8 Things I Learned About this Low Carb Diet
Yikes! The dreaded low-carb diet. Truthfully, my initial experience with a “low-carb” diet was less than pleasant, leaving me feeling drained and disconnected. Hence, I had significant concerns about embarking on a low-carb diet again.
For my debut contest preparation on April 1st, 2022, I decided to implement the Carb Cycling method for achieving a competition-ready physique. For those unaware, Carb Cycling is a dietary approach that involves consuming a low-carb diet for a period ranging from two to five consecutive days (during which I limited my carbohydrate intake to 50-80 grams per day). These periods are followed by a “refeed” day of moderate to high carbohydrate consumption before resuming the low-carb phase.
Here’s what I discovered:
1 – Your Energy Levels Actually Improve
This was an unexpected finding. My previous low-carb diet was disastrous. However, I was less knowledgeable about nutrition at that time. I recall accepting a fellow gym member’s challenge to try his drastic “Zero Carb – 1000 calorie” diet for a week, anticipating an upcoming vacation. I am inherently competitive, so I decided to take the challenge.
Previously, I had successfully achieved a lean physique on a balanced carbohydrate diet that included grains and pasta. But, after only two days on this low-carb, low-calorie diet, I was feeling terrible, prompting me to abandon it. Therefore, I was quite worried about using carb cycling for my pre-contest diet.
To my relief, I found that carb cycling didn’t leave me feeling depleted. My energy levels were steady and my mind clear. Carb cycling isn’t an extremely low-calorie diet, and you get energy from the good fats you consume. When carbs are scarce, your body smartly redirects energy from fats and proteins.
2 – More Focus During Workouts
Another surprising benefit I observed was increased mental clarity during workouts. Despite many fitness experts recommending large pre and intra-workout carb meals, I found myself feeling more alert during workouts when using Carb Cycling. On low-carb days, my focus was razor-sharp, which made training more efficient and effective.
3 – No Muscle Loss
This is a widespread fear among fitness enthusiasts. My experience proves otherwise. I lost minimal strength only during the depletion week (when you drain all energy stores before the competition) and didn’t lose any muscle. My arm measurements, which I use as a muscle loss indicator, only reduced slightly during the cutting phase but regained their original size within five days after the contest, while I maintained a lean body.
4 – The Diet is Not Overly Depriving or Mentally Challenging
Before starting, I perceived low-carb dieting as a daunting task. But with carb cycling, the reality was much more manageable because you always have a carb day within sight. It’s a much less mentally challenging diet than you might think.
5 – Strict Adherence to Carb Cycling is Essential
Carb Cycling requires you to stick to the program strictly. You can’t afford cheat days. This is true for any diet or program you’re following. If you can’t commit to avoiding indulgences, carb cycling might not be your ideal diet.
6 – Effective Fat Burn, Even Without Cardio
I loathe traditional machine cardio but managed to lose 4 inches from my waist in 8 weeks through intense weight training combined with carb cycling. I only added cardio workouts 3-4 times a week when I stopped seeing progress from weight training alone.
7 – Enjoyable Meals
Choosing a predominantly low-carb diet doesn’t mean you have to suffer through meals. With a bit of creativity, you can enjoy tasty meals like chilli beef strips, lemon and herbed chicken with sweet potato mash, and baked salmon with lemon and asparagus.
8 – Carb Cycling is a Sustainable Lifestyle
Due to the variety of delicious meals possible with some creativity, maintaining your lean physique becomes a manageable task.
Carb Cycling proved to be an effective fat-burning protocol for me. It resulted in increased energy levels, better workout focus, and allowed me to maintain muscle mass while burning unwanted fat.
However, remember that fitness should enrich all aspects of your life, including mental well-being. If Carb Cycling doesn’t appeal to you, choose another fat-burning method that suits your lifestyle better.
There are numerous approaches used by athletes, including gradually reducing carbs weekly before a contest. Carb Cycling was my preferred strategy, and it proved highly successful in reducing my body fat levels.