Whether you’re trying to manage your blood sugar levels or lose a bit of weight, carbohydrates are often touted as the ultimate enemy. It’s no secret that carbs can make losing those extra inches around the middle harder, but it’s not as bad as it seems. The good news is, you may not have to forego your favorite foods after all. The key to losing weight, steadying blood sugar, and improving your thyroid health may actually be in carb cycling.
What is carb cycling?
Carb cycling is a dietary approach which simply has you alternate between periods of high to moderate carb intake (between 100 and 200 grams of carbs per day) and low to no carb intake (between 0 and 30 grams of carbs per day). During a carb cycling plan, you can switch things up on a day to day basis, or do longer periods switching between low and high carb diets.
The carb cycling schedule you choose should be based on your health and fitness goals. As a crucial macronutrient, the function of carbs is to give us energy. That being said, you’ll want to eat more carbs on the days you’re most physically active.
Those who are looking to lose body fat should aim for more low carb days than high carb days. A sample week for you might look like this: two or three days of higher carb intake (either back to back or spaced apart), and four to five days of low or no carb intake.
On the flip side, if you’re an athlete, do rigorous exercise (like weight training), or your goal is to increase muscle mass, you can afford to have more high carb days in your schedule. A week of carb cycling for you might include four days of high carb intake and three days of low or no carb intake.
Benefits of Carb Cycling
While long-term carb cycling diets haven’t been studied extensively, the mechanisms behind this type of eating pattern check out. Research shows that on days we eat less or no carbs, the body switches over to using fat as an energy source, which means you’ll burn more body fat. Low carb intake has also been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, leading to healthier and more stable blood sugar levels.
You’ll reap benefits on the days you eat more carbs, too. Linking carb intake with physical activity has shown to improve the function of the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which regulate our weight and appetite. High carb days also help to refuel muscle glycogen (our stores of muscular energy), which reduces muscle breakdown and could improve physical performance. High carb “refeeds” have even shown to have beneficial effects on the thyroid hormones!
So if you thought that you’d have to give up the carbs for good, we’re glad to let you know that cycling between high or moderate carb intake and low carb intake is actually a great strategy to use instead. Not only could it help you shed a few extra inches, but it could also boost your overall health.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.