Carb Cycling 101
After reading Dr. Alan Christiansons book “The Adrenal Reset Diet,” I decided to give carb cycling a try. In his book Dr. Christianson outlines how carb cycling works, and for me it just clicked. Instead of looking at this essential macro nutrient like an all or nothing concept it outlines timing of nutrients, and why timing your carb consumption appropriately helps to bring balance to your hormones, and in turn easily shed those unwanted pounds. In the most basic terms we are trying to control cortisol levels. Chances are you have heard of the hormone cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone. What you may not know is that it’s not all bad, in fact having cortisol levels that are too high, too low, or a daily cycle that is reversed, all have adverse effects. The good news is that it is a fairly simple problem to tackle. While Dr.Christianson goes into in depth strategies to address each issue as well as how to spot which imbalance you are experiencing, I am simply going to talk about carb cycling here.
How It Works
Dr.Christianson states carb cycling is “As easy as 1-2-3” what he is essentially saying is that you will have one serving of carbohydrate at breakfast, 2 servings at lunch, and 3 at dinner. The idea is to have a high protein, high fat breakfast, this prevents insulin spikes which can crash your cortisol levels signaling to your body that it is time for bed! Ever wonder why you have those afternoon slumps? I used to get them everyday when I worked in an office, and chances are it was because I was starting my day off with too many carbohydrates, telling my body that bed time was at 3pm! For lunch you want to incorporate some more carbohydrates than you did at breakfast, but your main carbohydrate consumption should be reserved for your evening meal. This may contradict advise you have heard in the past, but there are several good reasons to save those good carbs for last! First off, as previously mentioned, carbohydrates cause an increase in insulin levels, as insulin levels rise cortisol levels fall. You can think of cortisol like your coffee pot. A healthy cortisol cycle starts with high levels in the morning to wake you up and get you out of bed, these levels should then gradually decline throughout the day, with low levels in the evening to help signal it is time for sleep. In his studies Dr.Christianson found that carb cycling can rest cortisol to healthy levels. The second reason you want to have your carbohydrates in the evening has to do with your glycogen stores. At night is is when your body is restoring gylcogen to your muscles and liver. If you eat carbohydrates at this time they are more likely to end up as glycogen, aka easily accessible fuel, then as fat stores. There is an exception to this rule I would like to add, after strenuous exercise is another time of day that carbohydrates should be consumed for recovery. After exercises your body begins the process of restoring homeostasis, part of this process includes restoring glycogen stores that where used during the sweat session. If you are a competitive athlete who works out in the morning it is advised to replenish at the conclusion of your activities. Now that you understand the fundamentals let’s dive in to how simple this style of eating really is.
A Typical Day
Here is a typical carb cycling day for me:
Breakfast: 2 eggs fried in coconut oil with non starchy veggies of choice, I love tomatoes, mushrooms and green onions but you can use any non starchy vegetables that you enjoy.
Lunch: A large salad made with romaine or baby spinach topped with more veggies and a choice of protein. for the protein I will typically go with tuna, salmon, eggs, or beans. (note: beans will also have those good carbohydrates that you want at lunch.)
Dinner: Protein + Veggies+ Starch. This is where I have the most variety in my day. It can be stir fried vegetables with tofu and brown rice, home made tacos on corn tortillas with lots of fresh pico, beans, rice, and veggies, or a whole host of other recipes that meets this general guideline.
Snacks: Fruit + Nuts. While fruits are higher in carbohydrates, the fact that they are paired with nuts, which are high in fat and protein, should keep your blood sugar levels fairly stable. I personally have found that this combination is easy, and works well for me.
Try this adding these Basic Black Bean to your evening meal for a tasty complex carb
Why Carb Cycle
If you are having trouble losing weight despite eating healthy carb cycling might just resolve some of the issues you are having. I have found that when I implement carb cycling I feel full with less food and have sustained energy through out the day. I also have found that in combination with a health whole food diet and exercise that lose weight easily and without sacrificing comfort or nutrients. The way you eat should be enjoyable and sustainable. I love carb cycling because nutrient timing makes sense, it’s not about villainizing an essential nutrient, it as about making everything in your healthy lifestyle come together to provides the results you are looking for.
Want More Information?
If you think that you have adrenal fatigue or would like to dive deeper in to how to heal your balance your hormones I would highly recommend picking up Dr.Alan Christianson book “The Adrenal Reset Diet.” It is an enjoy able read with lot’s of great information that is simple to implement in your everyday life.
I want to challenge you to try carb cycling for one week. That’s all it takes to notice a difference. Have you tried carb cycling? What did you think?
*This post does contain affiliate links, this means that if you do make a purchase through one of these links I make a small commission at no cost to you. As always all opinions and recommendations made in this post are my own.*