Sticking to your low-carb diet during the week is manageable, but on weekends you want to eat with family and friends. Committing to a completely low carb diet is extremely hard. It’s even harder when everyone around you is enjoying all the foods you miss. So if you’ve ever found yourself suddenly binging on pasta and bread, don’t worry! No one’s judging you. (Not us, at least.)
Committing to a low carb lifestyle 24/7 simply isn’t for everyone. Some experts even go so far as to say that it’s completely unsustainable. However, don’t lose hope. Many are finding that there is room for compromise. Like everything else in life, it’s all about balance!
Let’s find out how we can all try to have a little bit of both worlds. Here’s a look at the possibility of consuming fewer carbs during the week, eating normally during the weekend and still losing weight while reaping many other health benefits.
A look at the facts: Are carbs truly evil?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that “carbs” automatically translates to “fat”. We’re here to tell you that this simply isn’t the case. It’s true that when you eat carbohydrates in excess, fat gets stored in your body. However, this only happens when you eat in excess and at the wrong times. In reality, carbs are actually great if properly incorporated into your diet. Eating your carbs at the start of the day can give you a healthy source of energy to power through. Consuming a healthy amount right after a workout can do wonders, too! So don’t shun carbs just yet. A diet like this should start with the acknowledgement that having a healthy relationship with carbohydrates is absolutely possible!
Introducing the idea of “Carb Cycling”
Subscribing to a diet that consists of both high and low carb days is commonly referred to as Carb Cycling. Surprisingly enough, the emergence of this diet didn’t come from a group of dieticians, but from the bodybuilding community. These bodybuilders having been Carb Cycling as a means to gain muscle, but many of them stress that it can be used to lose weight from fat too.
They have discovered that allocating a certain amount of days for high carb consumption around twice a week is actually really good for your metabolism. Competitive bodybuilder Shelby Starnes once shared her carb cycling expertise, saying that “eating healthy carbs on certain days keeps your metabolism revved up, and sticking to mostly protein and vegetables on days in between keeps insulin low enough that you can burn fat without losing muscle.”
The Science of the Diet
The best thing about taking the weekend off from a strict low-carb or no-carb diet is that it might actually be more effective for weight loss than committing to it without ever giving yourself a break. The fundamentals of losing weight are simple: consistently eat fewer calories than you burn and you will lose weight.
From a psychological point of view, this works better than completely eliminating all carbs from your diet. Having carb days makes you feel less deprived, lowering the chances of binging on 5000 calories one day and feeling guilty the next.
It also works out better biologically. Scheduling in a few higher carb days revs up your metabolism. It resets your fat-burning and muscle building hormones, making it much more effective for weight loss.
How do we make this work for you?
Remember that not all carbs are the same but the basics of fat loss still apply. Here are a few reminders to help get you the best results possible.
Always choose healthy carbs.
While you can probably get away with eating normally on weekends and sticking to a low carb diet for the rest of the week, you will still see better weight loss results if you choose healthier carbs. Examples of these are complex carbs, whole foods and other nutrient dense carbohydrates that will keep your body energized but not bloated.
Find a plan that works for you.
Like any other diet, it needs to be tailored to both your body and your goals. While the most common framework for losing weight is to have two high carb days and 5 low carbs ones, it’s not a plan that applies to everyone. The principles of the diet always remain the same. You may have to make periodic adjustments to achieve the best possible results! For example, we mentioned earlier how bodybuilders often use this diet for muscle gain. Although muscle weighs more than fat, the real goal is to decrease your percentage of body fat and replace it with muscle. If you exercise a great deal or very vigorously, you will need more calories and may need to add some carbs to your diet to keep balanced. Slower burning carbs with a lot of vitamins and nutritional value are key.
It’s not just about frequency, either. The definition of “low carb” and “high carb” is completely different from person to person. There are some variations of this diet that may even have “no carb” days, but that’s a consideration that will depend on your goals. To find out what plan is just for you, it’s best to consult a doctor or dietician familiar with the technique to give you the best medical advice.
Pair the diet with extra exercise!
As science progresses, we discover all these new and great ways to lose weight more effectively. You may even be at the point of just wanting to maintain your current weight and not regain the weight you have lost. Pairing this diet with regular exercise ensures that you’re burning more than you’re consuming while, hopefully, increasing muscle mass and general health.
These are just some of the ways to make this diet more effective. If you want to see better results at a faster rate, it’s always best to consult with a dietician or nutritionist throughout your journey. The point is to be healthier so make sure all of your medical and physical concerns are taken into account.
While it may seem like an easier alternative to most diets, to achieve a sustainable weight loss you will still need to be self-disciplined, work hard and be consistent. Like anything else, it will be the only way to achieve results that stick around long term.