I like to chow down on a bunch of crappy food as much as the next guy. But I also like to kick ass and be lean. Do you have any interest in kicking more ass and becoming more lean while still occasionally eating “poor” food choices? The key to decreasing body fat and having more energy actually is cycling carbohydrate intake. I have chosen the top 6 reasons I love cycling my carbs. Here they are:
1. Get out of your bodies way: the insulin story.
2. Let glucagon do what glucagon does best!
3. Freedom from a feeding schedule.
4. Increase brain function.
5. Eating fat makes you skinny.
6. Cycling carbohydrates means you can pig out once in a while.
I expand on the details below.
1. Get out of your bodies way: the insulin story
Taking out carbohydrates during the day will allow your body’s natural regulatory hormones to do their job. At the most basic level there are two hormones that regulate blood sugar: insulin and glucagon. The high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes has brought a lot of attention to the importance of insulin. Insulin plays a major role in whether or not a human gains weight. This has brought the hormone a lot of attention as well. Insulin plays a major role in regulation of blood sugar and overall balance of energy in the body. It’s important to understand what insulin is and the role it plays in your body. Also, understanding the impact the foods you eat have on insulin secretion is critical.
Insulin is essentially a growth hormone that facilitates the storage of energy or synthesis of proteins. It also inhibits lipolysis. Which is the break down of lipids (Fat) into Glycerol and free fatty acids (FFA). Lipolysis is important because it is how we gain access to our fat to use for fuel. Which is effectively how a person loses weight. The more dependent on lipolysis you are for energy the more lipolysis will occur and the more body fat you will lose. If you aren’t concerned with losing fat, you can still benefit from lipolysis. This will give you access to a great reserve of energy to use during the day. What is great about this is you can be less reliant on food and have more stable energy.
One of the primary roles of insulin is to transport the sugar out of our blood and into tissue. Various forms of carbohydrate (CHO) are quickly digested and flood the blood stream with glucose. This glucose needs to be transported to various tissues in the body. If you eat a lot of CHO, objective one is always to get the blood sugar down. Elevated blood sugar levels can be toxic. Frequent ingestion of sugar causes a constant presence of insulin in the blood. One of the biggest reasons why people gain body fat is most people don’t have enough room in their muscles or liver to host the additional sugar being pulled from the food they eat. What happens in that circumstance is we have to convert a lot of that excess energy to lipids/triglycerides (fat). Unless you want to be extremely careful with how much CHO you ingest every meal, it’s easiest to just take the CHO out. That way you get out of your way and allow insulins counterpart Glucagon to step in.
2. Let Glucagon do what glucagon does best!
Glucagon is the hormone that helps you extract energy that is already in your body to meet some of its requirements. Imagine your blood sugar as a steady flame. Insulin comes in when that flame gets to high to dampen the flame. Glucagon stokes the flame when it gets too low. Similar to having too high blood sugar, too low blood sugar is harmful. You can become hypoglycemic and pass out or die. Symptoms of hypoglycemia also include, but are not limited to: screaming at your spouse for no good reason, being impatient, making poor impulse buys, and having low energy.
Glucagon is the hormone that acts opposite to insulin and brings sugar out of the cells and into the blood stream. Rather than grabbing for food every time you feel a slight drop in blood sugar, you can let your body actually up regulate your blood sugar. This is an adjustment that has to be made rather intentionally, but this mechanism remains in all of us no matter how long we have been dependent on sugar. Take out the sugar and your blood sugar will regulate itself. This way there will be a low level or no insulin in your blood. Because insulin and glucagon are part of a feedback loop when blood sugar is low insulin is not being released. This is when the magic happens. Glucagon up-regulates blood sugar and FFA are produced via lipolysis. You are no longer hungry and you are also now burning more fat while doing nothing!
Let Glucagon can do it’s job and you can burn fat while having stable blood sugar!
3. Freedom from a feeding schedule
The biggest upside in my life to being specific about the way I ingest carbohydrate has been the freedom of when I need to eat. For most of my life I was tethered to an eating schedule. I would navigate the ups and downs of blood sugar and basically had a feeding schedule similar to a two year old. I became an unpleasant person to be around as soon as there were any deviations to my feeding schedule. As a personal trainer this was less than ideal. The nature of my work is that I have hours that are sort of inverse to the normal 9-5p schedule. There would be times that it wasn’t convenient to eat for 6 hours. Other times I would have time to either eat or workout. I would often skip a workout if I were hungry at all preceding it. I knew if I didn’t get some food in me I wouldn’t be able to do my job. By eliminating carbohydrate primarily during the day I am able to allow my body to stay steady. My personal goal is to get enough protein to maintain or increase my muscle mass and then supplement my calorie needs with fat. It works out great for many reasons. If you have an erratic schedule or sometimes have to miss lunch taking the carbs out is a great way to stay steady and show up big all day.
4. Increase brain function
To varying degrees, what happens during the above 3 points allows your body to get into a state of ketosis. Ketogenic diets were first used in the treatment of various neurological disorders including epilepsy. Basically, a Ketogenic diet requires a 4:1 ratio of fat to protein on a total calorie basis. If you require 100 grams of protein per day, you will require about 180 grams of fat. This is easier said than done, but the benefits are phenomenal. After an adjustment period the body starts to generate Ketones bodies and the brain becomes more reliant on them for fuel. The brain will still require glucose to function, the funny thing is ingestion of carbohydrate is not required in order for the brain to be adequately supplied with glucose. That is a myth. Also, if you think about it, areas of the brain need ketones. Most people generate very low amounts of ketones because they eat carbohydrate at too high levels. That may mean there is a fuel source needed by the brain not being supplied. It follows that to supply that would increase function. In addition to the metabolic action of Ketosis, the brain is made up 60 percent fat. That is why it is vital to support your brain via the consumption of fat. Make sure to get the essential fatty acids (EFA). This study further elucidates the importance of (EFA)
5. Eating fat makes you skinny
Perhaps the greatest irony in nutrition is that the consumption of carbohydrate is typically responsible for creation of triglycerides (fat). If we ingest to excess of our needs we will store that energy for later. This happens on a per meal basis and a long term basis. The more fat your eat the less hungry you will be. Not to mention the fact that once you have adjusted you wont really be hungry anyway. Eat fat and you will not make as much fat on your body.
6. Last but not least, cycling carbohydrates means you can pig out once in a while.
If you made it this far then you deserve a treat. The brain requires glucose. High intensity exercise requires glucose. If participate in high intensity exercise, then afterwords you will have space to place sugar. The muscle will have used some of the glycogen (stored form of CHO, glucose) for the workout. That can be replaced by the carbohydrate consumed post workout.
Insert ice cream or pizza.
Given the proper circumstances you can eat copious amounts of carbohydrate and it will actually facilitate reduction of body fat. It is slightly stressful hormonally longterm to continuously balance glucose levels without taking in sugar. That is why it is good to give that process a bit of a break every once is a while. You do this by consuming large amounts of carbs at once. The important part is to not constantly create triglycerides all day by eating too many sugars and allow for FFA release by keeping insulin levels low.
So there you have it. 6 reasons why cycling carbohydrate is ideal for kicking more as and becoming more lean.