This week, we’re looking at enhancing your cardio gains through carb cycling. In other words, can we manipulate when we restrict and eat our carbohydrates to skyrocket work capacity?
As it turns out, yes we can. This is a relatively new concept known as ‘Tran Low’ or ‘Sleep Low’. The aim of any training session is to adapt in order to have improved performance for subsequent training sessions and events. Therefore, the goal of ‘train low’ is all about manipulating carbohydrate availability.
Carb availability means the amount of carbohydrates your body has available to use – Either stored in the form of glycogen or from our diet. So, if we can change how many carbs are available for the body to use, we can get major gains in our adaptation. Here’s how it works;
1) ‘Train High’ by performing a HIIT session in the evening with high carb availability. I.e lots of carbs in the diet and glycogen stores are topped up.
2) Eat a low/no carb meal post HIIT.
3) Overnight carb restriction ‘sleep low’.
4) Skip breakfast/fast.
5) ‘Train Low’ the following morning by performing a prolonged sub-maximal session with low carb availability. I.e. low/no carbs in the diet and low glycogen stores.
6) Eat a shit load of carbs post session to replenish glycogen stores in time for the HIIT session in the evening.
So, why does it work?
To totally nerd out; Glycogen depletion switches on an enzyme called AMPK which is coined the ‘energy sensor’ of the cell. AMPK and p38MAPK then activate the downstream transcription coactivator; PGC-1alpha which stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. I.e. we can make more mitochondria ‘the power house’ of the cell where fat is used for fuel.
Yeah, I told you, proper nerdz.
The whole idea is to create more mitochondria allowing us to burn more fat for fuel and spare muscle glycogen. The better at this we can become, the longer it’ll take for us to fatigue as running out of glycogen will hit the brakes on your performance.
To review the performance effects of trained triathletes (Marquet et al, 2016) – Performing this approach over a four day period for only 3 weeks promoted significant improvements in submaximal cycling economy, as well as supra-maximal cycling capacity and 10 km running time.
One huge misconception about this approach is that it’s a low carb diet. On the contrary, the triathletes in this study followed the steps above and ate 6g/kg of carbs per day – That’s 420g for a 70kg person.
Give this a go champ as it works super well when you action it properly! If you need help with this, let me know – my door is always open.
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