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Carb cycling, a widely used dieting method for losing fat in bodybuilding, can also greatly benefit powerlifters competing in weight categories. The lighter you are, the higher chance you have of being competitive, as you have a great ratio of strength to body weight. So losing fat while maintaining muscle mass and strength can vastly increase your chances of winning contests. Your diet should allow you to consume enough carbohydrate to fuel performance but not so much that fat loss is impaired.
The main benefit that carb cycling has over regular calorie-restricted dieting is that it provides more of a metabolism boost, says Tom Venuto, author of "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle." A higher-carb, higher-calorie day once or twice a week provides a powerful metabolic boost, which prevents your metabolism from slowing down by raising levels of the hormone leptin. Carbs also help to raise energy levels by increasing stores of muscle glycogen, giving you a mental and physical boost on high-carb days.
On your regular days, consume between 1 and 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight, advises Shelby Starnes, author of "Tips and Tricks for Dieting Success." Get most of your carbs from nutrient-dense sources such as brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables. Starnes also notes that if you are struggling with losing body fat, then you may require one regular day, followed by one super low day, where you drop your carb intake to 0.5 grams per pound of weight.
High-carb days boost energy levels and stoke your metabolism, but they need to be planned correctly. If you're just starting your diet, you should only need one higher-carb day per week. If you're further into your diet or are very lean already, schedule two high-carb days per week. Registered dietitian and competitive powerlifter Adam Yezer recommends placing your high-carb days to coincide with your hardest training sessions -- most likely squat and deadlift workouts. On these days, consume 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight.
Calories, Protein and Fat
Aside from carbohydrates, you also need to consider calories. To lose fat you need to consume fewer calories than you burn, or if you're using carb cycling while gaining weight, then you should consume slightly more than you burn. U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines state that active men should consume between 2,400 and 3,000 calories per day, and active women, 2,000 to 2,400. As a powerlifter, you may need more than this to support your training. Start in the middle of these figures and adjust your intake accordingly depending on your progress. For protein intake, sports nutritionist John Berardi recommends that athletes eat around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Get the rest of your calories from fats -- this will mean a higher fat intake on low carb days, and vice versa.