Carb Cycling for Fat Loss & Muscle Fullness

One of the most widely used strategies among bodybuilders for decades is carb cycing. When I first began competing in 1996 this was the very strategy I used for contest preparation. It was also the strategy that many of the competitors were using, and still use till this very day.

In fact, fast forward 21 years later, and I still utilize this very strategy for weight loss & maintanance. As much as Iʻve written about the low carb diet, and intermittent fasting for weight loss acceleration, it would not be complete if I did not include something about carb cycling.

I believe carb cycling is critical, especially if you are following a regular weight training routine, and even more important if you are hitting the weights hard, and with high intensity.

So what exactly is carb cycling? Well, thatʻs a pretty simple question, with a pretty simple answer. It essentially involves cycling the amount of carbs (cabohydtrates) you consume over a period of time. This typically involves days of low carb consuption followed by a day or 2 of high carb consuption.

In the 90ʻs and early 2000ʻs, when preparaing for a competition Iʻd typically follow a protocol that would look something like this.

Day 1 – Low Carbs

Day 2 – Low Carbs

Day 3 – Low Carbs

Day 4 – High Carbs

Then repeat the cycle all over again.

As Iʻd get closer to showtime, Iʻd sometimes extend the low carb days to 4 or 5 days, followed by a day or two of carb loading. Keep in mind that in preparation for a contest, the carb days did not consist of Pizza, burgers, and fries, or other types of prcessed carbohydrates. However, the carb days consisted of typicallly the same protein Iʻd consume on the low carb days, such as chicken, turkey, beef, or fish. However, Iʻd replace the low glycemic vegetbles Iʻd consume on the low carb days with more starchy comlex carbs, such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, or poi on the high carb days. If you’ve never heard of poi it’s a low glycemic complex carbohydrate, similar to a yam or sweet potato, and a Native Hawaiian staple.

Fast forward to the current day, and my more commonly used approach when I’m not in contest preparation mode will typically look something like this.

Sunday – Low Carbs

Monday – Low Carbs

Tuesday – Low Carbs

Wednesday – Low Carbs

Thursday – Low Carbs

Friday – High Carbs

Saturday – High Carbs

Since I am not preparing to get on stage in my underwear, the high carb days in this regimen will typically consist of some complex/refined carbs, such as pizza or burgers, etc. However, the strategy is the same. Deplete the body of it’s glycogen (sugar) storage throughout the week, then load it back up on the weekend.

This is not just my current carb cycle, but one I’ve used for years during the off-season to reduce & maintain body fat levels.

If you’ve never tried this carb cycling approach it may be worth giving it a shot. Besides helping your muscles to fill out after being depleted throughout the low carb days, it also allows for a little flexibility to enojoy some of the foods you wouldn’t typically eat on a true low carb day. 

Good luck!

7/7 Two day split for Muscle Mass & Symetry

In my previous article on What’s the Best Workout/Training Split for you, I briefly mentioned this two day workout split that contains 7 exercises per workout.
There are many reasons that this workout split and routine is one of my favorites. However, the main two reasons is because of it’s simplicity and versitility. It’s simple and brief enough that it can be used by intermediate level trainees, yet contains enough exercises to be used as a more advanced level mass building regimen.

It also contains just enough compound exercises and enough isolation exercises that you could also utilize the program during a cutting phase.

This workout is so condensed I’ve often done it in 30 minutes, with a training partner. So what are these 7 exercises per workout? Simple!

Day 1

  1. Leg Extension
  2. Leg Press
  3. Leg Curl
  4. Reverse grip pulldown
  5. Barbell Row
  6. Alternate Dumbbell curls
  7. Standing calf raise

Day 2

      1. Inclne Press
      2. Dumbbell Fly
      3. Lateral Raises
      4. Rear Delt machine
      5. Tricep pushdowns
      6. Dips
      7. Machine crunch

        If you only train two days a week, it’s perfect. You get all the core fundamental exercises in, and train your entire body over the course of 1 week.

        Want to train 3 days a week? Simple! Just train everyother day, and you’ll train the entire body 1 & 1/2 times in a week.

        Are you one of those genetically gifted individuals that recovers super quickly? Great! Train four days a week, and you’ll end up training the entire body twice a week.

        I’ve used this routine when short on time during a given week. While trying to catch up on my training. When getting back into the groove after an extended layoff from training. While training others on the principles of supersetting or pre-existing, which I’ll go over in another article.

        Quite frankly it’s simplicity and versitility is a little mind boggling. In any case. If you’re looking to move on from a beginner to intermediate workout routine, reduce the number of days a week you’re training, or simply change up the workout, give this one a shot.

        What’s the Best Workout/Training Split for you?

        First off, let me start by first explaining what a workout/training split is, for those who are first starting out, or are not familiar with the concept yet.
        When creating a workout program there are a few options. The most basic of all is a full body workout, in which you would train your entire body in one day. When I first started weight training this exactly how I trained. The entire body in one workout three times a week. In fact this is typically the recommended training regimen for most beginner’s.

        The full body workout allows your body to adapt to regular resistance training and develop strength typically by utilizing primarily compound exercises such as the following.

        Full body workout

        • Squats
        • Bench press
        • Deadlifts or Barbell rows
        • Military press
        • Barbell Curls
        • Tricep extensions

        Many of the top old school bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger used this very workout to lay the foundation for their physique.

        However, over time your body eventually adapts, as well as develops more muscle, at which point the addition of more exercises is typically introduced. As logic would suggest, as you add more exercises you increase the length of your workout. So naturally by splitting or dividing the the whole body over two days or more it will obviously reduce the total length of your workout. That is exactly what a workout split is. Splitting the whole body up into separate body parts per workout.

        So what’s the best way to split up your whole body? Good question. Open any fitness magazine, book, website, or social media site and you’ll find tons of recommendations. The one question to ask yourself is if there is any logical strategy to the split?

        Here’s a good example. You won’t typically catch me training shoulders the day after chest day. Why? Because the shoulders receive alot of indirect work on chest day. So chances are that they will not be fully recovered from chest day. To train shoulders the very next day would not be logical, and counterproductive since you would not be at your best.

        Here’s a good example of an intermediate 2 day split.

        2 Day Split

        Day 1: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, & Abs

        Day 2: Legs, Back, Biceps, & Calves

        This split works very well with a day off after day 2. With it you could also train 3-4 days a week and work your entire body 1 & 1/2 – 2 times a week, by training everyother day. I’ve also known a number of people who follow this type of split and just train twice a week, or maybe even once a week.

        As always, the key is to listen to your body, and make adjustments accordingly. Everyone is built differntly. So find out what works for you and stick with it.

        I still use this split when I feel the body needs a bit more recovery time, or if I’m short on time for the week. It works fabulously with 7 key exercises per workout, but I’ll save that workout for another post.

        Another alternative if you’re looking to add more isolation exercises to your workout, without increasing it’s length even more is the three day split. Which much look something like this.

        3 Day Split

        Day 1: Chest, Arms, & Upper Abs

        Day 2: Legs

        Day 3: Back & Shoulders, Lower Abs

        Of all the variations of workout splits that can be done my personal favorite would have to be the 4 day split. I’ve used this split for years, both in the offseason, and all the way up to a contest.

        4 Day Split

        Day 1: Chest, Triceps, & Abs

        Day 2: Back & Calves

        Day 3: Shoulders, Biceps, & Abs

        Day 4: Legs & Calves

        So, why is this split my personal favorite? It’s probably due to a combination of things. First of all, it only requires training one large/major body-part per workout. This allows me to be at my best for each major body-part every workout. It also allows me to be a bit flexible with the number of workouts per week.

        On most weeks my goal is to get in 4 workouts a week. Ideally the week would look something like this.

        Monday: Chest, Triceps, & Abs

        Tuesday: Back & Calves

        Wednesday: Off

        Thursday: Shoulders, Biceps, & Abs

        Friday: Legs & Calves

        Saturday: Off

        Sunday: Off

        However, one of the reasons this split happens to be my favorite is due to it’s flexibility. If for some reason my schedule doesn’t allow me to get in four workouts for the week, or if I’m feeling a little burnt out or over trained three will work just fine, and allow the body an extra day of recovery. If I only manage to get in three training sessions for the week it might look something like this.

        Monday: Chest, Triceps, & Abs

        Tuesday: Off

        Wednesday: Back & Calves

        Thursday: Off

        Friday: Shoulders, Biceps, & Abs

        Saturday: Off

        Sunday: Off

        Then I’d typically pick up where I left off on the workout split the following week. Which would look something like this.

        Monday: Legs & Calves

        Tuesday: Off

        Wednesday: Chest, Triceps, & Abs

        Thursday: Off

        Friday: Back & Calves

        Saturday: Off

        Sunday: Off

        With this split you end up working the whole body over the course of 9-10 days, along with a day to recover between each workout. For those reasons it makes for a great off season muscle building strategy.

        During the contest prep season, just train 4-5 days a week with the same body part split and cycle, and you’ll end up training the entire body 1 & 1/4 times over the course of 7 days.

        The versatility, recovery time, and freshness that comes with each workout using this split is the reason it is my favorite split over the last number of years, and split I always end up going back to.

        If you’re looking for an ideal workout split, give it a shot, try different variations, adapt it to your needs, and make it your own.

        Good luck!

        Daily Fasting: Training on an Empty Stomach

        One simple fasting strategy I have been utilizing since the 90’s is training on an empty stomach. What type of training? To be specific, I’ve been incorporating cardio (cardiovascular or aerobic) exercise on an empty stomach into my fat loss regimen for more than two decades.
        Back In the late 80’s to early 90’s i recall reading an article, probably a few, that stated by doing cardio first thing In the morning on an empty stomach you would maximize the fat burning effect. There are a few valid reason behind this methodology. 

        1. When you wake up in the morning your body is essentially in a fasted state, since you’ve been sleeping all night and haven’t eaten.
        2. Because you haven’t eaten all night your blood sugar levels are typically lower.
        3. The glycogen stores In the muscles (essentially storred sugars) are also depleted.

        These points are key, because without elevated blood sugar and glycogen levels your body is forced to look for an alternate source of fuel for it’s energy needs. So what source does it turn to? It turns to FAT. It has also been said that this protocol elevates the metabolism, which allows your body to burn more fat throughout the day.

        For those reasons, when I began my preparation for my first bodybuilding contest I started doing cardio first thing In the morning on an empty stomach, practcally daily. If you’ve had an opportunity to read my 1996 Journal, The Best Kept Secrets to Weight Loss, Fitness & Building Muscle, which is now available on Amazon, you may have observed how frequently I incorporated these morning cardio session into my pre-contest program.

        I also utilized the same strategy In 2003 & 2004 to reduce body fat, as well as on an ongoing basis over the years to most effectively burn fat.

        As a young Bodybuilder in my 20’s, like many people in their 20’s, I was not much of a morning person. For that reason, in addition to thinking I’d be weak if I didn’t eat anything before lifting weights, I typically did my weight training in the afternoon or evening. Which meant I essentially had to workout twice a day, cardio in the morning, and weight training in the afernoon or evening.

        However, I eventually evolved into a morning person. This was largely due to the benefits of the cardio on an empty stomach strategy. So, rather than doing cardio in the morning, and going to gym later in the afternoon to get the weight training session in, it beame much more time efficient to just lift weights right after the cardio workout in the morning.

        It did not take long before realizing that the myth of losing strength due to training on an empty stomach was exactly that, a myth. My strength continued to increase over time, and still does till this day, at age 43.

        Though I trained (cardio & weight training) for a number of years first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, I have more recently began experimenting with intermittent fasting. With the intermittent fasting regimen I will typically fast all day by skipping breakfast and lunch, train in the evening, and have my first meal (dinner) in the evening after my workout.

        In principle, I get all the same benefits of training first thing in the morning and then some, due to the prolonged fasted state. If you’ve never tried training on an empty stomach, whether it’s just a cardio or weight training session give it a shot. The results may surprise you!

        Daily 24 Hour Fasting for Burning Fat & Building Muscle

        More recently, after being diagnosed with type II diabetes in the end of 2016, I began incorporating different methods of fasting. Over the last few months the method that is most easily incorporated into my daily lifestyle is the 24 hour daily fast.
        As a Bodybuilder that trained myself to eat every 2-3 hours over the last 30 years, this method is a very refreshing change. Yes, I’m now having to retrain myself to eat less frequently.

        Since I work like most people Monday through Friday, it was very easy to adopt a daily fasting strategy throughout the weekdays. My typical 24 hour fast will run from one dinner to the next. Yes, simply put, on most weeks I will only eat one solid meal per day Monday through Friday.

        I say one solid meal, because I will typically have my morning coffee with heavy cream and coconut oil in the morning, as well as prior to training, if training in the evening. In addition to a scoop of whey protein throughout the day, if needed. This can vary depending on the time of day that I train. If i train in the morning I will have some whey protein after my training session, then continue the fast until dinner. Depending on my schedule, and how i feel, i may just have some BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) post workout, and maybe a scoop of whey a few hours later, just to hold me over until dinner.

        Morning Training Example

        • 7:30 a.m. Morning Coffee with heavy cream & coconut oil.
        • 8:30 a.m. Training/Workout Session.
        • 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. 1 Scoop Whey Protein or BCAA’s.
        • 1:00-2:00 p.m. 1 Scoop Whey Protein (optional).
        • 8:00 p.m. Dinner

        I personally donʻt believe a scoop of whey protein will keep the body from benefiting from the overall fasted state, especially after a high intensity training session earlier during the day. Also, i donʻt believe it to be absolutely necessary to adhere to such a rigid 24 hour fasting schedule to reap the benefits of the fast. Sometimes people get so caught up on numbers and specified regimens that they forget the simplicity of the program itself. Not to mention the key factor of listening to your own body.

        For that reason, if I’m training in the evening, I’ll typically train while fasted, then have a scoop of whey protein post workout, in addition to dinner after my workout. This has been a more recent trend that you see popping up these days. Many health and fitness fanatics advocate this protocol for maximum fat burning, and muscle building effects. I’ve personally been using this protocol intermittently, and have been noticing the results from it.

        The idea is that if you train, especially high intensity weight training while in a fasted state, your body starts running on adrenaline, which also stimulates an increase in growth hormone. This means that your body is ultimately burning fat, and building muscle.

        Evening Training Example 1

        • 7:30 a.m. Morning coffee with heavy cream & coconut oil.
        • 1:00-2:00 p.m. 1 Scoop Whey Protein (optional).
        • 8:00 p.m. Training/Workout Session.
        • 9:00-9:30 p.m. 1 Scoop Whey Protein or BCAA’s, and Dinner.

        Evening Training Example 2

        • 7:30 a.m. Morning Coffee with heavy cream & coconut oil.
        • 1:00-2:00 p.m. 1 Scoop Whey Protein (optional).
        • 7:00 p.m. Dinner & evening pre-workout coffee with heavy cream & coconut oil.
        • 8:00 p.m. Training/Workout Session.
        • 9:00-9:30 1 Scoop Whey Protein or BCAA’s.

        Now, as always, I’m a big believer that you need to listen to the body, and make adjustments accordingly. So if you feel absolutely terrible while training in the evening before you consume your first meal, then experiment with eating your fist meal (dinner) earlier in the evening, then training after your meal.

        I have tried this protocol as well, and it seems to work as well. Are you getting the maximum fat burning and growth hormone stimulation that you might get from training during a fasted state? Maybe not, but if that what you need to get you through the workout, then maybe that’s what you need to do.

        Whether you train in the morning, afternoon, or evening, I don’t think it will necessarily make all that much of a physiological difference. Especially if you’re forcing yourself to do something that is so out of your norm that it becomes unpractical.

        For me, it’s much easier to wake up in the morning, make some coffee, and start my day. Whether I’m heading to the gym or the office first thing in the morning, it is nice not to have to worry about making breakfast, and packing a lunch just to make sure I’m getting my “required” meals in. It is truly awesome not having to worry about what or when I’m going to eat next.

        I have also noticed that I am much more focused throughout the day. This is largely due to the fact that the blood sugar levels are not going up and down like a roller coaster all day, before and after each meal. Which also allows the body to maintain a fat burning state of ketosis, or get into that fat burning state much quicker.

        Overall, the 24 hour daily fast seems to work quite well, not only for it’s fat loss benefits, but also for it’s convenience, ease of use, and overall health benefits, especially the blood sugar levels. If you’re up for it, give it a shot! If you do, please let me know how it works for you.

        Natural Bodybuilding, Health & Fitness