Carbohydrate Cycling

Carbohydrate cycling is a 6 day program that will allow your body to burn bodyfat while still retaining muscle mass. It's a technique that is described in detail in the book SLICED by Bill Reynolds and Negrita Jayde, however I will summarize it here.

Over the last 10 years I've competed, I've used this technique each time and without fail I've been able to achieve exceptional definition while retaining the muscle mass that I gained during my bulking phase.

If you're using this program takes time to cut down for a bodybuilding competition, remember to give yourself enough time to get the results you want. Depending on your bodyfat percentage you may need 12-24 weeks to get to competition quality definition.

After reading this, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me: abdominator@skippypodar.net


For the first 3 days, you'll eat mostly fibrous carbohydrates, then for the next 3 days you'll eat mostly starchy carbohydrates. These include:

Fibrous Carbohydrates

Starchy Carbohydrates

Asparagus
Green beans
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Cucumbers
Eggplants
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Green peppers
Red peppers
Spinach
Squash
Zucchini
Barley
Lima beans
Red beans
Black-eyed peas
Corn
Whole-meal flour
Lentils
Oatmeal
Pasta
Peas
Popcorn
Potatoes
Rice
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Shredded Wheat
Yams

The philosophy behind carb cycling is that for 3 days you will deplete your carbohydrates by eating fibrous carbohydrates, which will allow your body to use up muscle glycogen and burn bodyfat. Then for the next 3 days, you will load your carbohydrates by eating mostly starchy carbohydrates and thus replenish your muscle glycogen. The great thing about this technique is the following:

  1. Fibrous carbs (which are mostly made of cellulose) have an atomic structure that our digestive system has difficulty breaking down. Therefore the majority of fibrous carbs we eat just pass through our digestive system. Although they aren't digested, they do provide intestinal bulk, and they have the added benefit of not only speeding up the digestive process but they take a considerable amount of water with them.
  1. By eating fibrous carbs every two hours, your body realizes that it's getting food frequently and speeds up your metabolism. Since fibrous carbs aren't easily digested, it requires more calories to burn them than they give up, so in effect giving you a net loss of caloric efficiency.
  1. By eating like this for 3 days and then switching to starchy carbs keeps you just shy of ketosis, and prevents your body from entering a catabolic state. Catabolism is where the body begins cannibalizing muscle tissue to get energy from the protein in the muscles.
  1. By doing cardio on the first 3 days (your fibrous carb days), you burn more bodyfat and consume more muscle glycogen. During the last 3 days (your starchy carb days), you'll be replenishing that muscle glycogen, giving your muscles a fuller, harder look, but with less bodyfat covering them.

When performed properly, you can predictably lose between 1-2 lbs. each week. So if you know you want to compete at 165 lbs. and you're currently at 175 lbs., you will need to cycle your carbohydrates a few times to reach that goal. You should notice a dramatic difference in your definition after your first cycle through this program. So with subsequent 6 day cycles, you can get more and more cut with each pass.

As for cardio, you should do 35-45 minutes of cardio on your depletion days, and none on your loading days. However, if you're still a few weeks out, the cardio on your loading days is optional.

For an excellent database of nutritional data visit: http://www.nutritiondata.com and enter the food choices and serving sizes listed below.

Here's a sample diet for Day 1 whereby the caloric intake from maintenance is cut by 50% (where maintenance is 3000 calories):

Day 1

Meal #1 (Breakfast):

3-7 egg whites
25 grams of oatmeal
100 grams of tomato
100 grams of beef (this yields 21 grams of protein)
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil (like Flaxseed Oil)
20 ounces of water

Meal #2

100 grams of broccoli
150 grams of fish (cod, salmon, tilapia or tuna, for example)
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Meal #3 (Lunch):

150 grams of chicken breast
200 grams of green beans
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
16 ounces of water

Meal #4:

100 gram potato
20 ounces of water

Meal #5 (Dinner):

150 grams of lean beef
200 grams of green beans
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Before bed: Take 1 tablet 1-3 times daily of an Arginine supplement, between meals or at bedtime with a carbohydrate drink to facilitate absorption. Arginine helps to increase natural output of growth hormone and mobilize fat stores.

With each meal: Take recommended dosage of amino acid capsules.

Total calories = 1570
Total carbs = 71 grams
Total proteins = 125 grams
Total fats = 56 grams (from flaxseed oil)

Most bodybuilders will drop their carb intake by 10 grams each day for those 3 days. So essentially, the potato that appears for Meal #4 would be replaced by 100 grams of broccoli (or 200 grams of green beans).

Therefore, the distribution for days 2 and 3 would look like this:

Day 2 (repeat of Day 1, but with fewer carbs)

Total calories = 1530
Total carbs = 61 grams
Total proteins = 125 grams
Total fats = 56 grams (from flaxseed oil)

Day 3 (repeat of Day 2, but with fewer carbs)

Total calories = 1490
Total carbs = 51 grams
Total proteins = 125 grams
Total fats = 56 grams (from flaxseed oil)

For specific nutritional information on any of the foods listed above/below, visit http://www.nutritiondata.com

Here's a sample diet for day 4 whereby the caloric intake returns to maintenance (3000 calories):

Day 4

Meal #1 (Breakfast):

6 egg whites
50 grams of oatmeal
half of a 6.5" diameter cantaloupe (300-400 grams)
100 grams of beef (this yields 21 grams of protein)
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil (like Flaxseed Oil)
20 ounces of water

Meal #2

1 banana
100 grams of potato
1 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Meal #3 (Lunch):

50 grams of rice
150 grams of chicken breast
200 grams of green beans
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Meal #4:

170 grams of strawberry yogurt
100 gram potato
150 grams of chicken breast
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Meal #5 (Dinner):

150 grams of lean beef
50 grams of rice
200 grams of broccoli
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Meal #6:

50 grams of oatmeal
1 banana
150 grams of chicken breast
1 tablespoon of a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil
20 ounces of water

Total calories = 3200
Total carbs = 330 grams
Total proteins = 190 grams
Total fats = 84 grams (from flaxseed oil)

On your carb loading days, always strive to meet your maintenance level (never eat less than 400-700 calories below your maintenance level).

Therefore, the distribution for days 5 and 6 would look like this:

Day 5

Total calories = 3200
Total carbs = 330 grams
Total proteins = 190 grams
Total fats = 84 grams (from flaxseed oil)

Day 6

Total calories = 3200
Total carbs = 330 grams
Total proteins = 190 grams
Total fats = 84 grams (from flaxseed oil)

Here is a table* showing how you should split up your exercise and nutrition:

Category
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Carb intake
Low carbs Low carbs Low carbs High carbs High carbs High carbs
Calories
50% total 50% total 50% total 100% + total 100% + total 100% + total
Training
High reps, supersets Higher reps, training Higher reps, training Off Usual-style training Usual-style training
Ketones
"trace" range
"small" range
"small-medium" range
"medium" range
"normal" range
"normal" range
Arginine?
Yes Yes Yes No No No
Fibrous or Starchy carbs?
Fibrous Fibrous Fibrous Starchy Starchy Starchy
Junk food?
No No No Tasty treat day No No
Aerobic activity?
Yes Yes Yes Optional Optional Optional

*Table 19-3 from SLICED by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde

Each person is different and you'll have to modify your cardio and overall caloric intake based on your particular bodyfat situation, however if you follow that routine strictly, regarding the types of carbs you take in, and the amount of cardio you do, here's an example of the results you can expect.

This is my friend Mitch. Back when he was 16, we helped him with his contest prep for a bodybuilding competition he was doing that summer. We introduced him to the carb cycling technique listed above. He started off at 185 lbs. in February 2003 and he started carb cycling and doing cardio routinely 4-5 days per week. By the time we saw him again in May 2003, he'd dropped almost 20 lbs. and he competed at just over 160 lbs. on contest day. Here are his before/after pictures:

Mitch - February 2003 - 185 lbs.

BEFORE

Mitch, 185 lbs.
February 2003

(12 weeks before his contest)

Mitch - May 2003 - 165 lbs.

AFTER

Mitch, 165 lbs.
May 2003

(3 weeks before his contest)

Hopefully this summary will help your cutting routine. I strongly encourage you to get a copy of the book SLICED by Bill Reynolds & Negrita Jayde, as it goes into considerable detail on this topic and even breaks down precontest preparation in a way that is easy to follow and has predictable results.


Last updated: Sunday, November 19, 2006

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