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Calorie Shifting Vs. Carb Cycling

By Lindsay Boyers ; Updated July 18, 2017

Calorie shifting and carb cycling are alternatives to standard low calorie and low carbohydrate diets. Both weight-loss methods promise to help you drop pounds but each focuses on different aspects of nutrition. Because calorie shifting and carb cycling plans require a significant amount of planning, understanding the concepts of each weight-loss method thoroughly is a vital component to success.

Calorie Shifting

The traditional diet requires you to consume a set amount of calories each day. While this might help you lose weight, many dieters reach a diet plateau at some point. To overcome the diet plateau, you must further reduce your calorie intake. Calorie shifting involves alternating your daily calorie intake in an attempt to trick your body into keeping your metabolism high and avoid this diet plateau. The first step to calorie shifting is to set a daily calorie goal, such as 1,500 calories. Two times per week, such as Monday and Wednesday, add 300 calories to your daily goal. For the next week, on two days subtract 500 calories from your daily goal. The following week, up-shift again and add 400 calories twice per week.

Theory Behind Calorie Shifting

When you lower your calorie intake too much, your body goes into a starvation mode. In this starvation mode, your metabolism slows down to conserve calories, which causes your body to burn calories less efficiently. When you are in an up-shift, your body has access to all of the calories it needs and therefore burns these calories effectively. When you enter the down-shift, you are providing your body with fewer calories only for a short period, so your metabolism does not have time to recognize the deficit and slow down before you increase your calorie intake again. Keeping your body in an efficient calorie-burn mode can help lead to weight loss.

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Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is a method most commonly used by bodybuilders to help lose body fat. Instead of placing the most importance on calories, carb cycling focuses on carbohydrate intake. The simplified definition of carb cycling is to alternate between higher and lower intakes of carbohydrates on different days. For example, if you consume 400 grams of carbohydrates per day normally, you would drop your carbohydrate intake down to 100 grams for a period of around two days each week. Once the two days are over, you increase carbohydrate intake back up to 400 grams per day for the rest of the week. After five days of 400 grams per day, reduce intake back to 100 grams for the remainder of the week.

Theory Behind Carb Cycling

Your body prefers carbohydrates as its main source of energy. When you lower your intake of carbohydrates, your body turns to fat for energy. The fat in your body is stored in your adipose tissue. When your body uses this fat for energy, it lowers your total body fat percentage, allowing you to lose weight and reveal lean muscle.

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