Among the many low-carbohydrate diets and studies that relate the consumption of processed carbohydrates with obesity and chronic diseases, carbohydrates have become the black sheep of the world of nutrition. But let's make one thing clear: the high consumption of PROCESSED carbohydrates affects body machinery, produces inflammation and excessive storage of fats.
For muscle development and overall performance, however, HEALTHY carbohydrates are a must. The challenge is to consume them in the right amount and at the right times. It seems that the carbohydrates you consume (and especially when you eat them) can drastically affect your body's response to them. Through a process called the carbohydrate cycle, you can manipulate the consumption of these substances to maximize muscle development while minimizing their negative effects.
The plan requires strict compliance and meticulous recounting of carbohydrates, so it's not for everyone. In fact, the hydrocarbon cycle is more effective for those who are already quite thin and have a last 10 to 15 pounds to lose or who simply want to lose some percentage points of body fat. (For those who must lose a lot of weight, simply reducing starchy carbohydrates generally works).
How the carbohydrate cycle works
In the carbohydrate cycle, your week is divided into three types of days: days without carbohydrates, days low in carbohydrates and days high in carbohydrates.
DAYS WITHOUT CARBOHYDRATES: these days, consume vegetables with lots of fiber such as leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, onions, peppers and mushrooms without limits, along with lean protein and a portion of healthy fats. Avoid starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, cereals and oats. This also includes starchy vegetables such as peas, zucchini, squash and squash. Total carbohydrate intake should be less than 25 grams per day (all from fibrous vegetables).
LOW DAYS IN CARBOHYDRATES: here, the goal is to stay below 75 grams of carbohydrates. Once again, you can consume unlimited fiber-rich vegetables, but add two or three servings of starches derived from "clean" sources such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, starchy vegetables and fruits. The "clean" carbohydrates are hypoallergenic (free of gluten, soy and dairy). To achieve better results, these days it is recommended to consume them after exercise.
HIGH DAYS IN CARBOHYDRATES: the total amount varies according to your size and activity level. Women consume between 150 and 200 grams while men can reach up to 300 grams.Most carbohydrates should come from clean or hypoallergenic sources. But if you're going to have a treat, it's more convenient that you do it on a high-carbohydrate day.
Do not forget to continue consuming enough lean protein and a portion or two of healthy fats. A day high in carbohydrates is not an excuse to binge; It is a systematic way to restore hormones for muscle development and to burn fat.
Using these three daily feeding protocols is possible to alter the body's hormonal environment and maximize fat loss and muscle gain over the course of the week.
An example of a weekly carbohydrate cycle would be this:
Day 1: Carbohydrate Free Day 2: Low Carbohydrate Day 3: High Carbohydrate Day 4: Carbohydrate Free Day 5: Carbohydrate Free Day 6: Low Carbohydrate Day 7: High in carbohydrates
As carbohydrates are high in the carbohydrate cycle, this is psychologically satisfying, as it appeases cravings and facilitates compliance with the program. But when we do two or more days high in carbohydrates followed, an accumulation of fat can occur. This is the reason why days without carbohydrates are followed by a day high in carbohydrates (minimizes the potential for fat accumulation and keeps your body sensitive to insulin).
Insulin? What has to do with all this?, could you ask? It seems that something has to do.
Why the carbohydrate cycle works
The carbohydrate cycle is more a hormonal strategy than a caloric one. Varying carbohydrate intake influences several hormones that determine body composition. For beginners...
Insulin: the hormone of fat accumulation and muscle development
When we consume carbohydrates, insulin is released into the bloodstream, which helps the metabolic machinery convert them into the liver to use them later as fuel or store them in muscle cells. These carbohydrate deposits are limited. When they are filled, as it is when many carbohydrates are consumed, they are metabolized and stored in the form of fat.
The key to carbohydrate consumption, as far as insulin is concerned, is to eat until you're satiated and have enough fuel for exercise and energy balance, but not to consume too much for the excess to turn into stored fat.
Insulin release varies based on the type and amount of carbohydrates consumed. The carbohydrate cycle manipulates insulin to minimize fat storage and maximize muscle synthesis. The days with low and without carbohydrates help us to remain sensitive to insulin and stimulate the burning of fats. High carbohydrate days maximize muscle development and replenish carbohydrate stores to improve exercise intensity.
Leptin: the hunger hormone
Produced mainly by fat cells, leptin is a hormone that regulates hunger and satiety. It is released in response to a "feedback", defined as a period of 12 to 24 hours of a high intake of calories and carbohydrates.
Unlike insulin, leptin does not significantly increase as a result of a single meal. Instead, climb slowly when there is a sustained period of high carbohydrate intake. Leptin acts through a feedback mechanism on the satiety signal in the hypothalamus. In addition, through secondary hormones, it also sends signals to the body to speed up metabolism.
In those who consume a diet rich in carbohydrates and calories, leptin remains high. This can produce a resistance to this hormone, in which the hypothalamus can not "hear" it. When this happens we do not feel satiety, a dangerous effect for those trying to lose weight.
However, with very low levels of leptin, which occur when a very low calorie and carbohydrate diet is followed, the body receives the opposite message: be hungry, eat, preserve, lower your metabolism.
In the carbohydrate cycle, when leptin begins to decrease to the point of drastically increasing hunger and slowing metabolism, the high carbohydrate day is what will help restart it. In this way, we remain sensitive to leptin.
Serotonin: the hormone of sanity
A brain chemical that produces "well-being," serotonin improves mood and is often used in medications to treat depression. Carbohydrates increase the production of serotonin, so consuming them improves mood.
Low serotonin, which would occur as a result of a low-carbohydrate diet, is associated with an increase in sugar and chocolate cravings. Many diets fail because low serotonin makes people who follow it feel depressed. The carbohydrate cycle regulates serotonin levels and as a result, restrains cravings. From a psychological perspective, the carbohydrate cycle as a protocol is easier to sustain than other diets since the level of serotonin never falls completely.
Cortisol: the catabolic hormone
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, that is, it degrades molecules to be used as fuel. It can be both beneficial and harmful, since it does not discriminate between the degradation of muscle and that of fats to use as fuel. However, there is a lot of research that shows that consuming protein can help preserve muscles even in a catabolic state.
Eating a meal that contains carbohydrates primarily stops cortisol production; This is the reason why many bodybuilders consume a meal with carbohydrates and proteins as soon as they wake up.By doing the carbohydrate cycle, excessive production of cortisol (and muscle catabolism) is avoided. Just when the production of cortisol is about to become excessively catabolic, after a day without and low carbohydrates, the day continues high in carbohydrates to restart this hormone and prevent muscle loss.