As a competitive athlete that needs to lose fat or increase muscular definition for a show, you have to understand how to properly manipulate carbs or carb cycle. This is not a new technique but one that has been used for decades in the body building world to bring in the most lean and shredded physiques. Do it right and you can really dial in your body for your figure or bikini competition. Get it wrong and the judges will be able to see it on stage, which could land you in the last call outs.
In my experience training clients, there seems to be some huge misconceptions about what carb cycling is and when (or if) you should begin the process. There even seems to be a trend that competitors feel they can eat carbs that normally would be off limits on any diet (like pizza, fries, burgers, sweets, etc.) on their higher carb days in the cycle.
Lots of competitors use the terms “re-feeds”, “cheat meal” or “cheat day.” Without the proper nutritional knowledge, many newbies end up eating junk they feel was earned after periods of lower calories or tight dieting.
Strategically bringing in carbs can be a powerful tool in your arsenal, but in my opinion, you should only bring in more of the carbs you are already eating on plan. Here are some of my top carbs to use for cycling:
• Red Potatoes
• Sweet Potatoes
The real problem with having a free for all cheat day (a day a week you eat your favorite high calorie meal or treat) is that if not properly controlled it could get out of hand. It can create a feeling of being deprived, increase cravings, and lead to you not being compliant on your diet long term.
You need the right mindset to stay completely focused on achieving your stage goals. If you allow yourself to cheat, you won’t be able to turn it off. So my advice is to plan and track your macro for all foods–even on re-feed days.
Now, for the most important questions.
How do you set up an effective carb cycling plan?
When do you start carb cycling?
I’ve created Carb Cycling Meal Plan in my competitor training & diet program to help you manipulate your carbs.
Below is an example of my basic carb cycling method using 150 grams of carbs as the highest amount on a high day.
• Re-feed Days (3) –Heavy Training (150-200g)
• Deplete Days (2) – Light to Moderate Training (<60g)
• Reset Days (3) – Moderate Training (90-150g)
Some tweaking will of course be necessary for most, as some of us are a bit more “carb sensitive” than others. The amount of training days per week, training intensity, and age, will determine how much you will need to adjust things, but I recommend you start with 150g of carbs as your highest (re-feed days).
Carb cycling has to be done right. Without the right technique you could end up not lean enough and bloated.
Most competitors who need to lose more weight, begin a carb cycling regime 8 weeks out from their competition.