Food Freedom Friday Edition 81 - Carbohydrate Cycling

Carbohydrate cycling, carb backloading, cyclical Ketogenic diets. You may wonder what these phrases mean. On the foundational level all of these have something in common - they strategically use carbohydrates in varying types and amounts to provide a shift from your day to day nutrition protocol, to avoid your body over-adapting to a super low carbohydrate plan and to take advantage of the increase in insulin sensitivity that is created when you exercise. Know, that just like everything else, this strategy works differently for different people

Some people will step on the scale the morning after they increased their carbohydrate consumption and see an increase in weight. This is totally normal. The weight is largely comprised of water and will likely disappear in a day or so along with a pound or two of the stuff you wanted to lose in the first place.

Other people will see a drop in weight the very next morning. This is probably also due to water but this weight will not reappear as long as the program is adhered to.  

If what you are after is your best health then you will want to watch what carbs you use for this. I subscribe to real food principles that are mindful about the quality of your food along with your macronutrient balance. I recommend using sweet potatoes, root vegetables and some white rice to get the job done - the vegetables are nutrient dense and the rice is basically hypoallergenic (for most) and easy to digest plus it sets you up for great for sleep as it contributes to the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that is calming and necessary to get you to dreamland.

Post workout and end of day are the best times to consume your extra carbohydrates. If you are following a low carbohydrate and/or ketogenic plan you will likely introduce starches 1-2 days a week strategically. This is not about doing this on a daily basis. If you are a high performance athlete or looking to significantly increase your muscle mass as a bodybuilder this strategy is not for you as you have a different set of circumstances altogether, are likely more insulin sensitive and can tolerate a much higher carbohydrate load than the average person. For those of you looking to improve your body composition and possibly dealing with some level of insulin resistance, pre or at Type 2 diabetes, obesity and the like,the following suggestions may apply to you:

  • One day a week, break out of your super low carbohydrate routine and add a sweet potato (garnished with MCT oil, salt & cinnamon) to your dinner. Preferably not the monster kind of sweet potato that is the size of a small child's head; be reasonable. Start with a small one of about 180 grams. This will provide you with only 31 net grams of carbohydrates which is modest by most standards but significant to your carbohydrate depleted state. See how you feel. How does your body react?
  • To make the most of your experience do a workout before that dinner or, just have the sweet potato after your workout (within an hour or so is fine). You should be more insulin sensitive so what you do not burn will get stored as glycogen which is a good thing. Water gets stored with glycogen. This is part of the reason why you may see a bit of a bump in water weight the next morning.
  • If you do not enjoy sweet potatoes, do the same with steamed white rice instead. Start with ½ a cup (only 22 grams of carbohydrate) and experiment with up to a full cup the next time. Drizzle it with a tablespoon of MCT oil or a tablespoon of grass fed butter. See how you do. How do you feel after your meal? How did you sleep? Did it affect your weight the next day? How about the day after that?
  • Experiment with protein fast days where one day a week you eat less than 15 grams of total protein but lots of carbohydrates and healthy fats. This is a strategy that can be very powerful to shock your metabolism and help your body clean out cellular debris.

I am willing to bet you cannot wait to try this. Will it kick you out of ketosis? You bet it will, but for most people for just one day, two at the most. As you are probably aware by now, I am a lot less focused on people being in a ketogenic state (unless they have certain diseases like certain cancers, neurodegenerative states or suffer from certain seizure disorders) than I am on finding the dietary plan that is most sustainable for each individual while giving them the best results from both from an overall health and body composition perspective. No point being thin if you end up getting sick. It's that simple. Try this out and let me know how you do! Or have you tried it before? And if so, how did it work for you?

Michal Ofer