Can Foods in the Carb Cycling Diet Help You Get Better Sleep?

13/02/2016

Among the more popular weight loss strategies, at the moment, is a carb cycling diet, in which the dieter alternates between days when he or she is consuming low levels of carbohydrates and days when he or she is eating lots of carbs. For the purposes of weight loss, the number of low-carb days typically outnumber those where high-carb intake is allowed.

Often, the carb cycling diet instructs dieters to eat low-carbohydrate foods for about five days per week, but to break that up with two days per week that are higher in carbs. The reason is that sticking to a consistently low-carbohydrate diet is unrealistic, has been shown not to promote long-term weight loss, and it even comes with certain health risks such as heart disease.

That said, beyond losing weight, many people feel that a carb cycling diet can also help dieters to get a better night of sleep. While this isn’t always true of every dieter, many of those who had previously struggled with insomnia while following a low-carb diet are able to get the rest they need when they add high-carb days a couple of times per week.

The reason is that when cycling carbohydrates, it helps the dieter to be able to avoid a number of the unwanted side effects associated with a diet that is exclusively low-carb. Some of the symptoms the latter dieters often experience – particularly as they transition into this new eating strategy – include: exhaustion, irritability and low blood sugar.

Though it might seem natural that a person who feels exhausted would fall asleep very easily, the opposite is actually true. A person can become “over-tired”, making it harder to sleep. The reason is that when a person is excessively tired, the body and mind become restless. A restless body doesn’t sleep well as it causes harm to some of the body’s natural rhythms, leading to wakefulness.

A study conducted in 2007 also showed that cortisol is increased in low-carb diets. That research was published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism”. It was found that obese men who adhered to a low-carbohydrate diet would experience higher levels of cortisol regardless of whether or not they’d lost weight. Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone” can have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and can, therefore, lead to wakefulness.

Cycling carbs may help to avoid that effect, keeping cortisol levels down and reducing their impact on the central nervous system and, therefore, the sleep cycle.

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