I don’t want to call this post a diet survival kit, but ultimately my goal is to eat healthy for the rest of my life. However, as most of us know, life gets in the way sometimes and we fall off the wagon. I’m going to admit it right now. The last few weeks have been stressful, and I lost control of my eating habits. Now this isn’t something to fret over. Especially true with carb cycling, we can always start fresh the next day.
Today I started a new carb cycle. Sundays are always good days for me because I usually feel refreshed. I sleep in. I get to do my chores, which helps put my mind at ease. Fridge and pantry are usually stocked for the week. I recollect myself so I can tackle another crazy week.
So that being said, I actually have time to blog today! (Hip hip hooray!)
I’ve been meaning to put together this post for a while. I want to share my tips for carb cycling but first, I’m going to share part of Chris Powell’s blog post “Carb Cycling 101“:
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is an eating plan with alternating high-carb and low-carb days. It’s that simple. It also has built-in reward days or reward meals (depending on the plan you’re following), so you can still eat your favorite foods on a regular basis. Sounds pretty much perfect, right? You can eat healthy foods, enjoy foods you love, and still lose weight.
While each plan has a different mix of high-carb and low-carb days, each day works basically the same:
- Eat five meals—no more, no less.
- Eat a high-carb breakfast that includes both protein and carbs within 30 minutes of waking.
- Eat your remaining 4 meals—either high-carb or low-carb, depending on the plan you’re following—every 3 hours.
- Choose approved foods (Sign up here to receive a FREE printable food guide!)
- Drink a gallon of water.
How does it work?
In order to lose weight, our bodies need the right combination of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats. Here’s why:
- Protein builds and maintains muscles and these muscles burn calories like an inferno. Protein also breaks down more slowly than carbs and fat, which burns even more calories and helps you feel fuller longer.
- Carbs are the preferred fuel source for your muscles and organs, and they come in healthy versions (vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes), and not-so-healthy versions (cakes, cookies, soda, doughnuts, candy, and many processed foods). Healthy carbs are also crucial for burning calories, and since they break down more slowly than those not-so-healthy carbs, they keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady, and they also keep your calorie-burning furnace hot so it burns more calories!
- Healthy fats (unsaturated fats) eaten in moderation help the development and function of your eyes and brain and help prevent heart disease, stroke, depression, and arthritis. Healthy fats also help keep your energy levels steady and keep you from feeling hungry.
So why do we alternate high-carb and low-carb days in carb cycling? 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.
On high carb days, carb cycling seems so easy! I give in to my cravings, like chocolate or pizza. But on low carb days, my mind likes to play tricks on me. I find that if I don’t have my tools ready, I give in more easily.
Here are a few tips to help you stay on track on those low carb days:
- Fill up on breakfast. This is the only time you’ll be eating carbs, so treat yourself to a filling healthy breakfast with protein and carbs. I wouldn’t do only a protein shake since that probably won’t keep you feeling full. The protein shake I buy isn’t meant to be a used to replace meals, so be sure to read the fine print. I personally will eat an egg, a slice of toast, some fruit, and maybe another meat on low-carb days.
- Buy bags of frozen vegetables. Sure, we’d all love to eat fresh vegetables, but the reality is that we don’t always have the time to prepare them. Or, you may be like me and buy too many at once and they may go bad before I get to eat them. Boo! So, I go to the frozen aisle (look away from the desserts) and I buy two big bags of mixed vegetables. One of the bags I buy has broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. The other will usually vary, depending on how I feel. But these bags have saved me so many times, which leads me to my next point…
- Steam lots of vegetables. You can do this anytime. I have a cheap vegetable steamer I bought at the grocery store a few years ago. In fact, I actually broke mine. It’s missing one of the little legs, but hey it still works! This is probably the easiest way to prepare vegetables. I always steam more vegetables than what I’ll eat so that I can save the left overs for my next meal. And if you have a variety of frozen vegetables, you can always switch up the varieties so you don’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over.
- Prepare your snacks. This may be the most important one that I will admit that I’m very bad at. Before I started writing this post, I washed and cut my celery into smaller, almost bite-sized pieces, and put them in one container. Then I got a smaller container and put some of the celery with some baby carrots. Then I got an even smaller container and put two spoonfuls of almond butter. Tadah! My low-carb snacks to take to work! Other snacks I’ve prepared are almonds and low-fat cheese sticks. I’m probably going to put aside some steamed veggies for a snack too. Believe me, when you sit next to somebody who keeps a stash of chocolates at her desk to share with everybody, you need to have your snacks as readily available. You may still feel that temptation, but at least you can munch on a carrot and tell yourself that it’s the better choice. Your chocolate craving will soon pass.
- Drink lots of water. We all know this, but a lot of us still don’t do it. I think it was on Chris Powell’s show Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition now renamed to Extreme Weight Loss that drinking warm (or room-temperature) water helps you feel full while drinking cold water hydrates you faster. Don’t quote me on that. I can’t find any articles confirming that. Here’s a link to an article on Livestrong that provides some additional insight on the importance of drinking water for weight loss.
- Think about why you’re carb cycling. Think about the pounds you want to lose. Imagine yourself thinner. Tell yourself you can eat that thing you’re craving tomorrow. Sometimes it’s very hard. Our minds play tricks on us. Your coworkers may tell you, “Come on, it’s just ONE slice of cake.” Your friends and family may not be supportive. Just take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. If you remind yourself of the reasons you’ve decided to do this, you can overcome those temptations.