All About Carb Cycling + the Carb Cycles in The Transform App
While there are a LOT of different (and effective) ways to eat to lose weight, here at The Transform App, we have found the greatest success across the board for transforming the body when we utilize an approach called Carb Cycling.
When you look at other approaches, they tend to be skewed toward one end of the spectrum: All high carb/low fat, or all low carb/high fat, or even extremes such as keto, etc. And while these plans can be effective for certain body types and goals, how do you know which one will work best for YOU?
Because we are all incredibly unique both genetically and emotionally, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing and following a nutrition program. Carb cycling is a method that brilliantly spans the spectrum from a higher carb/lower fat approach through a lower carb/higher fat approach and helps you find your own “sweet spot” where you feel and look your best AND you achieve the greatest results.
In our carb cycling plans…
- You can choose a carb cycle that has multiple high carb days followed by one or two low carb days, or you can do 6 low carb days followed by a high carb day, and every option in between.
- You can choose a cycle that allows you to enjoy a big reward meal every other day to stricter options that will yield faster results.
No matter which option works best for you, YOU control the throttle, which gives you an incredible sense of control over your weight and body composition for the first time.
The Science Behind Carb Cycling
In order for you to better understand Carb Cycling and to know if it’s the right choice for you and your goals, let’s dive into the science behind Carb Cycling: Calories, High Carb Days, Low Carb Days, Breakfasts + Dinners, and Reset Days.
Once you onboard the app with your personal information, the app will automatically adjust ALL the calorie ranges specifically for your body goals, whether it’s for weight loss, maintenance, or weight (muscle) gain.
For example, if you choose weight loss, the app will create a cycle at an overall calorie deficit, which means that your body will spend more time breaking down fat stores (called mobilizing) and using them for energy (called oxidation). If you choose to gain weight, the app will put you at a calorie surplus to promote muscle growth, and if maintenance is your goal, the app will keep your calories even with your daily metabolic output.
Going back to the deficit for weight loss: As long as the calorie deficit is maintained, the laws of physics remain on your side and will always work. When you consume less energy than your body burns, you lose weight. It really is that simple. Even on high carb days, the total of your meals is designed to result in a calorie deficit so you will consistently lose weight. On low carb days, the fat mobilization is turbocharged even more.
High Carb Days
On High Carb Days, we consume meals that are higher in carbohydrates and lower in fats. Carbs contribute to weight loss in a multitude of ways, and here’s the how and why of how high carb days work:
- Carbohydrates are like a “high-octane” fuel source for your brain, your muscles, and the rest of the organs of your body. As they are broken down into sugars in the blood stream, your body releases a powerful hormone called insulin to drive everything in your bloodstream into your cells. Insulin has gotten a bad rap over the years, but it plays an extremely powerful role in the body that, when manipulated correctly, can really begin to sculpt and fuel your body for maximum performance and a lean and muscular composition.
- Carbs in the diet are directly linked to more effective thyroid conversion in the liver, keeping your metabolic rate up. Chronic low carb diets keep fatty acids elevated in the bloodstream, blunting thyroid conversion in the liver, ultimately resulting in a metabolic slowdown. So, insulin from the high carb days clears the fatty acids out of the bloodstream for more efficient thyroid conversion and a higher metabolic rate.
- Insulin from high carb days drives the sugar into your muscles (where it is called glycogen), yielding greater intensity and effort during workouts, which then results in a greater metabolic afterburn (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) and a stronger stimulus for muscle development and growth.
- Finally, insulin drives more protein (amino acids) into your muscles for maintenance and growth, and muscle is the most active living tissue on the body. The more muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate, and the more calories our body burns at rest. The more calories we burn, the faster we can lose body fat.
Low Carb Days
Low carb days are filled with foods higher in fat and lower in carbohydrates. While it might not make sense that eating foods higher in fat can help us achieve our transformation goals, it really does work. Let’s explain…
- Reducing carbs on low carb days results in a reduction of glucose in the bloodstream. This triggers the pancreas to release a hormone called glucagon, which stimulates the liver to release stored glucose into the bloodstream, which “drains” the liver glucose stores, creating a buffer for when we eat carbs again!
- The cool part is that when the glucagon is released, it also stimulates the triglycerides in your fat stores to break apart into fatty acids because your body isn’t getting enough glucose anymore, so it needs to get energy from somewhere else. The fatty acids released into the bloodstream are then shuttled into your muscles and oxidized. The more muscles you move on these days, like with cardio accelerators, the more fat will be mobilized into the bloodstream to be burned. This is the essence of burning fat! You may notice that on low carb days, your calorie intake is even slightly lower than the high carb days. We strategically did this to create the biggest deficit possible while your body is in such a prime state to burn body fat. So, as we cycle carbs, we are also strategically cycling calories for a more powerful effect.
- Low carb days have a massive impact on the insulin sensitivity of the cells. When our cells aren’t exposed to chronic high levels of glucose, they become more insulin sensitive—they just don’t know when they are going to get glucose again, so they prepare themselves for it. This is extremely beneficial for when you DO introduce carbs since their uptake into the muscle cells will be much more efficient and effective, putting the glucose where we want it to go—not getting shut out of the cells to be shuttled to the liver and turned into a triglyceride.
- Low carb days are also designed to help remove any excess water retention and bloating in the body. Carbs are like magnets for water: One part carbohydrate in the system holds three parts water. For example, 1 pound of carbs (glucose in the bloodstream or glycogen in the liver and muscles) in the body results in 3 pounds of water retained. Therefore, removing sugary and starchy carbs from the diet for two days results in a natural release of water, revealing a truer weight on the scale.
Breakfasts + Dinners
You’ll find that our breakfast meals are always “balanced” in macros between protein, carbs, and fats. We do this for a couple of reasons:
- The carbohydrates are designed to replace liver glycogen lost during the overnight fast (glycogen was used to fuel the heartbeat and diaphragm during sleep). Since the liver is one of the main controlling organs of the body, filling up its store of glycogen puts the body into a “fed” state, which essentially signals the body to “wake up” and increase metabolic processes.
- The fats are designed to slow digestion, keeping you fuller well into the morning and just in time for your midmorning snack (meal 2).
You will also find that in many of our programs the dinners are all low carb meals. Here’s why:
- While there are still carbs included in the form of fibrous vegetables (leafy greens or cruciferous veggies), all sugars and starches are greatly reduced. This is to prevent a rise in blood sugar in the evening, which will trigger an insulin response, putting the body into an anabolic state and driving the nutrients flowing in the bloodstream into the cells. Instead, by pulling starchy and sugary carbs, the body is more likely to have a very minor insulin response, remaining in a catabolic state into the overnight fast, which keeps your body mobilizing (breaking down) and oxidizing fat (burning) well into the night…when the body experiences a metabolic slowdown. Basically, when done right, you don’t store fat at night this way—you actually burn it while you are sleeping!
Built into most of our programs is something we call a “Reset Day” on the 7th day of every week. On your Reset Day, you will weigh yourself in the morning, then enjoy one or more reward meals throughout the day.
- Physiologically, the increase in calories boosts metabolism significantly.
- Psychologically, the reset day gives us something to look forward to so we don’t feel deprived on this journey. This is your chance to satisfy any cravings you may have, relieving any feelings of restriction.
On reset days, you eat high carb meals and snacks, or you can simply eat MORE of any healthier recipes—it’s up to you. But more calories are a MUST on these days to help increase your metabolic rate and your thermic effect of feeding. This way, we can keep metabolic rate higher for a more effective deficit for weight loss throughout the week!
Now that we’ve got the science of Carb Cycling out of the way, let’s dive into the nine different nutrition programs offered in The Transform App.
A Breakdown of the Nine Nutrition Programs in The Transform App
Slingshot Cycle: A consistent high carb plan with a weekly Reset Day.
This plan is popular and helpful whenever you hit a plateau or after following the same plan for an extended length of time. The goal of this plan is to “slingshot” you into increased results. Something to keep in mind: Each body can respond differently to the slingshot program, and that’s part of transformation: Figuring out what works and what doesn’t! But if your progress has stalled, or you’re experiencing plan fatigue, this program might just be the ticket to help you progress closer to your goal.
Fit Cycle: A high carb plan with intermittent low carb days and a weekly Reset Day.
If you’ve got athletic and/or fitness goals, then this cycle could be the one for you, especially if your goal involves training for long periods of time. This cycle not only helps eliminate fat from your body, but it also supplies your body with the fuel it needs to nail your goals.
Easy Cycle: A plan with Reset Meals every other day for a flexible lifestyle.
If you’re new to carb cycling, if you’re struggling with another carb cycle, or if you’re having a really hard time going without your favorite foods that might not fit into a low or high carb day, then this cycle might work for you. This cycle is like the happy medium of carb cycling: You’ll still have a low carb day every other day, and on your Reset days, you can incorporate more of your favorite meals into your plan. That’s a win-win! With this plan, you might not lose fat or reach your transformation goal as quickly, but we’re going for sustainability here, not a quick fix.
Extreme Cycle: A plan with multiple high carb days followed by 2 low carb days and a Reset Day.
*This is the plan contestants followed on Extreme Weight Loss.
With four consecutive high carb days, it’s easier to get into a meal planning routine and have the fuel your body needs for your workouts. The following two low carb days flip your fat loss into turbo mode and maximum fat burn, and the last day of the week—your Reset Day—not only boosts your metabolic rate but also allows you to eat those foods you’ve been craving.
Classic Cycle: A traditional carb cycle plan with alternating high and low carb days with a weekly Reset Day.
The Classic Cycle is our original carb cycle, and it allows you to lose weight at a consistent pace and learn how to understand how your body responds to each type of day—low and high carb. And if you miss carbs on low carb days or fats on high carb days, the every-other-day low and high carb schedule might just be the thing for you.
Turbo Cycle: A lower carb plan with intermittent high carb days and a weekly Reset Day.
If you’re wanting to lose those extra pounds quickly, then the Turbo Cycle might be right for you. With the two low carb days in a row followed by a high carb day, you’ll burn fat two days in a row before your body is restoked by your high carb day.
Ultra Cycle: An extremely low carb plan with a single high carb and Reset Day each week.
If low carb days work best for you, then you might want to give the Ultra Cycle a try. With 3 low carb days, then a high carb day, followed by 2 low carb days before your weekly Reset Day, this cycle gives you the low carb meals your body craves while still supplying it with the necessary carbs for optimal health.
Keto Cycle: A modified ketogenic program for special dietary and lifestyle needs. This program offers low carb days every day with no Reset Day or Reset Meals.
If a keto nutrition-based plan has worked for you in the past, or if you have dietary needs that are more ketogenic-friendly, then the Keto Cycle, with 7 days of low carb days, might be the cycle you need to achieve your goals. This cycle is loaded with protein and healthy fats with the lower carb carbohydrates that can contribute to your ideal health while still allowing you to achieve your goals.
Custom Plan: If none of the carb cycles will work for you and your goals, or if you enjoy following a custom macros plan, you can create your own custom macro plan within the app. Since the 560+ meals in the app are customized to our carb cycles, the meals you choose might not fit into your custom plan exactly, so that’s something to keep in mind.
If you’re wanting to follow a custom macros plan but you’re not quite sure how to put your custom plan together, Get our Macro Counting 101 eBook for FREE when you sign up for the app!
No matter your nutrition plan needs, we’ve got you covered with our Carb Cycling plans in The Transform App. And remember, transformation is a learning process, and since it can take our bodies a few weeks to adjust to a new nutrition plan, give a carb cycle those few weeks, and if things aren’t working, change carb cycles. You are in control!