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Carb Cycling: If It Were Only That Simple

December 27, 2011

There has been a lot of coverage on carb cycling in the media lately. Most recently, a new study reported that just two days a week of low-carb eating was more effective at reducing weight and lowering blood levels of insulin, and helping to prevent breast cancer and other diseases, than a standard, daily calorie-restricted, Mediterranean diet. Although this study is valid, taking your body in and out of your optimal fat-burning zone (i.e. the Atkins Edge) is not the best choice for long-term weight loss or success on Atkins. By continuing to cycle on and off carbohydrates (and exceeding your carbohydrate tolerance on a regular basis), you will never have the control that staying right at or below your carbohydrate balance gives you.

You have heard me talk about carbs being the metabolic bully that wreaks all sorts of havoc within your body. Here’s why: In the simplest terms, the metabolic bully rears is ugly head when you exceed your tolerance for carbohydrates. Exactly why that happens and what the results are more complicated, but we’ll take it step by step. As you know, our bodies run on two sources of energy: fat and carbohydrates. But our default fuel is always carbs. That’s because we have very limited storage space in our body for glucose (sugar), to which carbs quickly convert. Fat, which is actually a more efficient and even fuel, is our backup fuel, in part because we have an almost limitless ability to store fat. By the way, the two sources of fuel are Mother Nature’s ingenious way to protect humankind and other animals. (Polar bears live off their body fat while hibernating.) Body fat was our insurance policy during times of famine or seasonal food scarcity.Eating too many carbs blocks your body’s ability to burn fat, so as long as you eat this way (even if it’s just five days a week or every two days), you rarely tap into your body’s fat stores. Instead, they remain permanently attached to your hips, thighs, upper arms, butt and all the other well-upholstered parts of your body. The over consumption of carbs acts like a roadblock, standing in the way of fat burning, just as that schoolyard bully blocked your access to the swings or slide all those many years ago. And not only are you unable to lose weight without drastically cutting back on calories, (which leaves you perpetually hungry and vulnerable to falling of the wagon), you’re also plagued with a whole set of side effects from the blood sugar rollercoaster: the uneven energy level, feeling bloated, excessive hunger, cravings for carb foods and inability to concentrate.But when you control your carb intake consistently every day, as you do on the Atkins Diet, you encourage your body to burn primarily fat for energy, and you can lose weight and ultimately maintain your healthy new weight—all while feeling pleasantly satisfied by your meals. Just as calling an over-reliance on carbs a metabolic bully makes it easier to understand, we have a term to refer to a primarily fat-burning metabolism: the Atkins Edge. It’s your ally against the metabolic bully, moderating your appetite, reducing or eliminating cravings and giving you a steady stream of energy—all day long. Constantly going on and off carbs, and pushing the limits of your carb balance on a weekly basis will never let you achieve the Atkins Edge. Sure, you may lose some weight along the way, but you will always be at risk of tipping the scales (literally) in the opposite direction of what you had hoped for.

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What has been your experience with carb cycling versus following Atkins exactly as it is recommended in The New Atkins for a New You? I’d love to hear! Please share your thoughts with the Atkins Community and also let me know what you’d like to hear about in the future.

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