that uses complex carbohydrates to support your body before, during, and after workouts. These electrolyte powders are an excellent product for high-intensity, high-carb days.
Bindilyte is a carb-free electrolyte hydration mix, which in turn is perfect for those low-carb days.
Protein is also an essential nutrient that your body uses to maintain muscle mass and help your muscles to recover. However, many protein sources also come bundled with fat such as in red meat. When you’re carb cycling with a high-carb day, you’ll need to get protein to support your muscles without excess fats.
With Bindi, you can pair high-carb days with increased protein intake by using our low-fat, low-sugar protein powders.