Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Low Carb/High Carb? What does it all mean?!

Hello lovely people. Today is day two of working 10 hours. I also decided to take today as my rest day. I haven’t taken a rest day in about a week and a half. Plus, Borderlands 2 comes out today and my boyfriend and I are planning a serious butt-kicking session tonight. We are such nerds, I love it J  I am also thinking that I need to add another rest day as well throughout the week. It is really important to rest to allow your muscles to recoup from training, especially if you are lifting weights. I need to start practicing this more. Plus, I really need to put on some weight so another rest day may be what I need to help add some lean muscle weight! I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes and of course keep you all updated. Also, a huge shout-out to one of the most lovely and amazing people I know: Enid (@beenid on Instagram)! Today is her birthday and she is one amazing little lady. Love you girl! <3

On to the topic of the day! Since today is my rest day, I am doing a low carb day. Every time I post about high or low carb days on my Instagram, I get questions regarding what it means and why I do it. I am going to take some time to explain what high/moderate/low carb days mean for me and why I believe they work. This is also known as carb cycling, and it works for a lot of people who are training to build muscle.

First thing I am going to explain is low carbohydrate days. Like I said above, since today is my rest day I am going low carb. Why, though? Why does carb intake have anything to do with rest days or lifting/active days? Well, carbohydrates are our bodies’ source of energy and fuel. If you are not training, there is really no reason why you need to eat a bunch of carbohydrates, at least not from grains. Now, when I say I go low carb on rest days, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have them at all! For example, vegetables, beans, and fruits have good carbs and are crucial in a healthy diet. I never skimp on those items, especially on low carb days. When I am talking about cutting down on carbs, I mean not eating oatmeal, breads, pastas, rice, ect. If I do need an energy boost the morning of a low carb day, I may have some oatmeal (whole grain rolled oats, not instant, or oat bran) so I am not super sluggish throughout my work day. An example of a breakfast that I eat on a low carb day is as follows:
This morning I had 4 egg whites, ½ tbsp hemp hearts, 1/3 of a roma tomato, scallions, kale, spinach, mild Italian turkey sausage, and some crushed red pepper flakes on a low carb high fiber tortilla from La Tortilla Factory. These tortillas have 10 grams of carbs, but 7 grams of dietary fiber leaving only 3 active carbs.

Eating a lot of protein in the morning and throughout the day on low carbohydrate days will help curb cravings and make you feel fuller longer. I also increase my amount of fat intake on low carb days to compensate. That means I eat more nuts, nut butter, and seeds. Avocado also has a high amount of healthy fat. Just a warning: On low carb days I always find myself hungrier than normal. I will eat, and then about 20-30 minutes later my stomach will be growling again. Just be aware that that may happen and to try not to overeat. If you need to eat more, eat more veggies or nuts.

Overall, the idea of low carb days may seem really difficult at first, but it isn’t once you find recipe substitutions that you can use on these days. Some of my favorite things to eat on low carb days are spaghetti squash, baked egg plant chicken parmesan, salads, chicken and broccoli with peanut sauce, veggie and lean meat stir-fries, egg scrambles, cauliflower rice, roasted veggies, tilapia with veggies, and cauliflower crust pizza. There are so many delicious low carb options out there. Look up some recipes and get ideas!

Moderate carb days are just what they sound like: You can have some carbs, but not going crazy. I try to stay around 150 grams on moderate days. Usually how I go about moderate days is I eat some oatmeal, French toast, or bread pudding in the morning and from then on my carbs will taper off throughout the day. I may have a sandwich or some brown rice for lunch. These days I would work biceps, chest, triceps, abs, glutes, or shoulders. Or even a combination of two of those groups. These muscle groups aren’t very major and don’t require me to use a whole lot of extra energy while lifting.

High carb days are the best! My favorite. I am totally a carb junky. On these days I will eat 150 grams plus. You will need a lot of energy for the muscle groups you are working on high carb days. Typically high carb days are my leg days and days where I work my back paired with other muscle groups like shoulders and biceps. I go hard on these days. Also, if you are going to have a scheduled cheat, leg day is one of the best to do them I have found. I try to do my cheat right after I leave the gym so that the window of time where your muscles absorb the sugar and carbs you intake is perfectly timed. However, remember that cheats do not mean binges! Cheat meals, not cheat days. Try to stick to the appetizer, main course, dessert format of a cheat and eat healthy up to and after the cheat meal. Some people cheat once a week, I opt to cheat once or twice a month. I just really feel no desire to cheat most of the time because I enjoy the foods I eat. But, when the urge strikes me I will allow it, but I time it to be on a heavy lifting day. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Carbs are also essential components to pre and post workout meals. On moderate and high carb days, make sure to ingest some fast absorbing carbs paired with protein about an hour before you workout. A good example would be some protein pancakes, a rice cake with banana and Greek yogurt with protein powder mixed in, and egg white oats with nut butter. Post workout should be something like a whey protein shake, greek yourt with protein powder mixed in with some granola, sweet potato with greek yogurt and protein powder, a Quest bar, a banana with a rice cake and fat free cottage cheese, ect. Both pre and post should include protein and carbs to help feed and restore muscles. I try to stay away from eating fats in post-workout meals.

My Ideal Macros:
Low: 20% carbs, 30% fat, 50% protein
Moderate: 35% carbs, 25% fat, 40% protein
High:  50% carbs, 20% fat, 30% protein

Above are the percentages that I strive for in my macronutrients. They are never right on, so there is always wiggle room. These are just what my percentages would be if they were right on for those days. Not everyone has the same needs, so please pay attention to your bodies and figure out what works for you. Another factor to keep in mind is to be aware of your artificial sugar and sodium intakes. These also affect your body more than you may think. If I eat too much sodium, I bloat and my abs are less visible. If I eat too much sugar, my veins pop out and I will also have some bloating. Your food is very important; it is also your fuel. So feed your body right and indulge in small amounts, TREAT YO SELF once in a while ;) Keep it fun and never stop trying new things!

Since beginning to pay more attention to my carb intake, I have noticed more definition in my muscles. I have read many sources, as well as seeing a lot of people, that say the carb cycling method has really worked well for them. Once you get used to it, it really isn’t difficult. Just remember to eat clean and healthy and make time for the gym no matter what you have to do. You will reach your health and fitness goals as long as you do not give up and slack off. We are in this together as a big fitness and health family. Love you guys and hope that this post was helpful and somewhat informative.


  1. I was JUST doing research on this the other day...I'm still trying to lose a tiny bit of fat around my mid section and build lean muscle as well. I understand that everyone is different, I'm just scared doing a high carb day...kinda freaks me out!

  2. Awesome post, girlfriend! I have been carb cycling past three-ish weeks but am not sure my macros are exactly right. It's great to see an example of someone else's... I've really been alternating between low and moderate carb days... Like the lovely lady above I've been scared to up my carbs on my high days. I am trying to lose a thin but stubborn as hell layer of water/fat over my lower abs. I wonder if I'd see more definition if I upped carb intake. Seems counterintuitive. Think I need to try it but I'm nerve... Haha is that silly? Thanks again, sunshine, your posts are wonderful and I love your attitude! XO

  3. You packed tons of great info. Thanks so much!