Carb Cycling Pros & Cons

There are SO many different methods of manipulating your diet to get the results you want from your program but which is right for you?  The answer?  It depends.  It depends on a lot of different factors and what works for your best friend or favourite trainer may not work for you.  Let’s talk about carb cycling!

What Is Carb Cycling?

Basically, carb cycling is just varying your carb intake based on your workouts.  This method is quite popular in the bodybuilding community.

Here’s a basic explanation on how to do it.  On heavy training days consume 2-2.5g or carbs/pound of body weight.  On moderate training days consume 0.5-1g and on rest days consume 0-0.5g of carbs/pound of body weight.  Your other macronutrients (fat and protein) stay the same.

High carb days should be spaced so that you have 3 or 4 days of low carb intake in between.  The reason for this is so that you’ll consume your highest amount of carbs when your body is completely depleted of glycogen stores.  This will help ensure that the extra carbs get used up as energy rather than being stored as fat.

Some Pros of Carb Cycling

  • A great way to improve body composition because you’ll only be taking in carbs when you need them most. You need carbs for energy so consuming them on days when you’ll be working harder means they’ll be available for that energy demand.  On days when you don’t need that quick energy your body will be able to fuel itself with stored fat.  This means that you should be able to lose fat and at the same time maintain strength.
  • For most people carb cycling is a great way to get you out of a fat loss plateau.
  • Psychologically this way of ‘dieting’ can be easier to follow. Trying to eat low carb all the time can leave you feeling grumpy and dealing with strong cravings.  But if you know you have a high carb day coming up you’ll be better able to deal with the discomfort of being carb depleted.  It also helps motivate you to train hard so you can ‘earn’ your carbs.

Some Cons of Carb Cycling

  • It’s a bit time consuming because you HAVE to track your macros. You’ll need a good app such as My Fitness Pal to keep track of your macros and make sure you’re sticking to them.  If you just wing it you’re going to get it wrong and your high carb days could end up just being a binge day.
  • You can develop an unhealthy relationship with food. On the low carb days you might find yourself dreaming about high carb day and then when your high carb day comes around there’s a risk that you may binge on carbs.  This type of ‘dieting’ can become a bit obsessive so if you’re prone to eating disorders this is probably not a great choice.
  • It doesn’t take individual appetites into consideration. Some people find that on heavy training days they don’t have as much as an appetite on rest days.  Trying to go super low carb on a day when you have a larger appetite is torture and usually doesn’t last long.  Trying to make yourself eat more carbs on days when you don’t feel that hungry can also be unpleasant.
  • It can be hard on your digestive system. Varying your diet is good but, for some people, when you vary it too much it can cause gastrointestinal distress.  You may find that you feel super bloated on high carb days which can make this method quite unappealing.

Your Body Your Choice

Every body is different.  What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another person.  Personally it took a lot of time and experimentation for me to find something that works well for me and it probably will for you too.  If you’re curious about carb cycling definitely try it.  Keep track of your results, especially your energy and mood and see if it’s right for you.  Just remember, your ‘diet’ needs to be something you can do long term so if you’re not happy with it figure out how to make it something you can live with.

Contrast Showers

You may have heard of using contrast showers to help with muscle recovery after a hard workout.  Basically, you’re just alternating between warm and cold water.  The warm water opens blood vessels which flushes the body with blood.  The cold water drives the blood inward to warm and protect the organs from the cold.

The way this helps with muscle recovery is it reduces the amount of inflammation and lactate in the blood.  The contraction and dilation caused by contrast showers also seems to help the body flush out toxins.

Benefits of Cold Showers

It is not easy to take a cold shower!  See if some of the benefits listed below will convince you to try.

  • Improves circulation.
  • Great for your skin and hair.
  • Increases energy. If you’ve ever tried it you can’t deny that a cold shower really wakes you up!
  • Increases well-being. They’ve done studies!
  • Increases testosterone in men!
  • They build character. It takes a lot of strength to be able to tolerate the discomfort of a cold shower.
  • Helps burn fat.

Helps Burn Fat???

Yup!  Cold showers help burn fat!!  Your body has two types of fat, white fat and brown fat.  White fat is the fat you accumulate when you take in more calories than you burn.  Brown fat on the other hand is the fat that helps keep you warm.  Brown fat will actually use white fat to generate heat in your body!  So by taking a cold shower you are actually making your brown fat burn white fat in an attempt to protect you from the cold.  SO interesting!!!!!

How To Do A Proper Contrast Shower

It’s recommended that you do 3:1 warm-to-cold.  You could start with 90 seconds of heat followed by 30 seconds of cold and repeat 3-5 times.  As you start to get used to the cold you can start to increase maybe even working your way up to 3 minutes of heat followed by 1 minute of cold.  It might feel like the longest minute of your life, but really all it is is a bit of discomfort which will eventually end.  Get comfortable with being uncomfortable if you want to be more than just average 😉

Kombucha!

Many people have heard of Kombucha but what is it?  It’s a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria.   Mmmmmmm Kombucha…..it may not sound very appetizing but it’s actually quite delicious.  I have to admit though that it is a bit of an acquired taste.  But it’s worth getting used to and I’m going to tell you why!

Benefits of Kombucha

  1. It improves digestion.

Kombucha is packed with probiotics.  Probiotics help to balance the good bacteria in your gut.  When good bacteria are in check you’re able to absorb and digest nutrients better.

  1. A great source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body.  Free radicals are a by-product of cellular metabolism that actually damage your cells.  Kombucha, especially when made from green tea, seems to have powerful antioxidant effects on the liver.  Unfortunately there are no human studies done on this but rat studies show promising results.

  1. Boosts your immune system.

Kombucha is a natural antibiotic due to the fermentation process.  One of the by-products of the fermentation process is acetic acid.  Acetic acid creates a kind of sterile environment which inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria.  Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, Kombucha also contains probiotics.  This means it kills the bad bacteria while building up the good bacteria in your gut!

  1. Kombucha is loaded with C and B vitamins.

Vitamin C helps increase the strength of your immune system, reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease and plays an important part in eye health.  Vitamin B helps curb sugar cravings, eases stress levels and helps with memory.

  1. Helps protect your joints.

Kombucha contains natural occurring glucosamine!  Glucosamine is involved in building tendons, ligaments, cartilage and synovial fluid which is the fluid that surrounds the joint.

Try Kombucha!

So there you have it!  If you haven’t tried Kombucha I highly recommend that you do!

Electrolytes

What are electrolytes?  Electrolytes are minerals that dissolve into particles that can carry an electrical charge in your body.

Electrolytes are responsible for your heart working properly, muscle contractions, they stimulate nerve impulses and they influence the movement of fluids in and out of your cells.   Another super important thing they do is regulate the acid-base balance in your body.

Electrolytes

Important electrolytes that a lot of people are familiar with are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and phosphate.  But did you know that baking soda consists of two electrolytes?

Baking Soda

Baking soda consists of sodium which plays a vital role in the body.  The other component of baking soda is bicarbonate which helps neutralize acids in your body.  It does contain a lot of sodium though so if you have a condition that makes it necessary to limit sodium talk to your doctor before using baking soda as an electrolyte.

A Closer Look At Baking Soda

  • Sodium

Sodium plays a role in muscle contraction and nerve impulses but it’s main function is to control the amounts of fluid in your body including blood volume.  When you consume too much sodium your kidneys hold onto fluids rather than eliminating them through urine.  This increases blood volume which raise blood pressure.  Too much sodium is not ideal but if your sodium level is too low it can cause problems too.  Low blood sodium can cause weakness, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps or spasms, confusion and irritability.  If you lose too much sodium too quickly it can cause loss of consciousness, seizures and coma.

  • Bicarbonate

Bicarbonate buffers acids in your body to keep your body from being too acidic.  Your body strives to maintain a slightly alkaline PH but bad diet and stress can cause the PH level to become acidic and disease thrives in an acidic environment.  Because bicarbonate is able to buffer acid it also aids in muscle performance by neutralizing the acids that build up during prolonged activity.

Make Your Own Electrolyte Drink

Mix ½ tsp sea salt, ½ tsp baking soda and 2 tbsp agave nectar or raw honey or pure maple syrup into a litre of water.  Drink as needed.

Just remember that just because some is good it doesn’t mean that more is better.  Too much sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure so if you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure make sure you talk to your doctor first.

5 Reasons Why We Need Vacations

Vacations are fun but did you also know that they’re good for your health?  If you’re super busy it might be tempting to forgo your vacation but don’t!  Here’s why we need vacations.

Why We Need Vacations

  1. Vacations help you to calm your mind.

Some neurologists believe that the neural connections that make you feel calm become weaker if they’re not used regularly.  This means that over time, if you don’t vacation, it’ll become harder for you to switch into relaxation mode.  Without the ability to switch over to relaxation mode your stress levels will go through the roof.

  1. Vacations help reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

Did you know spending some down time with family and friends can reduce the risk of heart attack by as much as 30% in men and 50% in women?  Down time is critical for your overall health.

  1. Vacations restore your energy.

Taking a vacation increases your energy.  When you get back to work after your vacation this energy will make work seem easier and maybe even more enjoyable.

  1. Vacations make you happier with your entire life.

If all you do is work and never take a break you’re going to start to feel like your life sucks.  When people schedule in regular vacations and take control over their free time they feel much more satisfied with their life overall.

  1. Vacations allow you to view the world differently.

When you go on vacation it gives you a chance to experience different cultures and a different way of living.  This can be a real eye opener and often results in you viewing your own life differently.

Book Your Next Vacation Now!

Don’t just tell yourself that you’re going to make time for a vacation soon, book it now so you have to commit.  Booking ahead of time saves you money and guarantees that you will take that quality time you need.  It’s easy to talk yourself out of taking a vacation because life is SUPER busy.  Don’t get into that unhealthy habit.  Book your next vacation now and start daydreaming about how great it’s going to be!