12 Things I’ve Learned From Carb-cycling

First of all, I want to make clear that I wasn’t doing carb cycling for the reasons that it is usually promoted for. I didn’t want to ‘restart my metabolism’ or miraculously get leaner extremely quickly or anything like that.

If you’re reading my Instagram captions, you may have noticed that I somehow lost my balance a little bit during September and October and felt like my macros weren’t working for me that well anymore and while on some days, I was eating more fats and struggled to meet my carbs, on other days I was craving a lot of high carb foods. Additionally, I started feeling that my diet is a little bit boring in a way that in those set macros, I couldn’t really eat too much cheese or hummus while also not too many sweet potatoes and beans. That’s why I figured that carb-cycling is the best solution, where I could keep my meals very varied and interesting while I would be also able to test out how the two of them affect my body.

And even though I was only doing this for around three weeks and do not plan on doing it anymore, I feel like it gave me a good reset and reminded me of a few things which are worth sharing.

  1. You don’t need carbs in order to function or have energy
    Obviously, I knew this already but when I’ve tried to go as low as I could for a few days and survived on barely 40g of carbs in a day and I didn’t feel less energized or hungry, this was a little bit eye-opening and just encouraged me to experiment with this further.
  2. Wider food variety 
    With more room for fats on high fat days, I could “afford” to eat a lot more cheese, nuts, avocados and bacon than usual. Similarly, on the high-carb days, I could easily fit a whole tub of healthier ice cream as an evening dessert without compromising on food during the day.
    This, I would view as an advantage because since you have your cravings satisfied at some point, it is easier to stick to your low carb day for example, because you know you can enjoy them later.
    However, I found that this kind of variety requires a lot more planning than usual and can, as a result, be more stressful and complicated than required. In a sense that you’re eating high-fat foods for the most part, but you still have to have bagels and potatoes ready for those two days.
  3. Getting creative with the recipes
    In a proper Susan’s fashion, I wasn’t going to give up sweet breakfast, cookies or bread just because I was doing low carb. That enabled me to get creative with the recipes and have a little more fun with food, creating higher fat cookies and low carb bread. Which is certainly what I’ll continue to do.
  4. Not all snacks need to be sweet
    Normally, I use my baked goods and raw treats as my snacks. But when on low-carb days, I was forced to look for other options. And often, I was surprised how delicious I found them as well. One of my favourites being, some spinach, cucumber, ham and cheese with a few mini sourdough crispbreads.
  5. Back to basics
    A few people will admit this, but when you are on iifym for a while, sometimes you get tempted by what everything you can “fit into your macros” and yeah, it’s great that you can actually create a burger or a pizza for dinner, but by going back to basics for a few weeks, I remembered how much I actually enjoy salads and baked veggies or different cheese. And at the end of the third week of carb-cycling, I couldn’t be bothered with getting bagels or ice cream but I was super-excited about 200g of roasted sweet potatoes for dinner.

  6. Impact on energy levels
    Obviously, high fat meals keep you fuller for longer and that’s why they might be a good choice for breakfast or just the time when you know you will not be able to eat again for a few hours. But also, when my dinners are a little more carby I feel more satisfied and will sleep better. Or when I just want a small pre-workout snack, I prefer when it’s a carby rather than fatty so I feel a small kick in my energy levels.
  7. Extended macro knowledge
    By paying even closer attention to macros for a while, I expanded my knowledge. For example, I’ve learned which kind of nuts are lowest in carbs, which cheese in lowest in carbs and highest in protein, same for different kind of pulses and grains.
  8. Appreciating carbs aka Improved Insulin sensitivity
    By hitting a kind of reset and low-carbing for a few days, let me tell you, I was insanely excited about oats in the morning or an energy ball as a snack. And at the same time, I could feel it a lot more and I didn’t need a lot to satisfy me.

    BUT ALSO
  9. High-fat diet doesn’t suit ME
    If you follow me for a long time, you may remember that I used to be on a strict paleo for a year and was kind of struggling to find a balance and be satisfied, while when I’ve tried to increase my carbs and incorporate some grains and pulses into my diet, I felt so much better. So this is something that I feel like I re-learnt during these few weeks. Because after a couple of weeks when my excitement about bacon and cheese faded away I’ve realised that I’m experiencing the same stuff as three years ago. I felt bloated a lot of the time, “too full” and at the same time not satisfied after my meals. Further, I’ve observed that even though I feel great on higher fat breakfast or snack, if I have all of my meals like that, my digestion does not like it.
    But I just want to stress out that it does not suit me, specifically. Each to their own, you might find that you love high-fat diet and love not feeling hungry or a need to snack. From my observation in general, it is often guys who find it easier to stick to the high-fat diet.

  10. It’s easier to meet your protein goal on a high-fat diet 
    I’ve observed that since on high fat you are kind of forced towards nutritious salads, eggs, meats and cheese, and you can’t really fit very many treats into your intake, it was so much easier to meet my protein goal in a day (I kept my protein intake same throughout).
  11. Really high-carb diet is not for me either
    Don’t be fooled though, even though I eat carbs normally, my carb intake is not actually THAT HIGH. It’s usually just around 180g a day. And suddenly when I had 240g in a day, I kind of didn’t know what to eat without sliding into eating a lot of treats, desserts and bakery products. I think on the last high-carb day, I barely went over 200g and didn’t attempt to do more.
  12. High-fat diet is a lot less flexible and less compatible with real life
    After doing iifym for a few years now, I know that I can easily incorporate a beer or even a cinnamon bun into my intake without compromising on other food that much. In a sense, I get seduced by a banana bread in a cafe on the day, I just have a high protein low carb salad for dinner and I know that I’m fine, not really impacting my goals at all.
    Whereas if you’re on a low carb day, you just can’t have those things because it would make the rest of the day very difficult borderline impossible.
    And because I believe that the most important thing about your diet is that you can stick to it without feeling miserable, I found that this kind of restriction for challenging for me mentally. And because I’m all about making your diet sustainable and enjoyable, and also want to eat a doughnut once in a while, I know that this is not something that I want to do for long periods of time. However, it reminded me of the freedom that I usually have in my diet and I now appreciate it a lot more. 

WHAT NOW???

Even though I definitely decided that I’m not going to continue with neither carb cycling or low carbing I’ve just become more and more convinced that as long as you have the calories and protein the same, your carb/fat ratio actually doesn’t matter that much and depends largely on your preference and foods that you genuinely enjoy.

And that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop trying to fit everything exactly into my macros and make my diet more flexible. And I’d rather overstep my fats on the day if I’m craving oily fish or cheese for dinner rather than eating something else just to meet my macros. Keeping the calories and protein the same and adjusting the rest depending on what am I doing on that day, what time I’m training, what life throws at me, what am I craving and what’s in my fridge. 

Making my diet even more compatible with life, cause that’s what I’m all about. 

Listen to your cravings, 

that’s my message of the day.

Sunshine Susan

xxx

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