How To Eat To Get Results From Your Workout

You can work your butt off in the gym but if your nutrition isn’t dialed in you won’t get the results you could be getting.  It is possible to out-eat even the best workout routine so pay attention to what you’re putting into your body.  Let’s look at how to eat to get results from your workouts.

Pre-Workout Nutrition

What you eat before your workout can make or break your workout.  You need energy.  If you don’t eat enough you’ll feel sluggish.  If you eat too much you’ll feel sluggish and have to deal with gastrointestinal discomfort.  The main purposes of your pre-workout meal is to provide energy so you can perform at your best, help preserve/build muscle mass and help with your recovery.  You need to provide your body with carbs, protein and fat.  The amounts and sources will depend on how close to workout time it is.

  • 2-3 hours before:

This is when you can have a larger meal.  Try a palm sized portion of meat (or meat alternative if you’re vegetarian) with veggies (salad is good) and a half cup of starchy carbs such as potatoes or rice and a healthy fat such as a tablespoon of olive oil if you’re having salad or an ounce of nuts.

  • Less than 1 hour before:

If you have less than an hour before your workout you need something that you can digest more quickly. Try a cup of yogurt with some fruit, or a protein shake with some fruit.  You can make a great smoothie with protein powder, a banana and a bit of peanut (or other nut) butter.

During Your Workout

The main thing for the average person is to stay well hydrated while working out so water will do.  If you’re training for endurance and will be spending over 90 minutes working out or you’re going to be working out in extreme heat use a high-quality sport drink that has carbs, a bit of protein and electrolytes.

Post Workout Nutrition

It is essential that you refuel after your workouts so your body can repair itself and get stronger.  If you skip out on a healthy post workout meal you won’t get the results you could be getting and you risk injuring yourself or ending up sick.  Your post workout meal needs to help you recover, rehydrate and repair so your future performance won’t suffer.  I like to have a protein shake with a high glycemic carb such as a banana right after my workout.  The high glycemic carb makes your body release insulin and insulin is basically what’s going to deliver amino acids from your protein shake to your muscles so they can start repairing themselves.

Within the next 2 hours sit down and have a whole food meal that includes protein (meat, eggs, hemp), carbs (veggies as well as a starchy carb such as yams or rice) and a healthy fat (olive oil, avocado, nuts).  This 2 hour window is where your body will get the most benefit from your post workout nutrition.

Eat For Success!

When you’re trying to get fit and healthy working out is only a small part of it.  Your nutrition is actually about 80% of your success so make sure you’re paying attention to what you’re doing.  Work hard, eat hard and enjoy your amazing results!

Should You Count Macros Or Calories?

Most people who decide they want to lose weight start thinking about calories.  It’s a step in the right direction but in the end, to be successful at losing weight you need to be eating the right foods.  So, should you count macros or calories?

Should You Count Macros Or Calories?

What are macros?  Macros are what your food is made up of: carbohydrates, protein and fat.  1 gram of carbs has 4 calories, 1 gram of protein has 4 calories and 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.  Calories do play a roll in weight loss and gain but they only tell part of the story.

  1. All calories are not created equal.

Calories are a measure of energy that’s contained in the food you eat.  However, how your body uses that energy depends on where it comes from.  For example sugary junk food that has about the same amount of calories as a piece of fruit or some vegetables will have a much different effect on your body.  Your body will either use calories for energy or it’ll store them as fat.  If you’re getting your calories from junk food most of them will be stored as fat.  If you’re getting your calories from natural, whole foods your body will use those calories for energy.  Just like a scale doesn’t tell you what’s muscle weight, water weight or fat weight, calories don’t tell you where the actual energy of the food is coming from.

  1. Different goals require different macro ratios

Someone who wants to pile on some muscle by lifting heavy is going to have different macro nutrient needs than someone who wants to lose fat or train for an endurance sport – they might require the same amount of calories, but their macro needs will be different.  For example, if you were wanting to gain muscle your macros might look something like this: 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.  If you’re training for a marathon it might look something like this: 60% carbs, 25% protein, 15% fat.  Different training requires different percentages of macros.

  1. Timing matters.

Another thing lacking when you just count calories is timing your nutrients to fit your activity.  It’s important what you eat before and after exercise so you have the most energy and get the most out of your program.  Your pre-workout meal should be anywhere from 30 mins to 2 hours before your workout and should be simple carbs and protein such as some fruit and yogurt.  After your workout you want to eat come complex carbs and protein such as yams and chicken breast.  Your pre-workout meal is meant to be easily digested and give you energy.  Your post workout meal is meant to help your muscles repair the damage done during training.

What You Eat Matters

Just eating a certain number of calories per meal is not going to help you with performance or weight loss/gain.  You need to be eating certain amounts of macronutrients based on your goals and body type.  Start focusing on macros and start getting the results you want!

Common Nutrition Myths

Proper nutrition should not be as complicated as it’s been made by all the conflicting information out there.  When reading about the ‘latest’ study keep in mind that quite often these ‘stats’ are mean to steer you towards buying certain products.  Let’s look at a few nutrition myths that probably have you a bit confused.

Nutrition Myths

  1. Fat makes you fat.

Fat has gotten a really bad rap over the years.  You’ve been told that fat makes you fat so everyone did their best to cut out fat and look what happened.  The obesity rate continued to rise and people continued to become more and more unhealthy.

The truth is you need fat in your diet in order to be healthy.  When food manufacturers want you to buy their product they’ll steer you towards it by making you think that the alternative will make you fat.  When food is made into a low fat or non-fat products manufacturers add sugar and other artificial ingredients to make the food palatable.  Sugar and chemicals wreak havoc in the body and affects your brain/mood negatively.

You need natural fats in your diet.  Even saturated fats such as butter have health benefits, just watch your portions.  Avoid trans fats.  When in doubt ask yourself if the fat you’re about to consume came from nature or a lab.  If it had to be manipulated in a lab leave it in the store.

  1. Carbs make you fat.

Carbs have also gotten a really bad rap.  It’s true that highly processed carbs should be avoided but natural whole carb sources are a healthy part of your diet.  Processed carbs are made to be super flavourful and addictive and they’re rarely very filling despite being high in calories.  Whole food carbs such as minimally processed grains as well as fruits and vegetables are an essential parts of a healthy diet.  When you eat whole foods, you won’t feel the need to binge on them because they’re providing the nutrients and the fibre you need.  Processed carbs are stripped of their good components and are basically just sugar.

  1. Too much protein can damage your kidneys.

If you already have kidney disease you should cut back on protein.  If you’re healthy you don’t have to worry that a high protein diet might cause kidney damage.  Numerous studies done on athletes who consume a high protein diet has shown it to be perfectly safe.  In fact, a higher protein intake lowers blood pressure and helps fight type 2 diabetes.  Protein also reduces appetite which supports weight loss.  Healthy people are fine to eat 0.8 to 1g of protein/pound of body weight.

  1. All calories are created equal.

This is simply not true.  If you took two people and one was eating 2000 calories/day of healthy whole foods and the other was eating 2000 calories/day of highly processed junk you’d have two very different bodies and minds.  Different foods go through different metabolic pathways and have very different effects on your hormones.  For instance, eating a diet high in protein can increase your metabolic rate and reduce your appetite.  Highly processed foods and foods high in sugar cause blood sugar spikes and dives which increases your appetite.  Because processed foods are stripped of their nutrients your body will signal you to eat more because it needs more nutrients.

  1. Only people with celiac should avoid gluten.

People with celiac have a very severe gluten intolerance and have to avoid gluten in order to avoid becoming very ill.  But they’re not the only ones who should avoid gluten.  A lot of people have a degree of gluten intolerance and don’t even know it.  They don’t realize that certain symptoms such as low grade inflammation that are bothering them are actually caused by eating gluten.  There have been studies that have shown that a gluten-free diet can reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.

Keep in mind though that you should be searching out foods that are naturally gluten free such as plants and animals, not gluten free ‘products’.  Gluten free junk food is still junk food – even if it’s organic!

  1. One diet fits all.

As a health and fitness professional I get asked quite often what I eat.  I’m happy to tell people but just because my diet works for me does not mean it will work for another person.  Everyone has different genetics and different food sensitivities.  Everyone needs to figure out what works for them.  Start with a whole food diet and then try manipulating your macronutrient intake to see what works for you.  Pay close attention to how your body reacts to certain foods and keep a diary.  Be prepared to spend a bit of time figuring this out and don’t get frustrated.

Keep It Simple

Proper nutrition means eating natural foods in the correct amounts.  If you’re eating whole natural foods you won’t have that urge to binge because you’ll be supplying your body with what it needs.  Eat like you have to hunt and gather your food.  In other words, if food has been manipulated in a lab do not put it in your body.  Only eat what you could find in nature if there were no such things as grocery and convenience stores.

It may be tough to give up processed foods at first.  They’ve been made to be addictive!  Believe me though, the effort is totally worth it.  Don’t you want a healthy mind and body?

Do Fat Burners Actually Work?

Most people have heard of fat burners and many people have tried them.  Unfortunately, a lot of people who have tried them were hoping that they were a miracle pill that would magically melt fat.  If this is what you’re hoping for you’ll be disappointed.  So, do fat burners actually work?  They do!  But there’s a slight catch.

Do Fat Burners Actually Work?

Yes they do!  That’s the good news!  Here’s the (maybe) not so good news.  They do not work on their own.  Fat burners are meant to supplement an already healthy and active lifestyle to help you lean out.  In other words you can’t just pop a fat burner and then sit on your ass eating crap and expect to lose fat.  You need to be active and eating properly in order to get the benefits from fat burners.

How Do Fat Burners Actually Work?

Fat burners contain ingredients that cause the release of certain hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine.  These hormones signal the mobilization of fat from fat stores to be released into the blood stream to be used as fuel.

The key thing to take away from this is that the fat is made available to be USED.  In other words, if you’re not working out and creating a need for that fuel the fat just gets stored again.

Fat burners also contain ingredients that help suppress appetite and increase thermogenesis.  Both of these factors will help create a calorie deficit which technically translates into weight loss.  Again though, to get the best results you need to be eating healthy and exercising regularly.

Are Fat Burners Safe?

They are as long as you use them correctly and you don’t have any conditions where stimulants could put you at risk for a heart attack.  As with anything read the label and use them correctly.  Don’t double up on the dose because you want faster results – it does NOT work that way.  Taking too many stimulants can be dangerous for even the healthiest of people.  Fat burners contain caffeine so keep that in mind if you already consume products with caffeine in them.  You should keep your daily caffeine consumption below 400mg.

Should You Try Fat Burners?

Fat burners can be a very effective tool to help you get lean if you use them correctly.  Make sure you eat healthy and exercise regularly if you decide to start using them.  As always, if unsure talk to your doctor first and only use them as directed.

What To Do When You Feel Insecure About Your Body

I used to be chubby and super bad at sports.  No surprise that kids teased me and school was a miserable experience for me.  Unfortunately I’ve carried a lot of those insecurities into my adult hood but luckily I’ve learned to deal with them better.  I want to share with you some ideas of what to do when you feel insecure about your body.

What To Do When You Feel Insecure About Your Body

  1. Learn to love your body.

Definitely easier said than done but once you figure this one our you’ll be SO much happier.  When you have a negative thought about your body come up with two positive thoughts.  For instance, if you have large legs like me, remind yourself of all the wonderful things your strong, beautiful legs allow you to do.

  1. Keep in mind that everyone feels insecure at times.

You might look at another person and think they have the perfect body but it’s almost guaranteed that that person is insecure about certain areas.  Using my leg example again: I always felt they were too big and masculine but over the years I’ve had countless men and women compliment me on how beautiful they are.  It took a while for me to be able to accept the compliments but eventually I did.

  1. You don’t see yourself as other’s do.

Flaws that you see in yourself are probably only seen by you.  Those areas that you agonize about are not as bad as you think they are.  People tend to over exaggerate the so-called flaws they see on themselves.

  1. Have realistic expectations for your body.

I always wanted to be that tiny, wispy girl who was a size 0.  I wasted SO much time and effort trying to get there and it always ended in tears and frustration.  Finally, one day I got really honest with myself and realized that my body type would never be thin and wispy because I simply do not have the build for that.  At my lowest weight I still didn’t look the way I wanted because I don’t have that body type.  I finally realized I had to stop fighting it and work with my body, not against it.  That’s when I embraced strength training.  My body is the type to put on muscle and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Once I accepted that my relationship with myself got MUCH better.

Love Your Body So You Can Live Your Life

When you hate your body, life can be pretty miserable and you can end up holding yourself back from things if you let your insecurities get the best of you.  I don’t always feel great about my body and I definitely have my ‘I hate my body’ days but now I’m able to deal with it better.  Your body is your body and it’s beautiful so make sure you love it and treat it well.

Interesting Benefits of Chia Seeds

I was recently visiting with a girlfriend of mine who’s an avid runner and she mentioned that she uses chia seeds in her morning shake.  I’ve heard of chia seeds before and know they’re good for you but she told me something I wasn’t aware of.  Chia seeds actually help to keep you hydrated!  I decided that I had better look into the benefits of chia seeds!

5 Interesting Benefits of Chia Seeds

  1. Helps with hydration.

Chia seeds absorb 30 times their weight in water!  For you this means that they will help regulate your body fluid levels and retain electrolytes.  Both of these factors will help you to safely get through long workouts even when the heat and humidity are high.

  1. Reduces Inflammation and joint pain.

Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory which means they’ll help reduce inflammation in your body which will help reduce joint pain.

  1. Accelerates post workout recovery.

Two important things needed for post workout recovery are amino acids and antioxidants.  Chia seeds contain both!

  1. Keeps you energized.

Chia seeds are very absorbent.  They expand to up to 10 times their size when soaked in water and form a gel-like substance.  This gel-like substance will actually slow down the rate at which you turn carbohydrates into sugar.  This means that the carbs you eat will be able to fuel your body for longer periods of time and also stabilizes your blood sugar.

  1. Helps with weight loss.

If you’re trying to lose weight you should start adding chia seeds to your diet.  They’re high in fibre and nutritionally dense which means they’ll fill you up and provide you with extra nutients without adding a lot of extra calories.  And, as mentioned above, their absorbent qualities help to regulate blood sugar so you don’t get those spikes and drops which can wreak havoc on your body and appetite.  Some studies have shown that chia seeds also help prevent high cholesterol and high triglycerides.

How To Start Using Chia Seeds Today!

Chia seeds can be used in many different ways.  You can eat them as is or try adding them to a salad, oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese.  The possibilities are endless!  Some people like to make a chia seed drink by soaking 1 or 2 tablespoons in water for 5-10 minutes.  The taste is a very mild nutty taste. The texture is very gel-like though so if you’re sensitive to textures you may not like this option.  My friend adds them to her smoothie.

Keep in mind that chia seeds are very high in fibre which means they could cause digestive issues if you’re not used to having a lot of fibre in your diet.  As with anything new, start small to see how your body handles it.

How To Get Lean Without Getting Bulky

One question I get asked a lot from my female clients is how to get lean without getting bulky.  First of all, I want to stress to the women that lifting heavy will not make you bulky.  You won’t start looking like the hulk if you start lifting.  Women simply don’t have enough testosterone to build huge muscles.  The female bodybuilders that you see have to work REALLY hard to look the way they do.  Their training is super intense and their diet and supplements (if they use supplements) are planned specifically to support that kind of building.

I think where the confusion lies is when women gain some muscle but don’t lose fat or put fat on due to following the wrong type of nutrition plan.  Fat lies on top of the muscle so if you’re carrying extra fat or put fat on you might get a ‘bulky’ look.  This isn’t too hard to fix though.  Let’s look at what you have to do if you want to get lean without getting bulky.

How To Get Lean Without Getting Bulky

  • Watch your carb intake.

You don’t need to eliminate carbs but you do need to be aware of what carbs you’re eating and how much you’re eating.  Carbs are a very important part of your diet – they provide energy and also help with your strength.   You need the right kinds of carbs though.  Eliminate processed carbs such as crackers, commercial cereals, desserts etc.  Limit your intake of carbs such as rice, potatoes and pasta.  Be super careful about grains too as they cause inflammation.  If you need to eat bread get sprouted bread (in the refrigerated section).  Limit your fruit intake as well since eating a lot of it can result is spikes and crashes in blood sugar.  I recommend 1-2 servings a day and consume them early in the day when you’ll be sure to use the sugar for energy.  Eat lots of veggies.  Try to keep your carbs to about 30-35% of your total daily food intake.

  • Increase protein and make sure you’re getting enough fat.

We need protein to build and maintain muscle.  Did you know that more muscle means a higher metabolism?  Try upping your protein to about 40% of your daily food intake.  This might sound like a lot but it gets great results for most people.

Fat is another super important macronutrient that too many people are afraid of.  You NEED healthy fats in your diet in order for your body to be healthy!  Healthy fats are natural fats such as olive oil, hemp seed oil, coconut oil and yes! BUTTER!  You absolutely need dietary fat if you want your metabolism to run at an optimum level.  Be sure to keep your fat intake to about 20-25% of your daily food intake.

  • LIFT!!!!!

If you want a lean strong body you need to lift heavy!  Don’t be afraid of the heavy weights ladies!!!!  If you start a strength training program and start to notice your clothes are fitting tighter it’s because your nutrition is off and your body is hanging onto or adding more fat.  Remember, working out does NOT justify eating whatever you want.  You have to get your nutrition right if you want to get lean.  Don’t use the scale as your gage though.  5lbs of muscle takes up way less space than 5lbs of fat, but the scale doesn’t differentiate between fat weight and lean weight.

  • Don’t overdo the cardio.

I know it’s tempting.  Many people, including myself make this mistake.  I thought that the way to lose weight and look toned and strong was to do cardio until the weight fell off.  This doesn’t work.  If anything, it does the opposite.  Too much cardio will actually hinder muscle growth.  Actually, if you’re overdoing your cardio, your body becomes catabolic and actually starts to ‘eat’ your muscle for fuel!  Less muscle means a slower metabolism which leads to weight gain and frustration.  Aim for 30-45 minutes of cardio 3-4 days per week.

Another thing that will cause your body to become catabolic?  Starving yourself.  To figure out approximately how many calories you need per day use this calorie calculator.

A Balanced Approach To Your Health & Fitness

I think where most people go wrong is they assume they have to go extreme at the gym and with their diet in order to get the results they want.  Extreme’s not going to work for the average person.  You need to eat healthy and exercise in a balanced and healthy way.

Figure out how many calories you need to eat and calculate  your macros to be about 40% protein, 35% carbs and 25% fat.  Use an app such as My Fitness Pal to track your macros.  Track your results.  If you’re not getting the results you want try tweaking something – maybe you need a bit less of something or a little more of something.

Get someone to help you design a proper workout program or search for something online.  Again, track your results and if you’re not getting what you want out of it try tweaking a thing or two.  Every body is different and will react differently to nutrition and exercise so you need to be ready to try a few things before you find what works for you.

Need help?  Ask me!

Pros And Cons Of The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is another popular diet among people who are concerned with their health and fitness.  Most likely you’ve heard of it but how much do you really know about it?

Simple Explanation Of The Paleo Diet

The idea behind the Paleo diet is that you eat like your ancestors.  This is meant to help you avoid modern chronic diseases.

What You Eat:

  • Lean meat and pretty much all its parts – organs, bone marrow and cartilage.
  • Fish/seafood.
  • Non-starchy vegetables.
  • Raw nuts and seeds (no peanuts).
  • Plant based oils such as olive, grapeseed, walnut and coconut.

What You Can’t Eat:

  • Grains such as oats, wheat, barley and rice.
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn.
  • No legumes or beans (peanuts are legumes).
  • Dairy products.
  • Processed foods.

Pros of the Paleo Diet

  • You’ll eliminate processed foods from your diet.
  • The diet is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is basically the root of all disease.
  • You’ll most likely feel fuller since it’s a relatively high protein diet.
  • Limiting food choices makes meal planning somewhat simpler.

Cons of the Paleo Diet

  • Eliminating whole grains and legumes means you might be missing out some good sources of fibre and nutrients.
  • It can be very challenging for vegetarians to follow this type of diet.
  • This is a very restrictive diet and most people aren’t able to stay on something so restrictive for the long term.
  • It can be time consuming and expensive.

Try It Out If You’re Curious

Once again, I can’t stress enough that every body is different and will react differently to different diets.  If the Paleo diet sounds like something you’d like to try go for it.  Just remember a healthy eating plan is one that you can stick to for the long term so make sure you understand the diet before you fully commit to it.

Pros and Cons of Ketosis

You’ve probably heard about ketosis and chances are you might be a bit confused.  The ketogenic diet is nothing new but in the past, it was said to be really unhealthy.  Unfortunately, the people saying it was unhealthy were comparing it to ketoacidosis which is something very unhealthy and can even lead to death.  Ketoacidosis is something that can happen to individuals with diabetes.  For someone who is putting themselves into nutritional ketosis there is no risk of getting to the point of ketoacidosis.

What Is Ketosis?

There’s a lot more to it but I’m going to keep this super simple and to the point so you actually keep reading this.  If you want the scientific explanation you can find some great info here.

Basically, ketosis is a state where your body is using ketone bodies for energy rather than glycogen. Glycogen is the preferred source of energy for your body but your body can use ketone bodies when glycogen is depleted, like when you’re following a low/no carb diet.

What The Hell Are Ketone Bodies??

When you run out of stored glycogen, fat goes through a process which results in the production of fatty acids.  Some of these fatty acids get turned into ketone bodies.  If you’re glycogen depleted, your body can use these ketone bodies (fatty acids) for energy.

How Do You Get Into Ketosis?

There are two ways to get into ketosis.  One is my manipulating your nutrition by eating very low or no carbs at all.  If you’re going to do this through diet you need to consume 30g or less of carbs per day which is VERY little and VERY hard for a lot of people to sustain.  The rest of your diet will be a mix of healthy proteins and healthy fats.

When you don’t provide your body with enough carbs to convert into glycogen for energy your body will convert your fat stores into energy using a process called neoglucogenisis.  The more energy you need, the more fat you’ll burn so this is not a ‘sit on your butt and eat protein and fat to lose weight’ kind of thing.  Ketosis is a tool to help you burn fat but is not a quick fix by any means.

The other way to get into ketosis is by using exogenous ketones, which is what I do.   I won’t go into what brand I use because this article is meant to inform, not try to sell a product.  If you want more info contact me at

Pros of Ketosis

  • Improved fat loss.

This is the one that will get most people’s attention.  Your body will be using fat as energy and if you’re working out consistently you’ll burn even more fat as your body’s energy needs increase.

  • Eliminating the risk of bonking.

This is big for endurance athletes and is why a lot of them follow a ketogenic type diet.  Your body can only store so much glycogen.  If you’re participating in an endurance event and you’re not bang on with your nutrition you run the risk of running out of glycogen and bonking.  Bonking is NOT fun.  Your body can store WAY more fat, than glycogen.  Even lean people can store enough fat to ensure never running out of fuel.

  • Epilepsy management.

Ketosis is not just a way to burn excess fat, it’s also very beneficial for some medical conditions.  Doctors have found that ketosis helps control seizures.  No one is sure exactly how or why but you can read more about it here.

  • Alternative cancer treatment.

Cancer cells require glucose to thrive.  They actually live off of sugar.  Cancer cells are not as flexible as our regular cells so they can’t switch from living off sugar to living off of ketone bodies.   They essentially starve to death in a person who has become ‘fat adapted’.  You can read more about it here.

Cons of Ketosis

  • The diet is super restrictive.

It can be very challenging for someone to stick to a ketogenic diet long term.  It’s very challenging to find ketogenic friendly foods when at social gatherings or at restaurants.  This is why I use exogenous ketones.

  • Being in ketosis long term may damage your metabolism.

Personally I don’t think it’s natural for a typically healthy person to be in ketosis long term.  If you look back at our ancestors they would be in ketosis seasonally when carbs were hard to come by.  Once carbs were available again they’d start consuming them and come out of ketosis.  Also, some people will go a bit too extreme and cut out too much meaning that they won’t be getting all the nutrients they need.  When this happens, the body will slow down it’s metabolism to conserve energy because it senses that it’s being starved.

Will You Try Ketosis?

So, there you have it.  Ketosis can be a great tool to help you lose fat as long as you’re also active and healthy, and it helps with certain medical conditions.  As with anything you need to try it for yourself to see how it works.  And always remember that just because something works does NOT mean it will work better if you take it to the extreme.  Talk to someone who can help you do it safely and use your common sense.

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.