Carbohydrate Cycling For Weight Loss

Runners can rotate no-, low- and high-carbohydrate days in order to shed a few pounds. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

How To Implement Carb Cycling

No-Carbohydrate, Low-Calorie Days
These will be the rest or cross-training days in your training schedule. If you run more than five days per week, substitute your easiest run of the week for the off day. You’ll want to target a caloric deficit of about 400 to 600 calories on your low-carbohydrate day.

The no-carbohydrate phase should break down to: 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, 0.4 grams of fat per pound, and 0.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound. For a 130-pound woman, here is what those numbers would look like:

Protein: 130lb x 1.2 = 156g protein = 624 calories (46% of caloric intake)

Fat: 130lb x 0.4 = 52g fat = 468 calories (34 % caloric intake)

Carbohydrate: 130lb x 0.5 = 65g carbs = 260 calories (19% caloric intake)

Given that an average 130-pound woman burns about 1,900 calories per day, this breakdown would result in a 550-calorie deficit, which will help promote weight loss.

Low-Carbohydrate, Moderate-Calorie Days
Low-carbohydrate days fall on your average training day and are the main driver of carb cycling for running. These days allow you to maintain the energy reserves to run well while giving your muscles fuel for recovery. Low-carbohydrate days should be 3-4 days per week that are standard running days — not your hardest workouts or long runs.

The low-carbohydrate phase should break down to: 1.3 grams of protein per pound, 0.5 grams of fat per pound, and 1.0 grams of carbohydrates per pound. Using the example of the 130-pound woman from before, here is what the numbers would look like:

Protein: 130lb x 1.3 = 169g protein = 676 calories (38% of caloric intake)

Fat: 130lb x 0.5 = 65g fat = 585 calories (33 % caloric intake)

Carbohydrate: 130lb x 1.0 = 130g carbs = 520 calories (23% caloric intake)

While still relatively low in carbohydrates, this breakdown results in roughly the same number of calories burned as calories consumed, which will help fuel you properly for running without putting on weight.

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High-Carbohydrate, High-Calorie days
High-carbohydrate days will coincide with your hardest workout days and long runs. Typically, you’ll have two or three of these per week, depending on the intensity of your schedule. The additional calories and carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates and be eaten before and after your runs for optimal fueling. The purpose is to replenish the body’s glycogen stores, stimulate an anabolic response through insulin release, and give the mind a break from the moderately restrictive normal phase of the diet. The general idea is to continue to eat a lot of veggies and add to that fruit and naturally unprocessed carbohydrates, and if necessary, a small amount of processed carbohydrates.

The high-carbohydrate phase should break down to: 1.7 grams of protein per pound, 0.5 grams of fat per pound, and 1.0 grams of carbohydrates per pound. For the same 130-pound woman, here is what the numbers would look like:

Protein: 130lb x 1.7 = 221g protein = 884 calories

Fat: 130lb x 0.4 = 52g fat = 468 calories

Carbohydrate: 130lb x 2.5 = 325g carbs = 1300 calories

If you’re struggling to lose weight while maintaining a rigorous training schedule, give carb cycling a try. Like anything with running, it’s not easy and it requires work and planning, but the results will speak for themselves.

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