Your Cyclical Fat Loss Plan: Carbs, Calories and Fats!

Crawl Before You Walk

Before we get into calorie cycling I wanted to address some initial fat loss tips if you are getting started. Your initial fat loss plan should be simple.

Just because something is simple doesn't mean it is going to be easy though. Stay on course and be consistent with your fat loss efforts. The imperfect nutrition plan you follow is better than the perfect one you don't follow. Keep that in mind! 

Focus on high quality whole foods that come from nature and avoid man made processed foods. Make sure you are eating enough protein  (0.8-1g/lb) and train hard in the gym.

Also make sure you are getting at least 8-9 hours of solid sleep per night. Create a nutrition, gym and lifestyle game plan you can realistically stick to and use until it no longer works.

Squeeze every last ounce of fat loss you can out of this simple approach before you consider moving on to something new.

If you are above 20% body fat, stop reading this blog post and start doing the above steps. Don’t over complicate things and get paralyzed by trying to overhaul everything at once. Make a plan, be consistent and start seeing progress.

Nature Is smarter than us

When it comes to cycling whether it be nutrients or calories, we have instinctively done this since the beginning of time.

Calorie and nutrient cycling are not a new method, and has been done by our ancestors for many years without thinking about or giving it a name. Cyclical eating is what it is called these days.

From an evolutionary perspective when we ate before grocery stores, we had to eat what was provided by nature.

When eating with the seasons we would have times of greater caloric intake, and times where we would consume less calories because food was scarce.

When eating cyclically different foods and nutrients would be available, or not available depending on the time of year.

This dictated how we ate back then, and it just so happens nature is pretty good at giving us what we need.  

With grocery stores on every corner and imported foods stocked on the shelves we have moved away from local and seasonal eating. We are now able to eat our favorite foods year round, regardless of the season.

Calorie Cycling Vs.  Linear Dieting

For those who are are looking to achieve fat loss you can achieve it multiple different ways that all work. A common method used  to achieve fat loss is a daily calorie deficit.

A person will find how many calories they need to maintain their weight and then eat below that every day.

If someone needs 1800 calories to maintain body weight, but eats 1500 calories seven days a week this is a 300 calorie daily deficit.

Another method is to have more calories or carbs on days when you're more active and work out, and less on days where you are not training or working out. This second method is calorie/ carb  cycling.

Calorie and carb  cycling are methods of raising and lowering calories and carbs on certain days to make sure you keep losing fat, but don’t let the metabolism slow from under eating for too long.

Problems With Linear Dieting

The closer someone gets to their ideal body composition the more detailed their plan will need to be to hit those specific goals.

With less body fat  you have less room to make mistakes, and can compromise the lean muscle you have worked hard for while slowing down your metabolism.

Simply cutting calories until you reach your goal works for a short period of time, but can make you pretty miserable along the way.

Assuming you were able to starve yourself into an ideal body composition it rarely works long term, and generally causes extreme weight rebounds.

Our bodies are efficient machines, and very adaptable. When the body adapts to a calorie deficit it intelligently respond by burning fewer calories.

Because fewer calories are being consumed, the body slows the metabolic rate down to ensure fewer calories are burned. This keep you at an even energy balance and ensures that fat loss doesn't happen for a number of reasons. 

During long periods of caloric restriction a master hormone named leptin is reduced. The reduction in leptin causes a slowed metabolic rate, increased hunger and reduced energy expenditure, a recipe for fat loss disaster and frustration.

Because leptin is such a big player in the hormonal game the reduction causes a lot of downstream impacts with other related hormones.

Leptin affects testosterone, thyroid and growth hormone which all regulate fat loss, muscle growth and many other mental and physical functions.

Advantages of Calorie Cycling

Calorie cycling promotes metabolic flexibility by causing the body to adapt a different amount of calories and carbs.

It keeps the body guessing when there is a caloric deficit one day, and then a caloric surplus the next. The different days of different calorie intake provides a different stimulus for the body to adapt to.

With days that differ in caloric intake it allows people to break the routine of dieting and avoid eating the exact same foods day in and day out.

You are able to switch up food choices and keep variety in the diet instead of eating the same foods daily it also allows a mental break from the grind of linear dieting. 

As mentioned above both calorie and nutrient cycling are a natural way of eating for us as humans. Before grocery stores we naturally cycled both calories and nutrients depending on the season and what foods were available.

From a social standpoint calorie cycling allows more flexibility. You are able to go out and enjoy food and great company while not stressing about caloric intake or eating too many carbs.

Getting lean isn’t worth it if you can’t enjoy time with loved ones, and kick your heels up from time to time.

Hormonal  and Metabolic Health

Maybe the largest benefit people get from calorie cycling is the positive impact it has on hormones. Specifically the hormones leptin, thyroid hormones , Growth hormone and testosterone.

By spiking calories on higher days you up regulate these hormones making sure to avoid the hormonal pitfalls that many people experience when they put themselves into a large calorie deficit for too long.

You also keep your metabolism from slowing down dramatically, which allows you to make greater long term fat loss happen and greater overall hormonal and social health. 

 Manipulating The Macros

On higher calorie days the extra calories should be coming predominantly form carbohydrates as they have the greatest effect on thyroid, leptin and metabolic function. 

Protein and fats can be kept constant to make life easier, and if there is a small rise in fast it is not a huge cause for concern but carbohydrates need to take priority for this to be effective. 

Keeping  protein at a constant level is very useful for protecting lean muscle mass and  remaining satiated on lower calorie days.

Protein is a very high satiety food that leaves us feeling fuller for longer. It also breaks down into  the amino acids that make our neurotransmitters responsible for our moods and ability to focus.

The two macronutrients that will be manipulated on high and low calorie days are carbohydrates and fats.

On higher days when you are more active the majority of the extra calories should come from carbohydrates to build muscle,promote recovery and keep hormones healthy.

On less active days fats will be the main energy nutrient allowing you to keep insulin low and tap into dietary and  body fat as fuel, while staying in a caloric deficit.

The constant protein and high fat intake on these days will keep people fuller for a longer period of time allowing for lower calories.

During lower days it is better to avoid the starchy carbohydrates, and go higher on fats and non starchy veggies while keeping protein constant. 

How Many High and Low Days ?

The specifics of how many high and low days you have per week will come down to a few different factors. One of the biggest ones will be how much body fat you realistically have to lose.

For someone who is obese they should have more lower calorie days, as their body will be able to hand that deficit with slowing down the metabolic rate. 

However someone who is already lean will likely need more high days to prevent metabolic slowdown as they have less fat to lose, and can likely handle carbohydrates very well. 

Another consideration is your training style and how many days per week you train. Ideally your higher calorie and carbohydrate days would be on the same day that you hit the gym, and lower calorie days would be on rest or less active days. 

There are definitely outlined strategies that work for people, but don’t forget the most important principle of nutrition is to experiment and see what works best for you.

If you are not losing any fat after three to four weeks, it could be that you need to exchange a high carb day for a lower carb day until fat loss resumes.

If your training is going poorly and you are having a hard  time recovering you might require another higher carb or medium carb day. You’ll have to tinker a little to see what  fits you best.

5 low days - 2 high days

If you have a lot of weight to lose and could be considered obese or very overweight, this is going to be the method for quicker fat loss.

By spending most of the week in a lower carb and calorie state it will allow for rapid fat loss, but the higher days will keep leptin high and your metabolism humming. 

Because carbohydrates have a greater impact on leptin,  the majority of your extra calories on the high days should come from carbs.

3 low days - 1 high day

This a very typical way to cycle for fat loss. You will do three days of low carb and then have a one day spike in calories coming mostly from carbohydrates to help with recovery and hormonal function.

This is a good  strategy for someone who is in the 15-20% body fat range. For those who train really hard and do a decent amount of metabolic conditioning this may be difficult on lower carbs and the option below would be better to use.

1 low day - 2 high days

This is a good option for those who are below 15% body fat and are looking to preserve or build lean muscle as their priority, while dropping some fat is secondary.

Because there are more  high calorie and high carb days compared to low days, fat loss may be slower. However as someone gets closer to their ideal level leanness it will be a slower process.  

Because this person has less  body fat they will be more insulin sensitive and able to handle more carbs without  gaining much fat.

If you are performance driven and mainly concerned with gaining muscle, and willing to lose fat at a slower rate this is a good option.

If you are training four days a week  lifting heavy combined with some metabolic conditioning or sprints this will be your ticket.

You will get in enough carbs and calories to promote muscle growth and recovery on training days, and be in a deficit on recovery days.

  • Use the basics first, and ride that train until it breaks down and stops working.  Use carb/calorie cycling as a strategy once basic stops getting results. 
     

  • Cycling calories and nutrients is an age old practice that our ancestors did by eating with the seasons.
     

  • Cyclical eating is  an effective strategy for helping people to lose body fat, and achiever more specific body composition goals. 
     

  • Pick a calorie/carb cycling strategy based on how you react to lower carbs, muscle mass, workout volume and intensity and the amount of  body fat you have to lose. 
     

  • Set your calories and macronutrient goals for the high and low days. There are carb cycling calculators online you can use. 
     

  • Keep protein constant each day at .8-1g/lb of body weight
     

  • Keep fats lower on higher carb days
     

  • Keep carbs lower on low calorie days, increase fats a little for energy. 
     

  • Ultimately you will need to do some self experimentation to see what works best for you personally based on your own needs. Be your own guru and go with what works best  for you!

Fill out the form below if you’re looking for a coach who can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health, fat loss or muscle building goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained, while keeping you accountable along the way.


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12 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight On A Low Carb Diet

There are many factors that go into sustainable fat loss. These factors go far beyond counting calories, macros or whether you are vegan or paleo.

The fat loss war is bigger than just the diet and exercise portion. It is about the signals you are sending to your body on all home fronts that need to be considered diet, exercise, stress, sleep, lifestyle, genetic factors and your hormonal profile are all contributors to the fat loss war. 

Many people see significant benefits in their ability to lose fat by reducing carbohydrates and sugars. It has proven to be very effective for a lot of clients I have worked with.

However just like any other piece in the health puzzle, what fits someone else and helps them attain their goals may not work for you. We are all bio-individuals and have a number of different needs and factors that make you unique, and one of  kind. A snowflake of sorts! 

The individual needs of each person reaches farther than their diet and exercise regime. Many of these individual factors need to be recognized and planned for when waging a war against body fat.

In this blog post I am going to explain the main reasons beyond lowering carbs that you are not losing weight, and what to do about it. 

Too Much Stress In Your Life

The reality for a lot of people is that a healthy diet and exercise alone are not enough to achieve the fat loss they are looking for. We live in a fast paced world packed with unnatural stress.

Our body recognizes stress as a stimulus which it responds to the same  no matter where it  comes from. Whether you are getting chased by a sabertooth tiger or getting reprimanded by your boss, the body reacts the same way.

This stressful lifestyle puts our body in a constant state of fight or flight causing the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Chronically elevated cortisol can increase unhealthy food cravings, muscle breakdown, fat storage and makes insulin resistance much worse. Sounds like a recipe for fat gain huh ? 

The Fix: Take a step back from your life and honestly assess how much stress you deal with on a daily basis, and what stressful situations could be eliminated. Adopt a stress management technique such as meditation, journaling, walks outside and deep breathing. These simple steps could help your overall health not only weight loss.

Your Carbs Are Higher Than You Think

It is very common to underestimate how much we eat, and overestimate how much we exercise. There is also the fact that some folks are far more sensitive to carbohydrates than others, and it's going to cause them to lose or gain weight much quicker.

The leaner you are chances are pretty good you can tolerate more carbs without fat gain than someone who is very overweight. 

If your weight loss has plateaued  log your food for a day or two and put it into some sort of fitness tracker like Fitday or My Fitness Pal to see where your carbohydrate intake is and adjust to meet your goals from there. 

The Fix: If you are not a hard charging athlete and are taking in over 100-150 grams of carbohydrates per day  dial back on carbs until fat loss begins again. To enter nutritional ketosis where many find accelerated fat loss go for 50 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables,  berries and other lower glycemic load foods or fruits.

You Need To Move More Throughout The Day

The caloric deficit we create daily with exercise is fairly small, and can become caloric excess with a snack or extra helping of food.

You should not be exercising to burn calories, but instead because mentally and physically there are many benefits.With exercise you will be able to create a better metabolic environment, build muscle and improve your mood and feeling of well being.

Not all exercise has to be a sweat drenched high intensity trip to the gym, aim for three to five hours per week of low level physical activity like walking or hiking.

Lift weights to build muscle mass which in turn improves your hormonal profile and helps to burn body fat in the long run. Use some short interval training or sprints as your cardio, it will boost growth hormone and can help to oxidize (burn) fat long after you are done.

The Fix: Incorporate 3-5 hours of low level walking and hiking along with 3-4 bouts of strength training per week. If you really want to make a push to burn extra fat include a sprint session or two. 

You Need More Sleep

Not getting enough sleep causes people to feel hungrier , have less willpower , blood sugar dysregulation, decreased performance in the gym, difficulty losing body fat/ building muscle and can negatively impact your hormones.

Lack of sleep is a stress on the body that can wreak havoc on our health, especially when trying to perform at an optimal level daily. 

Not getting enough sleep causes the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is efficient at helping us store body fat. To add fuel to the fire, our largest release of the  muscle building/ fat burning hormone (growth hormone) takes place while we are in the deepest stage of sleep.

Sleep is not negotiable, and is required for health. your results in the gym, work and life will suffer if you don’t get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night consistently.

The Fix: Get to bed before 11:00 and shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. If you have trouble falling asleep clean up your sleep hygiene and start to make a night time routine to help you wind down and get to bed earlier. If you need tips for helping to improve your sleep refer to my earlier blog post “ 10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep”

You Are Eating Too Many Calories

Low carb is an effective strategy for a lot of people, but at the end of the day when you are trying to lose fat calories do matter.

What makes a low carb diet so effective is that it reduces the appetite and naturally makes people consume less calories.

If your fat loss has stalled but you are doing everything else right, look at how many calories you are taking in on a daily basis.

Be aware though that all calories are not created equal, and have different hormonal effects on the body because of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they contain or lack.

As you approach your ideal body composition the small details become a larger part of the picture. 

The Fix: Take a look at some of the more calorically dense foods in low carb diets like nuts, nut butters and cheese that people can go overboard with ,and reduce consumption. Use a calorie tracker like My Fitness Pal or Fitday and see what your calories for three days are. When going for fat loss shoot for the range of 10-12 times body weight in calories. I am not encouraging anyone to count macros or calories long term, but just for a few days to get a realistic idea of how many calories you are taking in. 

You Are Not Eating Enough Vegetables

Many folks who adopt a low carb diet assume that they should avoid vegetables and fruits because they contain carbohydrates, but this is a big mistake.

Plants are some of the most nutrient dense foods and contain vitamins, minerals and lots of indigestible fiber that help with fat loss. The indigestible fiber you get from fruits and veggies helps you to feel fuller for longer and reduces the cravings.

Make sure to consume healthy fruits and vegetables with every meal and avoid the ‘low carb treats” and bars.

You will need to personalize your fruit intake, because some of them are higher in carbohydrates and will prevent you from entering ketosis. Fruits such as berries and other low glycemic load fruits can fit in the low carb diet because they are lower in carbs and higher in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The Fix: Consume 1-2 cups of low glycemic vegetables at every meal to give your body the nutrients it needs and keep you fuller for longer. Some vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates and can be enjoyed are: spinach, kale, collards, eggplant, broccoli, celery, bok choy, mushrooms, avocado, tomatoes, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, onion, garlic.

You Are Over Consuming Dairy Products

Even though dairy is lower in carbs it does contain a good amount of protein and like carbs,  protein can be insulinogenic.

Protein much like carbohydrates when over consumed can raise insulin levels. This insulin  causes fat storage.  Even if you have no negative reactions to dairy, consuming it multiples times a day can cause extra spikes in insulin shutting down fat burning capabilities, and stalling fat loss progress.

The Fix: If fat loss has stalled reduce and eliminate milk, cheese, yogurt and cream. Because butter is very low in protein and lactose it will not spike insulin, you can also get Ghee which is butter fat with all the milk solids removed.

You Have Restricted Calories For Too Long

Being in a calorie deficit for too long can create some problems with the metabolism and can slow weight loss. When in a caloric deficit for too long it will slow down the metabolism.

The body is very intelligent and realizes that less food is coming in and in response it becomes more efficient by slowing the rate at which we burn calories to prevent starvation.

To prevent the metabolism slowing down people will purposely spike calories from healthy foods, especially from carbohydrates once a week. This weekly spike in calories sends the signal to the body that we are not starving and to  keep the metabolism humming along.

The Fix: If you have kept your calories and carbohydrates restricted for a long period of time and fat loss has stalled you may want to consider picking a meal or day once a week and  eat higher calories especially from carbohydrates at this meal/day. These should still be healthy foods, this is not a license to crush a dozen doughnuts once a week.

You Are Putting On Muscle Mass

Don’t live and die by the scale, while it can be helpful the scale does not tell the entire story when it comes to losing weight.

When you start to incorporate a more active lifestyle with better sleep and better eating habits  an environment to put on muscle mass and improve bone density has been created.

The great thing about  gaining muscle mass is it will help with fat loss. But because muscle mass is denser than fat,  weight on the scale may stay the same or go up.

The Fix: Take greater stock in other measurements that are not related to the scale. Make sure to keep how you look, feel and perform in your mind. If you staying at the same weight but body composition is changing in the mirror for the better don’t sweat the scale.

You Are Not Being Honest With Yourself

A lot of people will tell someone that they want to lose weight, but their actions do not match what they are saying. Everyone has met the person who tells everyone at a gathering they are on a strict diet.

Twenty minutes later the same person is at the food table stuffing their face with cookies, candy and potato chips. When asked  about their “diet” they explain that they are going to restart it tomorrow.

Months later you run into the same person again and ask them how the diet  is going and they respond saying it didn’t “work” for them. I highly doubt it was that the diet didn't work. That person was not ready for the large change they attempted to take on. 

The problem is that most people are not honest with themselves about what they really want in that moment. Delaying gratification is very difficult and can take years of practice.  

There should never be any shame or guilt around food choices, just consequences. If you value eating four cookies every day more than fat loss or getting healthier that is your personal choice, no judgement. However don’t tell people you don’t know why you can’t lose that last ten pounds.

The Fix: Be completely honest about what you value in your life and why that is important to you. Do not beat yourself up over slip ups. Instead recognize in that moment you valued what you chose over the delayed gratification of staying on course. The beauty is that next time you have the opportunity to make a better choice. 

You Are Eating Processed Low Carb Foods, Not Real Foods

There are plenty of low carb bars and processed foods that can be found in the grocery store. Low carb does not always mean it is a healthy option.

When adopting a new style of eating you have to be aware of the buzzwords that the food industry will use to sell you products.

When switching to a lower carb diet replace those carbs with whole nutrient dense food that comes from nature such as fish, meat, eggs, vegetables and healthy fats.

When reducing carbs it is very important to eat more fats. You are taking one energy nutrient away in the form of carbohydrates, and need to replace it with fats for energy. If you try to go low carb and low fat at the same time you will be starving all the time and feel horrible.

The Fix: Eat nutrient dense whole foods that come from nature such as meats, vegetables, fish, fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy fats such as coconut products, butter, palm oil, avocados and olives and olive oil.

You Are Impatient

One healthy meal will not make you lean, just like one unhealthy meal is not the cause of weight gain. Changing your lifestyle and staying consistent is the key to the battle against fat loss.

Some people are able to lose fat very quickly while others will lose fat slower. If you are someone who loses fat slowly don’t jump ship after a month saying it didn’t work, you need to be patient and adopt a new lifestyle that includes sleep, exercise, stress management and healthy eating. Diets fail but lifestyle changes do not. 

Adopting new habits can be very intimidating and difficult for people. I like the example of the mountain that is made up of pebbles.

The mountain is the persons goal and the pebbles are small habits that will get them to their goal. Most people want to move the entire mountain on the first day, but quickly get discouraged when the mountain doesn't budge.

What works better is to move a pebble a day, and over time you will move that mountain, but one pebble at a time. Small habits add up to big changes and goals being met. 

The Fix: Be patient and know that it will take time, if you stay patient and stick to the plan the reward of that consistency will be looking, feel and performing your daily tasks better. Given a long enough time to make these changes you can lose weight, but not everyone will look like a fitness model with just these tips. Be honest and realistic with yourself about your habits, and learn to love the process.

If you’re tired of working hard, and not getting the results you want, I can help you adopt the simple habits necessary to reach your health or fat loss goals.

These habits are based on getting you to your goal in a sustainable fashion that can be maintained. I’ll be there every step of the way to support and keep you accountable.  

Get on a Strategy Call with me to Discover how to achieve your health or fat loss goals, and make them yours to keep this time around.

Whether you decide to work with me or not I can guarantee you will leave this call with more knowledge on how to achieve your goals.

 

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