How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Reset Phase

October 23, 2023

Brought to you by…
Coach Adam
(aka TRX Traveller)
Body Transformation Coach
Founder of Fitness Freedom Athletes

I’ve split this article into two:

1. How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Reset Phase (this article)

2. How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Growth Phase

I suggest starting with the RESET PHASE article (this one) first. As this will give you a better understanding of the growth phase.

Carb cycling works by training in a period of relative calorie deprivation for as short a time as is necessary.

In order to restore insulin sensitivity and drop body fat for hormone utilisation.

After this brief period, we dramatically change things up and aggressively ‘bulk’ for a period of time.

Why we do a reset phase

Before resetting again with the shorter period explained above.

This allows us to gain quality muscle but stop and reset before the body begins to utilise the additional calories ineffective…

Due to insulin resistance building and in turn, fat gain increasing and deprivation of effective hormone utilisation.

How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Reset Phase

..We can teach our body to preferentially use stored fat instead of glycogen

You’re going to need to get to know your body in order to use cyclical cycling correctly.

Once you begin, this doesn’t take long and will help you become more in tune with your body as a whole.

We’ll come onto exactly what I mean by that over the next few blog posts.

A key point to remember: Your workouts DO NOT change….

Stick to your TRX Suspension Trainer or Resistance Band Workout Program and carry on, regardless of the phase you are in.

Your Reset Phase

When we exercise in a depleted state, our body is forced to become more efficient.

It must turn to its reserves for energy, which are glycogen (carbs) found in your muscles and liver, and stored fat.

This is done by the mitochondria in your cells adapting to becoming better at using the alternative stored fuel source.

Due to the energy from the food we have ingested being very limited and small to the calorie deficit state.

We can teach our body to preferentially use stored fat instead of glycogen (carbs) when in a depleted state.

This is key.

It is known as having a good metabolic adaption and is the difference why people have very effective fat loss only results and others who have some fat loss but also some muscle loss.

Losing lean muscle mass is detrimental

To both male and female. Especially after we have worked so hard to gain it.

The harder and smarter we work in this shorter calorie depleted phase, the greater our rebound will be in the longer growing phase.

Remember that to keep yourself motivated when energy levels are low.

This phase can be anywhere from 3 to 14 days depending on your current fitness level and how you perform and execute your growth phase.

Your macro break down in this phase

Protein 50%
Carbs 15%
Fat 35%

Don’t worry, we come onto exactly how to implement this nutrition in the blog posts to come.

Always start with a reset phase first when looking to add muscle mass unless you have came off a diet.

We want your insulin sensitivity and hormones to be optimised before we begin eating excess calories so your body can utilise them for muscle building and not fat storing. 

Things to expect and be aware of in this phase

> This calorie deficit will mainly come from a significant decrease in carbs.
It has been proven that calorie restriction, specifically from carbs, dramatically improves insulin sensitivity.

> It’s normal to see a huge weight drop in the first few days.
This comes from the loss of water that is stored in the muscle cells along with glycogen (carbs).

For every 1g of glycogen stored in muscle cells, 2.7g of water is also stored. Makes you realise how much of a muscle is actually water!

So, dropping 500g of stored glycogen would equal a weight loss of 3 pounds alone.

This is NOT muscle loss providing you follow the nutrition recommendations that we will come onto.

> Expect to look flatter and smaller.
This is a phycological aspect you need to just get through and trust the process. When you add the carbs back in, your muscles will fill out again.

> Expect a slight decrease in performance.
You’ll find you tire faster and can’t push as hard. This is fine. When you reach this point, it’s best to stick to the workout plan week that you’re on.

Don’t try and push into the next week’s workout plan and go harder. This isn’t the time for muscle building, we just want to maintain what we have.

> You’ll notice fats are high.
This type of diet will get your body ‘fat adapted’. This means your body will get used to using fat as fuel in workouts but more importantly, at rest.

If calories, specifically from fat, are too low for a long period, this can have a negative impact on hormone production.

Don’t be scared of fats. Don’t cut fats thinking you’ll lose fat faster, this is important because your body will be switching to fat as its primary fuel source.

You need the fats to stop your body from becoming catabolic and breaking down muscle tissue for energy.

> Train as hard as you can in this depleted state and move
And move as much as you can during the day, such as hitting your 10,000 steps, standing at a desk and fidgeting.

This will be hard at first, even discouraging. But lock it in and BRING IT ON!. It’s not for long.

> Eat as many vegetables as you can handle in this phase.
Fiber and plant nutrition are excellent for detoxification and insulin sensitivity restoration.

As you lose fat, you must get rid of the toxins that go with it. Vegetables are great for this.

HOT TIP!

> Plants and anti-estogens
Plants are the only food source (that I am aware of as I write this) that have a source of anti-estrogens available.

Eating plenty of high sulfur veg like broccoli and cauliflower can help raise testosterone levels as well. Fiber also helps keep your appetite satisfied.

In the next blog post we’ll look at the benefits of doing HIIT in a reset phase to improve the rate at which we lose fat.

Reset Phase nutrition

These are the foods that are optimal for a rest phase: Proteins, Smart Fats, and a tiny amount of fast-digesting powdered carbs

Proteins

  • Red meats are great due to their muscle-building amino acid complex. Go grass-fed. Whitefish is another great source that you can have regularly.

Fats

  • Omega 3’s from fish oil
  • MCT oil
  • Avocado
  • Nut butters (not peanut butter) cashew, almond
  • Chia seeds
  • Whole eggs
  • Butter from grass fed cows
  • Full fat meats
  • Bacon
  • Olive Oil
  • Cheese

Carbs after a workout

  • Powdered banana or rice flour

Your 2 day reset phase transition

This isn’t a ‘must-do’, but it can speed things up and make each phase more effective.

Instead of switching directly into the RESET PHASE, we can speed things up by taking a 2-day transition.

Always start the reset phase with this 2-day primer.

Transitioning from a phase where you have been eating carbs as fuel is more difficult than going from a rest phase to a growth phase.

Your body is in a metabolic state that is dependent on carbs as energy.

If you’ve been eating a high-carb diet then there will also be a little inflammation and higher levels of acidity in the body due to the insulin spiking. That’s all fine though and is the natural process of our body.

The good news is that this reset phase will clear that and ultimately reset your body.

Our goal in this reset phase is: Preserve our hard-earned lean muscle mass whilst shredding fat and improving insulin sensitivity.

Carbs and overall calories are drastically reduced in the reset phase which is a great way to accomplish fast improvements.

However in this switch, our body will still be looking for carbs as energy, and since it can’t produce glucose from fat, it will turn to break down protein in an effort to get that primary glucose energy source.

So, we want to teach and force the body to switch to using fats as a primary energy source as quickly as possible.

This means consuming high amounts of fat and no carbs (except the ones naturally present in vegetables) to cause a shift where the body increases enzymes for fat metabolism.

This means more muscle saved, and more fats lost during the whole reset phase. The quicker we can get the body using fat as its primary energy source the better.

So, for the first 2 days of the reset phase you will:

  1. Eat ABSOLUTELY ZERO carbs: To help your body switch energy pathway sources
  2. DO NO WORKOUTS other than the HIIT workouts directed below and expanded on in Topic 9.

Doing this will:

  1. Prime your body to use fat for fuel
  2. Boost the metabolism of those fats by reducing inflammation and acidity in the body 

To do this we completely remove any carbs from our diet, except the ones that are naturally found in vegetables and food.

So for these two days. Your macro breakdown would be

Protein 50%
Carbs 0%
Fat 50%

Then after the two days, we simply ad back 15% carbs and reduce fats to 35%.

Doing this really accelerates the rate at which your body switches to using fats as fuel.

Along with your workout plan, we will also add in a 15 min HIIT session (at the opposite end of the day to when you workout) for each day.

This is to help fully deplete the body of stored carbohydrates.

Reset Phase FAQ’s

Q. I’m struggling to hit the 10,000 steps a day!?

A. Don’t think of it just as going outside and doing 10,000 steps.

Ultimately it means always having very active NEAT – None Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

A long fancy word for the movement you do outside of exercise. Or as I like to think of it, constantly fidgeting and moving. Some ways in which you can constantly fidget:

  • Stand at your desk instead of sitting
  • Constantly moving around the house getting tea, up and down the stairs
  • House chores (this was a game-changer for me, I now love looking for house chores because it means I’m constantly moving)
  • Walk to the shops for groceries

There are lots of opportunities throughout the day to move/fidget that can count towards your 10,000 steps.

You may just need to walk outside for 15 mins to finish them off on an evening.

Or don’t try and do 10,000 each day, aim for 5,000 and then play catchup at the weekend by going on longer walks to equal 70,000 steps overall in a week, if you can. I realise it’s if you have children, so just look for opportunities to move where you can.

Breathe through your nose with your mouth closed all the time as much as possible throughout the day, especially when walking. It helps place the body in its parasympathetic mode = using fat-burning pathways for energy. Buddha mode.

Q. How do I know if I am actually eating enough in the reset phase?

A. Fat is going to be your body’s new preferred fuel source and enough is needed to:

  • keep energy levels high
  • Appetite controlled
  • And MOST IMPORTANTLY to keep you from burning up the hard earned muscle.

If you’re not eating enough, you’ll feel very unsatisfied after a meal.

Energy levels will be low and mood swings can become reulgar. there of course will be an expected lull in energy and performance as you switch into the reset phase and your body adapts.

But after 4 days you should start to feel more energetic. If you don’t and things just feel ‘crap’ and tough – Increase your fats by 10%.

If you are really struggling by day 4? You need to up your fat intake by 20%.

Q. How should I train during the reset phase?

A. Train exactly as your Program dictates. However, it is totally expected that you will struggle to hit some reps and won’t be able to push to that other gear for failure.

That’s fine. I advise just sticking on the same week of the workout until your energy levels rise again in the growth phase.

Q. How can I stay fuller during the reset phase?

  • Drink lots and lots of water
  • Add Himalayan salt to your meals
  • Eat lots and lots of vegetables and leafy greens. Not only will this help you feel a lot fuller but it will also help you detoxify the body during this reset phase.
  • Eat food high in fiber. This will also help with rid the body of the toxins released when the fats are broken down for energy. It will also keep you full.

Q. Will I be starving?

A. Yes, you will be hungry but the increased fats will help with that and you will adapt.

Also, you need to mentally lock-in. This mental toughness will improve and it will expand into your everyday life and workouts.

Q. Can I have cheat meals?

A. No, the time for them is in the growth phase. Stick to the plan here and don’t falter.

Q. How much weight should I lose?

A. Everyone is different in this regard. However, a drop in 2-3% body weight is a good indicator of a good reset phase.

With time this is something you will begin to understand for your body.

We aren’t looking for a number to hit on the scale, we a re looking to restore the body so we can enter the growth phase primed to build quality and healthy lean muscle mass.

Q. How much muscle will I lose?

A. If you follow this correctly, none.

That’s the whole point of this approach.

You may feel like your muscles are shrinking during this reset phase, but that’s just water loss due to the muscles being depleted of glycogen.

It’s a mental game that you need to battle on with.

Q. How do I know when I can stop the reset phase and carry on with the growth phase?

A. Ask yourself the questions:

  1. Do I look like I’ve lost some fat around the love handle area and my overall body?
  2. Has my weight loss stopped or slowed to a crawl?
  3. Am I lacking a lot of energy in workouts?

If the answer is YES to all these questions then move on to the growth phase

If the answer is NO to any of them then continue with the reset phase. Losing 2-3% of your body weight is a good indication that you should switch.

Q. Is there anything further I can do to help with inflammation from the growth phase?

A. Inflammation from the growth phase is normal and expected.

Try to use this reset phase to get some recovery work done to improve blood flow and remove acidic inflammatory toxins:

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Saunas and steam
  • Hot baths

Let’s get to it!

Coach Adam

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How To Use Carb Cycling To Build Muscle: Reset Phase

Coach Adam  (aka TRX Traveller)

Coach Adam (aka TRX Traveller)

Bodyweight Transformation Specialist

I help people build lean muscle, lose fat, and transform their body anywhere! With my complete body transformation TRX Suspension Trainer and Resistance Band Programs, and Private 1-1 Coaching.

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