What the Heck Is “Carb Cycling”?



The question in the headline of this post was the exact question that ran through my head when I heard tell of a segment on Action News about something called Carb Cycling. I wondered, first, if it was a new diet for the (non-doping) Lance Armstrongs of the world. But when I clicked and saw a segment featuring Unite Fitness veep and occasional Be Well Philly contributor Juliet Burgh, I knew I had it all wrong.

Turns out, carb cycling is a diet technique typically employed by bodybuilders that’s been gaining mainstream momentum lately. It’s a high-carb/low-carb mash-up diet that sort of takes the whole muscle confusion idea to your dieting efforts: By fluctuating between high- and low-carb days, carb cyclers say, you’re able to “trick” your metabolism into torching calories at an extremely high rate—resulting, obviously, in major wait loss.

Listen to this explanation from ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss trainer and carb cycling apologist Chris Powell: “On high-carb days you’re stocking your calorie-burning furnace so that on low-carb days your furnace burns fat, and lots of it! This pattern tricks your metabolism into burning a lot of calories, even on those low-carb days. It’s an amazing and well-proven process.”

In the local news segment below, Burgh says following the diet allowed her to shed five pounds in a week—that’s a lot, considering Burgh was in pretty darn good shape to begin with. It should be noted, however, that she also says she quit the diet because the extremes in carb intake left her feeling mighty cranky.

Any carb cyclers out there want to chime in on the diet? I’d be curious to hear about why you like it, and how it works for you. Everyone else can go read up on how the diet works—as well as specific week-to-week plans of action if you want to try it—right here.

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