Are you experiencing a fitness “plateau”? First of all, I do not believe in plateau’s but rather believe that plateau’s are due to a lack of consistent change in your program. Our bodies are very smart and adapt to whatever it is we do. It is essential to constantly create change in your routine and program. If you don’t constantly create this change, not only will your body adapt but you will get bored and lose motivation to keep moving forward. Consistency is absolutely key but consistently changing, within that consistency, is going to be the ticket to success. If you have been on a program that tells you to do and eat the same things, day in and day out, that may be where you are experiencing this “plateau”. It may be that your body has adapted or the fact that you are just flat out bored with what it is you have been consistently doing. Maybe it is time to change things up and find something that is going to offer you constant change. Change will not allow your body or your mind to adapt to any one thing and therefore keep your body responding and your mind fresh and motivated! How do you create constant change in your fitness program? One way can be done through cycling your carbohydrates. This is a sure way to keep your body guessing and consistently changing things up with your nutritional program. The first thing though is to NOT be afraid of carbs and to trust in the carb cycling program. Maybe you are afraid of carbs and have been following a very low carb program for several weeks, months or maybe even years. This may be where your “plateau” is coming from. Do you see the lack of change and the problem here. The problem is not the carbohydrates but the lack of change in any program, with or without carbohydrates. If you decided to follow a low carb program, it most likely worked for you, for the first several weeks or even months, but then there became a time where your body adapted and the low carbohydrate program wasn’t working anymore. How could this be? This is due to the lack of Change! The low carbohydrate program worked, at first, because it was Change to your body and a shock to your system. Then all the sudden, your body learns what it is you are doing and adapts. Adaptation is something we have been experiencing from the beginning of time and evolution. It is a scientific fact that adaptation takes place and occurs in mother nature and within ourselves. You have to keep things changing to ensure your body and mind don’t adapt. In essence, it is constantly tricking your body so it does’t have time to adapt.
Once you become fearless and start to understand and are willing to trust in carbohydrates, you are ready to start cycling. Are you ready for the challenge? Carbohydrate cycling is constantly changing your amounts of carbohydrates from day to day. It is shifting your ratio of carbohydrates to fats throughout your weekly program. Maybe you lower your carbs for 1-2 days and then bringing your carbs back up for 2-3 days, instead of just keeping your carbohydrate ratios the same every day. Not only does this cycle allow the constant change we need to keep responding to any program, but carbohydrate cycling helps your body to burn more fat, making your body go to other fuel sources, such as stored fat, for energy. On the higher carbohydrate days, your body is able to replenish your glycogen stores (stored energy) and then replenishes your carbs. This keeps your body guessing, metabolism revved up and most of all, keeps your body responding which has a direct result to your motivation and commitment to your program. After all, who wants to follow a program where they are not seeing results and are doing the same thing day in and day out?
Carbohydrates are essential to our nutritional programs and are what provide our bodies with energy and quick go to fuel. The key is getting in good, wholesome, healthy, complex carbs. Those include foods such as brown rice, quinoa, whole grains, oatmeal, yams, sweet potatoes, etc. Basically think of things that are not enriched or processed. Another rule of thumb is to stay away from anything that is white, including white sugar and white flour. If you are new to your fitness routine, those are good basic rules of thumb to go by and will take you far!
When starting a carb cycling program, it is important to play around with different numbers and see what works best for you. Every person is different in their goals, body composition, metabolism, activity levels, genetics, etc. so things are not black and white, in term of what your carb counts should be. Now what is black and white is that constant change is going to help you avoid those “fitness plateaus” you may be experiencing. Remember those are not plateaus but rather lack of attention to constantly changing things up! It is time to make the change and start to play with your nutrient ratios. You need to start with some numbers and play with those amounts to find what works best for you. Maybe you decide to start with 100 grams of carbs on low days and simply doubling that amount to 200 grams of carbs on high days. That gives you a place to start and a place to go. Pay attention to how your body is feeling. If you are lacking in energy and feeling very weak, you may need to increase your healthy carbohydrate intake. On the flip side, if you have plenty of energy but are not seeing any fat loss results, pay with your ratio by slowly decreasing your carbs on both your low and high days.
Don’t be afraid to try different things and find what works for you. Changing things up, whether it’s your nutrition or your workouts, is always a good way to stir up your metabolism and keep things fresh and exciting! A few tips to think about before you begin to consider starting a carb cycling program.
-Give yourself a few weeks with the carb quantities you set up to see how your body responds and if and how you need to tweak your carb intake.
-Not only can you change your carbohydrate intake throughout the week, with high/low days, but you can tweak the amount of high and low days. For example you can do 2 days low, 1 day high or 3 days low and 1 day high, or even as simple as every other day changing between high and low.
-Constantly change the types of carbohydrates you intake. Not only does your body get use to carb counts it also can get use to the types of carbs you are eating. If you are an oatmeal lover, try not to eat oatmeal at every meal. Change things up and have oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, yams, etc.
-Give yourself time and be patient with the process.
-Listen to your body. If you feel weak and have low energy, you need to trust that your carb amounts may be too low for you. Take note on how you feel and use that as your determining factor in how you set up your carb cycling program.
-Have fun with your program and see this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.
-Remember key times to eat your carbs. You definitely want to have your carbs for breakfast, pre and post workout!
-Cater your higher carb days on the days you exert more energy and are more active. Consider your lower carb days on the days you take off from working out or have lower intensity workouts.
-It is important to remember to remember your fats, good fats that is, on your lower carbohydrate days, having higher fat days on the lower carb days and lower fat days on your higher carbohydrate days.
high carb=lower fats
lower carb=higher fats
Remember carb cycling is one of several ways to change things up in your current program. Change is key in all areas of your fitness routine. Eeveryone is different so it is important to play around with your nutrients, give yourself time, be patient in the process and keep things ever changing!!
Don’t forget to read or re-read a past article on CYCLING YOUR CARBS!