I will let you in on a little secret:
Paleo diets can work
Low carb diets can work
Flexible diets can work
Intermittent fasting can work
High carb diets can work
Just eating food can also work
Juicing... meh, stick with one of the above
I'm not being facetious here. The point is, most diets can work. When implemented with consistency, that is. But by that same token they can fail miserably if you're not goal focused and apply them slapdash in between binges.
But that's not why you're here. You're here because you want to know which one is the most effective. There is one. And it's not in that list.
But more on that in a moment.
First, some house keeping: the key to fat loss is being in a calorie deficit. Simple, right? Not exactly. Men in particular are prone to unwittingly being in a calorie surplus and then wondering why they don't have abs like Brad Pitt. Monitor your intake. Rule one.
Now, to actually getting abs like Brad Pitt.
If you're looking to maximise your fat loss while holding on to as much muscle as possible (beach body, anyone?) you should try out my favourite diet system - the one I use with all my clients, be they action movie stars or men on my online training programme
It's called carb cycling. And here's how it can work for you.
Carb cycling is one of those terms that gets as many articles written promoting it as it does deriding it, although they are usually from people who either don't fully understand it or aren't using it as intended. It's not a new thing. But it's a misunderstood concept to the point that using it correctly is very new indeed.
The fact is carb cycling is a method I have utilised with my clients for as long as I can remember. It's been an incredibly useful tool in effective diet planning for decades and I swear by it. Name a movie for which I've trained the leading cast, and I can guarantee I've had them all carb cycling. Without it, we wouldn't have achieved half the impact during all those shirtless scenes.
In fact, if Marvel ever wrote a comic based around Wolverine's body composition, he'd definitely be a carb cycler. Hell, Hugh was.
So, how is it done? Well, the basic principle of carb cycling is simple. Over the course of a week you have days with high, medium and low carbohydrate intake. That sounds easy, and it is, but you have to coincide your higher carb days with heavier gym sessions and low carb days with either rest days or low intensity training. Whatever the day, you also require a high protein intake to help muscle growth.
It's this cycling of carbs that leads to fat loss and muscle growth. As much as you're cycling your carbs, you are also cycling your fat intake. It should be low when your carb intake is at its highest, and high on days when your carb intake is low.
All of this carb cycling gives your body a number of physical and biological benefits, namely:
- Improved insulin sensitivity.
- Improved metabolism.
- Improved muscle gain
- Improved fat burning
- Why It Works
Despite what we so often read, carbs aren't necessarily kryptonite to the body you want. It's true that there are no essential carbohydrates, unlike essential fats and amino acids, but they do help to boost metabolism (and of course they tend to be delicious). If your timing is off, however, and calories are too high, carbs can easily be stored as fat. But not any longer. We're going to use them to our advantage.
It might sound like carb cycling is purely focused on what you eat, which it is to a point, but it's what's happening to your body internally that gives you the edge. High carb days are all about refuelling your muscles' glycogen levels and flooding your body with insulin. This process has anti-catabolic efforts, reducing muscle loss. Insulin inhibits muscle breakdown, which is perfect for those days when you're doing your toughest, most intense workouts on high carb days.
On moderate (or medium) carb intake days, you are giving your muscles just enough carbs to maintain their glycogen stores, but creating a biological environment for improved insulin sensitivity and consequently fat loss.
For days when you're eating food with low carbohydrate properties, this is when you're going to be in the lowest calorie situation too. By only doing low intensity workouts, or having a rest day completely, in a way, you are fooling your body into burning fat at an accelerated rate by keeping the insulin levels low. When it comes to fat loss, this is the part of the process where it really begins to work.
But what the hell do I eat?
Good question. These are examples only and without the macro breakdown the practical application is limited but they show how the principles can be implemented. Tuck in.
Example High Carb Meals
Porridge with whey protein and almonds
Sweet potato with chicken and broccoli
Quinoa with salmon, pine nuts and asparagus
Example Medium Carb Meals
Rye bread with scrambled eggs, spinach
Brown rice with chicken and broccoli
Avocado and prawns with rocket and tomato
Example Low Carb Meals
Smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, avocado and asparagus
Chicken and cashew stir fry with peppers, broccoli and spring onion
Tuna with avocado and green beans
Don't think that healthy food should be boring! Use these healthy flavouring options to keep your taste buds happy and your willpower high
Lemon, Lime, Fresh or dry herbs, chilli, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, pepper, curry powder,
What Else Do I Need To Know?
If you think carb cycling might be something you want to try, there are a couple of other things you need to know.
Carb cycling works well for both fat loss and muscle gain. For fat loss as primary goal you should be in an overall calorie deficit. For muscle gain as a primary goal you should be in a calorie surplus
As I touched upon earlier, keep your protein intake high; it's essential for maintaining muscle in a calorie deficit.
Don't be afraid of fats, but use them wisely. Eating food with higher fat content on your non-training days is ideal.
Follow these simple rules and you'll see the benefit of carb cycling in no time.
The hardest part of any training schedule is following a food plan accurately. I always suggest having a custom food plan designed to ensure you are eating for your goals and not against them.
If you want a fully customised plan from me, which I will create based on your individual physiology, then you can get one here. I'd love to have you on board.
If you need any help crating the perfectly balanced training plan or want someone to create a delicious menu that will have you looking and feeling amazing take a look at my custom plans
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