2

votes

How does carb cycling work? Is it safe long term?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 09, 2013 at 12:29 AM

Carb cycling seems to work amazing for reaching a very low body fat percentage, but I can't find any convincing arguments for how it might work, and if it might be a healthy thing to do long term. Any ideas?

I initially lost 50lbs going very low carb paleo (10-40g/day carbs), and was able to maintain that increasing carb intake to ~150g/day with safe starches. With regular paleo I was weight stable probably around 17% bodyfat, but after experimenting with carb cycling (VLC paleo + a weekly very intense carb feed) I'm closer to 11% body fat with high muscle mass (I also do high intensity lifting 4x/week), and look great! I'm worried that I will gain the weight back if I stop carb cycling.

Carb cycling also seems to have radically improved my insulin sensitivity. I had pre-diabetic FBG levels and diabetes-like symptoms pre-paleo, and after years of paleo my FBG was down to 100mg/dL. After a few months of carb cycling it's down to 79mg/dL. It does however reach high levels (150-160mg/dL) within the 2 hours after my weekly carb feed, which is often over 4,000 calories of high carb foods in a single meal. Are these high glucose levels anything to worry about even though they're very brief and occur only weekly? I'd guess my long-term average glucose levels are actually much lower than if I were on regular low carb paleo.

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:16 AM

I found eating plenty of fat with my carb feed will lower the glucose spike, perhaps by lowering the effective GI? In any case, with the carb feeds I never have a 'reactive hypoglycemia' blood sugar crash- something I used to have after every meal pre-paleo.

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:13 AM

Thanks! I did ~30g carbs a day for about 3 years, but that caused much poorer insulin sensitivity, higher fasting blood glucose, and I was weight stable with a much higher body fat percentage than with the carb feeds. I'm starting to think that a regular schedule of low carb with an occasional very high carb 'feed' might actually be better for treating diabetes than consistent low carb.

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:10 AM

Yea, it works for me but I'm just asking if anyone knows how it works out of scientific curiosity. I'm not satisfied just knowing what to do, I want to understand why. I wish you luck in finding something that works for you!

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4 Answers

1
Abbaac70156b876b6b8297a9bf6e2993

on January 09, 2013
at 09:33 PM

I feel as though "carb" refeeding is not exact enough. If you are eating a low GI food or a high GI food makes a difference. What is happening with a refeed is you are restoring glycogen. You can do this safely by eating something that does not spike your blood sugar quickly. Sharp rises and declines to blood sugar is what you need to avoid. Eating a large sweet potato (not loaded with brown sugar) Should be sufficient enough for a refeed, yet not cause dramatic blood sugar spike.

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:16 AM

I found eating plenty of fat with my carb feed will lower the glucose spike, perhaps by lowering the effective GI? In any case, with the carb feeds I never have a 'reactive hypoglycemia' blood sugar crash- something I used to have after every meal pre-paleo.

0
Ae8946707ddebf0f0bfbcfc63276d823

(9402)

on January 24, 2013
at 01:10 AM

I'm sure this book would explain the science behind it:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Carb-Nite-Solution-Physicists/dp/1419613103/

I haven't read it, but from listening to Kiefer on podcasts, I believe it recommends almost exactly what you're doing: low carb all week and a weekly carb re-feed.

0
F299706618ad5d2c014130cb35d07dcf

on January 09, 2013
at 05:04 AM

Dr. Bernstein's book, The Diabetes Solution, talks a lot about a consistent low carb diet being optimal for blood sugar control. He does not recommend carb cycling but it might be worth reading if your interested in the mechanism behind a long term low carb diet. He recommends 30g of carbs a day. Oh and congrats on your success of lowering your blood sugars, that's awesome!

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:13 AM

Thanks! I did ~30g carbs a day for about 3 years, but that caused much poorer insulin sensitivity, higher fasting blood glucose, and I was weight stable with a much higher body fat percentage than with the carb feeds. I'm starting to think that a regular schedule of low carb with an occasional very high carb 'feed' might actually be better for treating diabetes than consistent low carb.

0
1b247b3ca673cb9a5c547c69d490de8f

on January 09, 2013
at 01:42 AM

I wouldn't worry so much. It seems like you found what works for you. You could try reverting slowly if nothing happens. Great if it does you can always Gi back. I have yet to find anything that works for me and I'm running out of options.

5236a3d5d4daf6304da5e50d19a96e56

on January 10, 2013
at 12:10 AM

Yea, it works for me but I'm just asking if anyone knows how it works out of scientific curiosity. I'm not satisfied just knowing what to do, I want to understand why. I wish you luck in finding something that works for you!

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