Carbohydrate Rotation Revamped

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Note from TG:  I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Han shot first I don’t post nearly enough nutrition related topics on this site as I should.

Truth be told my approach to nutrition is simple, self explanatory, and mirrors that of the Jen Sinkler school of thought.  Which is: don’t eat like an a**hole.

I don’t think many fitness professionals will disagree with me when I say that the thing that serves as the biggest bottleneck preventing many people from seeing the results they’re after is their nutrition.

People have a habit of making things waaaaay more complicated than they have to be. I’m always perplexed when someone asks me my opinion on macronutrient timing, intermittent fasting or, I don’t know, whether or not I feel drinking green tea every two hours mixed with deer antler powder (and a drop of unicorn tears) is the key to losing weight (or even putting it on).

Why put the cart before the horse and make things more complicated than they have to be?  Why do some people feel like they’re soooooo special and it’s beneath them to apply the basics, and instead skip 27 steps and jump right into the advanced stuff?

How about just sitting down, being honest with yourself, and making a concerted effort to make better/healthier food choices?  Or, as Dan John put it: stop eating like a child!

Still, I recognize that telling someone to “eat their veggies and take their fish oil” gets a little old and lacks a certain pizzaz.  It’s just not exciting.

And it’s with that I want to introduce everyone to Jonathan Acosta who’s a personal trainer in the San Antonio area.  He offered to write a Cliff Notes article on Carb-Cycling, which is something I’ve used sporadically myself and with my own clients/athletes to aid in fat loss or body recomposition.

While it sounds like something complicated, it really isn’t….and I’d argue it’s actually one of the best approaches to SUSTAINABLE body composition changes.

Enjoy!

Carbohydrate Rotation Revamped

When it comes to nutrition there’s so much info out there that it becomes confusing. Seriously, there’s some crazy info out there.

There are “Guru’s” preaching that kipping and nuts are the breakfast of champions. Or if you wanna see your abs and get more anabolic you have to have a post workout shake exactly 42 minutes and 42 seconds after your workout. Preferably on the first week of the month or on the next solstice.

With all the magic bullet pills and cabbage soup diets, it’s easy to get misled. Just remember, 10 years ago dudes used to crank out workouts and drink breast milk after because it was the holy grail of muscle building. CRRRAAAAZZZZYYYY.

What happened to simplicity? What happened to eating the best possible nutrient dense foods for your goals? 

Whether the goal is building muscle or fat loss, CARB ROTATION is my weapon of choice……….aside from Mjolnir. <—–Google it.

But here’s the thing. Counting macros and using formulas isn’t for everyone. It’s great and don’t get me wrong everything NEEDS to be counted. Even if you don’t count it you’re body does. I’d even go as far as say if you hit a plateau and start weighing all your meals you’d see things revamp fast.

But in the real world this isn’t always possible. At least not for the long haul.

I’m pretty sure you’re busy, and have a family, and one of those things everyone calls a J.O.B. The last thing you wanna have to do is worry about one more thing.

So today I’m aiming for simplicity. HOW TO MEET YOUR NUTRITIONAL GOALS, BUT IN THE SIMPLEST WAY POSSIBLE.

So what is carb cycling?

Since you’re already reading Tony’s blog I assume you enjoy the finer things in life and read high quality stuff. So more than likely you’ve come across carb rotating before. But as a quick recap, carb rotation in a nutshell is basically having some days that are high carb to promote muscle growth and recovery and low carb days to promote fat loss. So ……yea…basically that.

Simple right?

LET ME EXPLAIN:

High carb days

  • Stimulate insulin
  • Replenish your glycogen stores
  • Keeps you from being a hungry bear
  • Fuel the machine

Low carb days

  • Help improve your body’s insulin sensitivity
  • Promotes fat loss by having your body use fat for fuel instead of the glucose from carbs
  • Get rid of unwanted friends or coworkers with your grumpiness

There are a ton of ways to use carb cycling but I’m not gonna get too in depth today. Why?

1. Because you can go a long way with just the basics. Were simplifying things remember.

2. Because honestly I don’t have the attention span right now to write out that much.

The Magic Formula

STEP 1.  Eat starchy carbs on the days you lift weights.

STEP 2.  On the days you don’t lift weights or are doing some sort of HIIT or Intervals don’t have any starchy carbs.

NOTES:

-High carb days don’t have to be lifting weights only, it’s just the days you have your MAIN workouts. The roughest and toughest ones.

-Also, protein should always be high and veggies should always be thrown in the mix along with healthy fats. The only thing that changes is starchy carbs.

-High carb days should always be on days where you do skwatz, or the lifting of the deads.

I know what some of you may be wondering. “But Jonathan what are starchy carbs?”

I knew you were gonna ask that. These qualify as starchy carbs. Its not limited to just these but they’re are just a few.

CARBS 

Oatmeal

Sweet potato

White potato

Red Potato

Rice

Ezekiel bread

Ezekiel tortillas

Quinoa

Fruit

Notice there weren’t any donuts, cakes, or pizza in there……….yea we avoid those Mmmmmmkay…

While we’re at it lets give you a run down of approved proteins and fats too.

PROTEIN

Lean red meats (all the rib eyes in the world)

Chicken

Eggs

Turkey

Shrimp

Fish

Lean pork

Basically lean meats, seafood, and eggs.

FATS

Coconut oil

Avocado

EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)  <—–read it in Rachel Ray’s voice and it makes you more anabolic.

Red palm oil

Nuts

So lets give an example what a week on carb rotating would look like. Say if someone works out 3x a week Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then their week would look like so.

MONDAY– Workout- High carb day

TUESDAY– Non workout- Low carb day

WEDNESDAY– Workout- High carb day

THURSDAY– Non workout- Low carb day

FRIDAY– Workout- High carb day

SATURDAY– Non workout- Low carb day

SUNDAY– Non workout- Low carb day

What?!?!?!? No pizza and barbacoa on Sunday?!?!?!?!  I know I know but it’s just a small temporary sacrifice. I mean if you’re wanting your body to sacrifice fat to the exercise Gods then you’ve got to be willing to sacrifice something too.  Ok……moving on.

Based off of what we talked about earlier a typical high carb day’s meals would consist of: Protein, Starches, and Veggies.

 

A low carb day’s meal would look like this: Protein, Veggies, Healthy fats (the veggies are what will replace the starches for you to keep you full)

 

Basically just replace a starch for cruciferous veggies on your low carb days.

Here’s an example of a high carb day from a current client:

She’s extremely busy and eats out for lunch mostly so we find restaurants that she can choose plenty of stuff from. She also lifts 4x a week and has the appetite of the hulk. <—– Can we just safely say this is all women who lift!?!?!  Can I get an AMEN!

Remember this is just an example of what SHE eats and should give you a general idea. So don’t copy it exactly and then email me angrily that it sucks and didn’t work for you.

BREAKFAST:

3 free range eggs

1 cup spinach

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1 banana

SNACK:

1 Quest bar

LUNCH:

(At Cracker Barrel)

3 grilled chicken tenderloins

steamed veggies

Medium sweet potato

SNACK:

2 scoops whey isolate

DINNER:

Burger on Ezekiel bread

4 oz lean ground beef

1 oz cheese

Kale

2 slices Ezekiel bread

Example low carb day from same client:

BREAKFAST:

3 free range eggs cooked in 1 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup spinach

Avocado

LUNCH:

Hangar steak

Brussel sprouts

DINNER:

3 oz chicken

2 oz shrimp

Grilled veggies

“DESSERT”

1 warmed up quest bar

Here’s an example of one of our male clients:

He works mostly outdoors doing construction so 3 meals a day plus a snack works great for him. He also feels sluggish in the mornings whenever carbs are added so we just spread them out through the rest of the day.

This is where it’s important to learn your body and what you work best with. The only thing worse than doing something that makes you feel shitty is not being aware you’re doing it or what it is.

High Carb Day:

BREAKFAST:

5 egg whites

4oz of turkey sausage

1 cup kale

SNACK:

2 scoops whey isolate

handful of Udi’s all natural granola

LUNCH:

6oz chicken

2 cups jasmine rice

any veggie

DINNER:

6oz lean meat

1 large baked potato

salad with balsamic vinaigrette

Low Carb Day:

BREAKFAST:

5 egg whites

3 strips uncured bacon

1 cup kale

cooked in coconut oil

SNACK:

2 scoops whey iso

handful of almonds

LUNCH:

Shrimp fajitas

onions

bell pepper

4oz avocado

DINNER:

6 oz Wild caught salmon

Broccoli

grass fed butter

There you have it. Simple as that.

Final tips (I promise)

  • If you’re hungrier on your low carb days simply eat more protein and veggies. <——Higher protein is NOT bad for you.
  • Don’t worry about counting macros (carbs, proteins, and fats) yet……..YET!!!!!!
  • Since I know someone’s going to ask. If you’re gonna cheat try and keep it on a high carb day and at least 6-7 days apart. NOT every high day, just to be clear. Some people can get away with those cheats a lot more frequently; they are not of this world and should not be trusted.
  • Carbs should always be for sure around the workout time. Preferably post workout.

This is a perfect starting point for anyone looking for fat loss or some body recomposition. It’s even an awesome autopilot once you’ve gotten around where you wanna be with your goals.

The beauty of this is its simplicity. Don’t put too much thought into it. There’s no need to complicate anything. Just take this time to learn how your body works with things and reacts and adjusts to things. Learning your body is the most important and rewarding part of your fitness journey.

Author’s Bio

Jonathan Acosta is the founder and head trainer at Get Sexy San Antonio and is a certified personal trainer though both ISSA and the NCEP, as well as Precision Nutrition Level I certified.. He also likes to lift heavy things.

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  • Donna

    Great article – simply stated and truly enjoyable to read on many levels. Thanks for bringing this concept to the “masses”. 🙂

  • rich t

    What days should I rotate in the unicorn tears?

    • Jonathan

      Preferably the days of the week that end in -AY

  • Lynda Schwemmer

    What a nice write up–even I can understand and follow it.

  • Noel

    Very informative article. BTW, Han only shot first because he mistook Greedo’s need to scratch himself as an act of aggression.

  • Shawna Brown

    always look forward to your articles, and always get at least one good HAHA 🙂 Your meal frequency is 5, do you get hung up on meal frequency?

    • Jonathan

      IMO meal frequency really depends on people’s lifestyles and other factors. Some people do better with just 3 others up to 7. As long as its within range of what your daily totals supposed to be. Me personally, ill do 6. It’s just way easier to eat a ton of food spread out than feel full and unproductive off of a giant meal.

  • Shane Mclean

    Jonathan, by the way i love Thor and you had me right there. Loved the way you keep in simple in pure PN fashion and I’m book marking this article for future reference. Nice work.

    • Jonathan

      Thanks Shane! Glad you enjoyed! P.S. I guess it’s lady Thor now from what I read yesterday.

      • Shane Mclean

        Lady Thor?

        • Jonathan

          Saw that they’re cutting Thor out of an upcoming movie and changing the character into a female. Don’t know the storyline though

  • Trish

    Short & sweet – thanks for the post!

  • ronellsmith

    Jonathan,

    Great information. I love that you didn’t get into the weeds. As you (correctly) assert, the basics is all 97% of us needs. I’m a huge follower of Aragon, Brian St. Pierre and Mark Young, and after reading so much of their material, I get pissed every time I see someone trying to sell folks on the notion that there is some magical formula to help us stay lean.

    I more or less use the model you lay out above, upping carbs on the days I train, then taking all starchy carbs out on the days I do “cardio.” As Eric Cressey has written on T-Nation and on his own site, this is a model that will suffice for the vast majority of folks.

    A simple concept I heard here some time ago is “earn your carbs.” It works.

    RS

    • Jonathan

      Thanks Ronell!

      Exactly! One person says the secret is to not ever eat a sugary starchy carb or you’ll get fat. While so and so down the street got to 6% body fat while still eating pancakes lol.

      There is no magic formula. I think the real magic formula is learning what works for you. All of the guys you mentioned are geniuses and are at the cutting edge of what they do and it’s awesome how they teach simplicity.

      Love that “Earn your carbs concept”!