To carb-cycle or not to carb-cycle? That is the question.
To answer on your behalf, it all depends on your workout intensity for the day or week.
Frankly speaking, the concept of carb-cycling is quite simple. Before delving deeper into it, let me briefly explain the relationship between carbohydrates and exercise.
There are various benefits of carbohydrates, among them, are their ability to provide the body and brain with a rapid supply of energy. The body’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates, and once digested, carbohydrates transform into glucose (sugar) – which is the primary fuel for the brain. So essentially, carbohydrates are energy.
Now, understanding this one benefit of carbohydrates will help you apply the notion of carb-cycling.
What do you need before an intense workout session? Energy. What provides the body with a quick supply of energy during such a session? Carbohydrates. So, what do you need to consume in relatively higher amounts before an intense workout? Carbohydrates.
On the flip side, days in which you plan to do some light exercise (i.e. easy cardio session, yoga, etc…) requires a minimal amount of carbohydrates. Since you won’t be engaging in intense physical activity which requires a higher supply of energy, you don’t’ need to consume as much carbohydrates as you would do for a more intense workout (i.e. HIIT, weight-lifting, playing sports, etc…).
The same applies for rest days. Actually, this probably calls for an even lower carbohydrate intake, and if anything, consuming your carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables only. You just don’t need that much energy if you’re not going to exercise.
You may be wondering what the science behind this is?
During easy exercise or rest days, your body will not demand a large supply of carbohydrates (energy). And given that you won’t be burning much during the workout, you only need a small amount of carbohydrates to meet the demands of your exercise session.
On the other hand, high-intensity training sessions require proper fueling to sustain the exercise bout and give 100% throughout. Your body also demands a larger supply of energy as high-intensity sessions can be very demanding. This is why intense workouts call for a greater quantity of carbohydrates consumed.
Furthermore, from a body composition perspective, if you consume excess carbohydrates during your rest days, you won’t be using up most of the carbohydrates. Hence, they will be stored as fat.By carb-cycling, you can maintain and even improve your body composition by manipulating your carbohydrates intake to avoid fat storage.
There you have it, carb-cycling in the most concise and simple explanation. Grasping this concept will not only make you aware of your training intensity and demands, but also serve as a great tool for monitoring your body composition. To carb-cycle or not to carb-cycle? The answer is a big YES for me!