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I'm looking to lose some of the belly fat that I'd accumulated while doing Starting Strength (SS) for the last 6-7 months. At the same time, I don't want to lose the strength that I've on the bar. From what I see after googling, it seems like Carb Cycling (having a combination of High/low/No carb days over the entire week) seems to be the answer. However, like most things on the net, the specifics vary widely, and I'm unable to tell a reliable source from one thats not. Hence, I've the following queries that I hope the community can answer - or even better, point me to resources that've worked for you!

  1. What is the typical duration of a carb cycle - I want to get back to making progress on my lifts, and I know that can't be done when I'm losing fat, and in general on a calorie deficit!

  2. What are the most reliable, detailed source of information for the nutrition aspect of Carb cycling? Some sites advocate a High/Mid/Low spread, while others insist on having at least some No Carb days! Also, the definition of "High" vs "Mid" is not entirely consistent!

  3. If my current lifts are as follows: Deadlift => X, Squat => Y, Bench Press => Z (in the same pattern as a SS routine), should I be following the exact same routine with same reps/set and max weight, or should I be expected to drop some sets (how many?) while keeping the work set at same weight and reps?

  4. Anything else I'm not focussing on (that I should take care of) while attempting such a routine!

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1 Answer 1

There are several accepted ways to carb cycle, a discipline that has been in use for a couple decades now. Let's first cover some basics on carb levels:

  • Below 120g/day: ketogenic levels. Ketosis is a useful tool for burning fat, however it does affect your strength levels.
  • 120-130g/day: Minimum levels needed for your brain and thyroid to function normally. The thyroid helps in the process of burning fat.
  • Above 130g/day: Excess carbs are used for replenishing muscle glycogen and for performance in the gym.

Your carb and Calorie levels can be varied throughout the week so that you have them when you need them. The key is to time them so that they are available when you need them. This article by Jordan Syatt helps to shine some light on the subject. In that article there are some important points:

  • Total Calories are the most important item for whether you gain or lose weight
  • Macro nutrient content is the second most important item. I've seen some variation in recommendations here as well, but all of them have protein higher than 1g / pound body weight for fat loss.
  • Timing is the third most important item. You want your carbs 1-3 hours before training so you have the energy all through out training.

As to the minute details and specifics you have a couple choices: try and work it out for yourself or hire a coach. Hiring a coach is expensive, but it is much easier to follow the plan. The biggest thing with working it out yourself is that you monitor your progress often. If things seem to stall, change your approach. For example, instead of carbing up once a week, do it when you lose the next 2 lbs--however long that takes.

Fat loss doesn't happen linearly. You'll find that you'll hit some stalls along the way before you start losing weight again. The biggest challenge you'll have is experimenting with how little of a Calorie deficit you need to lose weight. Going too aggressively will affect your strength.

In regards to the programming aspect:

If you are still making consistent gains with Starting Strength, then don't change anything. You'll be surprised how far you can go. If you are starting to have some misses here and there, it will only get worse as when you start cutting calories.

If that's the case, it might be beneficial to change to a program where you increase weekly such as Texas Method. You'll still be making regular increases, but you'll be able to recover better each training session.

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