Intermittent fasting to carb cycling: 4 top diet trends explained

19 Oct 2019

Social media influencer Lauren Jacobsen shares her top tips

With summer fast approaching, the time has come to cut calories and put some restrictions on that diet. Chances are if you’re not taking your diet as seriously as your workouts, the results will be slower. The right diet can make the difference between wanting to show off your beach body to covering it with a towel. Not sure which diet will suit you?  Read up on four popular weight loss diets, and to use them to meet your bikini goals.  

1. Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting? 

People have been fasting for generations, just not for weight loss. The body is in either a state of feeding or fasting. Most people spend the majority of their time in the fed state, not allowing time to burn the calories they packed in through the day.

When we don’t eat, the body accesses stored fat as a source of fuel. Research shows that fasting for at least 18 hours results in accessing the maximum amount of fat and will start to level off after 30 hours. Research also shows that fasting doesn’t disrupt the metabolism. Your metabolism is more of a result of how much lean body mass you are holding and the higher your metabolism.

How do you use intermittent fasting? 

Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest fat-burning diets to follow.  Fast for a period of 24 hours, once every 3 to 5 days. Alternatively, fasting for shorter periods daily or every other day can also be effective. Fasting lowers your intake of calories over the week, resulting in a caloric deficit and accessing fat as fuel. Intermittent Fasting can be used with any diet you are currently following. Perform the fast, and when you come off the fast, remember to continue with your normal eating habits. You will no doubt be hungry, but it is important not to binge, and eat those calories you just missed all back.

What can you expect? 

Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Long hours of calorie deprivation can lead to low energy levels, fatigue and headaches. Weight loss will result at the normal rate of up to 1kg per week, although you may weigh less during your fast because your body has shed excess water or food in your system.

Intermittent fasting to carb cycling: 4 top diet trends explained

2. Carb Cycling

What is carb cycling? 

Carb cycling is a diet plan that switches between a period of low and high carbohydrates. During the low carb phase, the body depletes its stores of muscle glycogen, the storage form of carbs. After the body depletes its glycogen, it has no choice but to switch to alternate forms of energy – such as fat. On the high carb phase, you refill lost muscle glycogen, which helps stimulate the insulin response, and delivers lost nutrients to muscles, where they can be stored and utilised once again. This constant switch between low and high carb phases helps to regulate the metabolism. Keeping both fat burning and muscle building hormones responding.

How do you use carb cycling? 

The first step to carb cycling is to determine how many calories you should be eating, and then the amount of each macronutrient you need to eat during the low and high carb phase.  Generally speaking, to lose weight use a caloric intake that is 10 to 12 times your current weight. For low carb days, set your protein intake to 40 to 50% of your calories, carbs should be set to 20% or less, and fats will make up the remaining. On high carb days your macronutrients will change. Protein intake can be set to 30 to 40%, while carbs should take up at least 50% and fat will be set to less than 20%. This shift can create a super compensation of glycogen causing an increase in lean muscle metabolism – leaner body versus skinny fat!

These macronutrient ratios and the number of days in your cycle can shift based on your metabolism, how active you are and how your body responds to carbs. Start by performing one high carb day every 4 to 7 days for the first 4 to 8 weeks, then shift to performing one high carb day every 3 to 5 days.

What can you expect? 

Low carb diets do work to burn fat, but can often cause severe cravings, depleted energy levels and strength. Long periods on a low carb diet plan can result in a metabolic slowdown, a decrease in thyroid activity as well as in hormones that stimulate lean muscle development. Cycling between a low and high carb diet helps to stimulate the metabolism, decrease cravings and maintain energy levels. While low carb days promote fat metabolism, encouraging fat utilisation, high carb days promote muscle metabolism, encouraging lean body development. High carb days can also make you feel more energetic and psychologically give you the stamina to keep on going until your high carb day. 

Intermittent fasting to carb cycling: 4 top diet trends explained

3. Ketogenic Diet

What is the Ketogenic Diet? 

Ketogenic diets focus on a diet that is high in protein and fat with very low carb content. When carb sources are low, the liver starts to convert fat in the body and the diet into ketone bodies to power our brain and the body, instead of glucose.

How do you use a Keto-Genic Diet?

Traditional ketogenic diets require a fat to protein ratio of 4:1, but 3:1 is popular too, with carbs being negligible. You need to follow a diet that is roughly 60 to 70% fat, 30% protein, and less than 10% carbs; done by  eating higher fat meats, nuts, good fats such coconut oil or olive oil and eliminating starchy carbs such as oatmeal, whole grains, and rice. Getting into ketosis takes 2 to 3 days.  How long you can remain on the ketogenic diet is more a function of your ability to withstand a lack of carbs. Ideally, reserve a carb up or cheat day for once every 7 to 14 days.

What can you expect? 

Ketogenic diets can be tough. They deplete energy levels, severe carb cravings lead to brain fog, which makes it difficult to get through workouts or perform daily tasks properly! However, the strictness can lead to serious results, causing quick fat loss.
Ketogenic diets are best used short-term (4 to 8 weeks).  Low levels of carbs for an extended period of time can lead to extreme fatigue, low energy levels and muscle loses.

Intermittent fasting to carb cycling: 4 top diet trends explained

4. Flexible Diet or Macro Diet

What is flexible dieting? 

Flexible Dieting, also known as if it fits your macros (IIFYM) is a diet based on focusing more on the macronutrient number and less on the nutritional value of the food. You still need to eat less, to create a caloric deficit. Most of the food needs to be from clean sources and should be high in fibre, while about 20% can be your favourite treats. 

How do you use flexible dieting? 

After determining your daily calorie intake for weight loss, the next step is figuring out your macronutrients. You need half the calories from protein, and the rest split between carbs and fata; over 4 to 6 meals for the day.
When choosing macros, stick to about 80% to 90% being wholesome foods: fresh fruit, vegetables, good fats, and lean protein. The remaining 10 to 20% can be your favourite treats, or greasy favourites.  Maintain a high dietary fibre intake, so as to help stabilise blood glucose levels.

What can you expect? 

The best part of flexible dieting is that it’s sustainable for the long run. Small ‘treats’ give you psychological satisfaction, and also prevent you severe energy crashes or craving foods that you would normally abstain from on a diet. 

Intermittent fasting to carb cycling: 4 top diet trends explained

With more than 20 years’ experience designing nutrition products, supplements and meal plans, Lauren is an expert in her field. Lauren has worked with professional rugby and football players, as well as physique and fitness competitors, and holds a degree in nutritional biochemistry, specialising in sports nutrition and supplementation, from Trent University in Canada. 

Follow Lauren on Instagram and Facebook @sexyfitlauren, or read her blog,