Calorie Cycling: Do a Calorie Shifting Diet Plan or Carb Cycling Diet Plan Help You Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle?
Generally speaking, weight loss is all about taking in less calories than you expend. However, when you get close to your target weight, a calorie cycling diet plan can be beneficial. In fact, I’d say a calorie shifting diet plan or carb cycling diet plan are some of the most effective ways to trick your body so that you can lose body fat, gain muscle, and get a really lean, defined body.
A calorie cycling diet is all about switching things up so that your body stays in a fat burning state. Over the course of a week or month, you may end up eating the same number of calories as you would under a normal diet, but when properly implemented, you can burn a lot more fat. In essence, you can provide your body with plenty of muscle building nutrients when you exercise and limit caloric intake when you don’t. I remember first reading about these types of strategies from Tom Venuto (author of Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle).
Calorie Shifting Diet Plan
The theory behind a calorie shifting diet is that you eat a lower number of calories on certain days and a higher number of calories on other days. There are an infinite number of ways to do this. You could have a week that you eat 500 extra calories on 2-3 days followed by a week that you eat 500 less calories on 2-3 days. In a way, this puts your body in muscle building mode the first week and fat burning mode the second week.
I actually prefer to have high and low calorie days within a single week though. I perform intermittent fasting 2 days per week and skip breakfast 1 day per week. That gives me 3 days of low calorie eating. I have 1 very high calorie day (my cheat day) and 3 days of maintenance level eating.
I take calorie shifting one step further by timing meals around workouts. Ideally, I exercise in a fasted state since depleted glycogen levels lead to higher fat burning. I try to eat my largest meal 1-2 hours after exercising when my body is primed to turn those nutrients into muscle. Why wait 1-2 hours? Because I can maximize the release of HGH (human growth hormone) which will help burn fat while preventing muscle loss.
As you can see, there are a multitude of ways to incorporate a calorie shifting diet plan. It can be as simple as having months/weeks of high calorie eating followed by months/weeks of low calorie eating or as detailed as timing high calorie meals around workouts.
Carb Cycling Diet Plan
While adjusting the timing of your calorie intake is a good approach to allow your body to lose fat and gain muscle, a carb cycling diet provides a great way to adjust your diet at the macronutrient level to optimize your body’s fat burning potential.
As an aside, fat and carbs have both gone through phases where they are seen as the root of all evil. In most cases, the bottom line is that excessive intake of fat, carbs, or even protein can all lead to weight gain, and more specifically fat gain. However, when you want to get extra lean, carb management is a good trick to implement.
Why is carb cycling helpful for fat loss? Because your body needs to deplete its glycogen stores (carbs) before it burns fat. By going into a workout in a fasted state, your body can start burning fat sooner. The challenge with going low carb all the time is that your body can go into ketosis which can ultimately lead to muscle loss. By using a carb cycling diet, you can regularly restore glycogen levels and get all the fat loss benefits without the muscle loss side effects. Perhaps more importantly, who really wants to avoid carbs all the time?
My calorie shifting diet above really drives my carb cycling diet. On fasting/lower calorie days, it’s natural that I eat less carbs. On higher calorie days, I restore my glycogen levels by eating more carbs, particularly after a workout. Carb cycling is a staple of one of my favorite diet approaches, Cheat Your Way Thin.
Lose Body Fat, Gain Muscle
If you have a lot of weight to lose, just focus on limiting calories and doing intense exercise. If you’ve gotten the full benefits of those methods and are still looking to trim some fat, why not try the above mentioned calorie cycling diet plans? A calorie shifting diet plan allows you to cycle your caloric intake on a monthly, weekly, or even intra-daily basis so that you can lose body fat and gain muscle. A carb cycling diet plan works independently or in conjunction with this approach by lowering glycogen levels, allowing for better fat burning workouts. I think you’ll find that these approaches work well over both the near-term and long-term.
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