I want to share the mystery I solved last year in Chicago— the Mista’s Pizza Mystery.

After eating pizza once or twice every week and getting leaner, I must explain and how it worked before people call me crazy. The words “pizza” and “lean” in the same sentence? Malarky!

Read below to find out just how it makes sense.

A lot of you know who know me well, know that I ventured to Mista’s pizza once a week (at least) in Boystown, Chicago. Such an amazing place with a VIBE. It’s small, BYOW and all organic.

My go-to was the gluten-free Heart Smart pizza with dairy-free cheese. This pizza was decked out with organic zucchini and mushrooms. I also would get one of their huge house salads and depending on the day, add chicken to it. What I loved was knowing that all their ingredients were organic and fresh. The house balsamic was basic, the salad had mixed greens, red onion, chick peas, cherry tomatoes and a jalepeno.

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Some nights, my girlfriends and I ordered in….see above.

Now that my mouth is watering, moving on.

I went to that joint way too much. Last fall, as my trips to Mista’s became more frequent, I started to wonder if I would gain weight or get “fat.” My training never changed and my diet never changed—and even Mista’s became a constant, or a staple rather.

The first few times I went to Mista’s I was actually “watching” my weight and trying to shred down a little bit for an upcoming photo shoot. I was spurning all grains and my carbs had moderately been coming from low glycemic fruits like raspberries. I would have an apple here and there or part of a banana occasionally in my shakes every few days after harder workouts.

The first time I went to Mista’s I convinced myself I had to eat some pizza because I had not eaten enough that day and I had lifted.

Henceforth, after consuming a WHOLE (small) gluten-free pizza I was a bit frightened but not even super full. I had a few pieces of my friend’s pizza, too. I woke up the next day feeling awesome.

After a few weeks, trips to Mista’s began happening at least once a week, if not every four days…

But I never gained weight.

I got leaner.

“So wait, you’re tellin’ me I can eat my favorite pizza and get leaner?” You ask.

In my case, yes; it happened.

Which brings me to a short nutrition lesson on carbcycling!

What is carb cycling?

The reason people use this tool is to continue to lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass.

Basically, carb cycling means following a diet that manipulates your carbohydrates from lower amounts to higher amounts. For some, it also involves manipulating the time of day at which the carbs are consumed, all the while keeping your protein intake consistent. Just like there is a lot of freedom with HIIT, there is a lot of freedom in carb cycling. It also opens up an easier, less rigid lifestyle (in my opinion). With carb cycling, people can stay lean and not stress too much over being starving for carbs.

Think long term with me, you low carb fanatics.

The thing is, carb cycling varies greatly. I personally do not think there is a right or wrong way to do it. It just depends on what works well for your body and lifestyle.

Others will argue there is one “correct” way to carb cycle, but this is typically because they have had an experience that gave them great success.

Some carb-cyclers enjoy a Carb Nite program and some enjoy Carb Backloading. To each his own, I will explain both in a bit.

But first, here are a few simple examples of general carb cycles that some people adhere to.

* Two “low carb” days followed by one “high carb” day.
-“low carb” means eating around .5 grams of carbs per 1 pound of body weight, i.e. If I am 120 pounds, I would shoot for 60 grams of carbs a day.
-“high carb” can mean 1 to 1 ratio of grams per pound or even higher like 2.25 grams per pound, thus I would be eating 120- 270 grams of carbs in a day.

Let me just state– 60 grams of carbs for an active person like myself is very challenging and pretty unrealistic.

*Low, medium, high carb cycle, and just rotate each day.

-“medium carb” in this case would be a 1 to 1 ratio (grams to body weight). Meaning I would eat 120 grams of carbs.

“But how do I track the grams?” You ask.

I used livestrong.com’s My Plate app or chronometer.com to track my foods in grams.

It can be tough to measure it all initially. Once you figure it out, it becomes more instinctive.

For maintaining a leaner body I like carb cycling because it works for me. I can stay feeling alert and awesome, enjoy foods I love, and lift. I like that I can eat Mista’s or sweet potato fries and not worry and continue to eat a low carb diet most days of the week for my digestion’s sake.

I also enjoy carb cycling because I am against the word “cheat meal.”

A lot of “dieters” will starve or eat minimally and then go out and “cheat” just one day a week or whatever they arbitrarily decide on. The thing is, with that comes guilt, oftentimes excess, and foods that lack nutritional value.

For me, I can do a 60 gram low carb day; but naturally by nighttime or the next day, I need more carbs. This is because my body fat is rather low. Interestingly enough, I realized I could follow a Carb backloading plan if I wanted to: typically people (mainly men) with low body fat trying to add mass do a carb backloading regime. However, I am not trying to put on mass.

Carb Backloading:
-Who? for people who want to put on more mass while staying lean.
-Prerequisite: you must be lifting heavy weights (if your goal is gaining muscle, of course you are lifting).
-Plan: eating around 30 carbs or less from waking time until after your afternoon training session. After you workout, you refuel, and continue to eat high carb until bedtime.
***Some articles out there will tell people to eat “whatever” when carbing– pizza, ice cream, fruit, anything. In my opinion this is a slippery slope and it is probably best to stick to whole food sources like rice, ezekiel bread, quinoa, fruit, sweet potato etc. I loved Mistas in Chicago because it was all organic ingredients, gluten free, dairy free and fresh as!
-Why? This plan plays on the hormonal cycles of the body so that at the time the body is ready to move fat and oxidize fat, (in the a.m.) you are encouraging it do so because you are only allowing it to use the fat you intake as fuel. Then, most backloaders train in the afternoon/early evening and follow it with a meal in the metabolic “window.” It is key to refuel within 45 minutes of exercising so most people will eat a meal (aka “refeeding” in the carb cycle). Post-training they begin to refuel at the optimal time and continue to eat high carb foods up until bedtime.

Carb Nite:
-Who? for people who live a low carb, active lifestyle who want to stay lean year round.
-Prerequisite (in my opinion): must be active and have some type of resistance training in your routine. It is easiest to begin the Carb Nite cycle with 10 days of low carb to train the body to use fat for fuel.
-Plan: eat low carb for 5-7 days, and once a week eat a high carb dinner (anything goes—pizza, tortillas, bread etc) from 5 pm until bedtime on that high carb night.

Sound familiar? Enter Mista’s pizza in my world.

-Why? if you are active and training, you will eventually burn out if you do not “refeed” the muscles, or give them more glucose to use for energy. It allows you to make a low-carb lifestyle one of which is easier to adhere.

When I first tried to lower my body fat, I began with the Carb Nite system. But with a lot of training and time, my body needed more refeeds, thus I was craving Mista’s twice a week.

Again, I worried I was doing something wrong.

But I remained lean the more I ate, the amount I wanted when at Mista’s grew. I never turned down and invite. (Even though I was usually the one inviting others). My body was undergoing a lot of heavy training sessions and wanted more glucose. It needed more energy from carbs.

The key is consistency guys.

Now that I am not trying to do anything specific and have a busy lifestyle I just try to aim for a good balance of .75-1 gram per pound of body fat most days. For me, it is my sweet spot. It helps me avoid yo-yo-ing or getting too hungry or exhausted. If I shoot or like .75 gram per pound each day and typically need a reefed once a week. Therefore I do a high carb day.

I can safely say this works for me. At this point in my life my training/exercise regime is very consistent. If you are not consistent with exercise yet or are just beginning to train more, this is a hard thing to implement because your body will need more fuel naturally.

With carb cycling you can make it what you want. The bottom line is, the body needs carbs to live. “Carb cycling” means you’re still eating them, just a specific times.

Body builders somewhere along the way tried to make the most efficient use of the carbs they ingested by timing them according to their training and hormones. Flash forward and now its becoming more prevalent and casually referred to as “carb cycling,” like it’s a diet. In my opinion, I guess it is a lifestyle. But in my life eating this way is simply what I find to work well for my digestion and training. It also bodes well for any aesthetic results from training.

In my shoes, sticking to a healthy carb cycling plan means eating the organic pizza I love once a week. Sometimes it means adding in more sweet potato and fruit on a Tuesday. I feel this lifestyle is more viable for sustained weight loss and nutritional balance.

A lot of people looking to lose body fat while keeping their strength (if not also building muscle), can carb cycle to make the process manageable and avoid losing muscle from lack of glucose.

Scientifically it is hard to do lose fat and gain muscle at once, but a lot of overweight people who begin lifting for the first time will see this happen. When a more experienced person tries to manipulate their macros by giving the muscles enough glucose each week but still keeping carbs low (intermittently through carb cycling) it helps them avoid losing some muscle and concurrently aids in losing weight from less carbs, (which for most people beginning to cut carbs, it naturally lowers their overall caloric intake).

If you take nothing from this article, take this:

Diet plays a MAJOR role in the way you look, training just helps you build or get a certain look.

Carb cycling is a tool you can use to sustain a low-carb lifestyle.

If you have a busy lifestyle, instead of thinking you need to find two more hours a day to workout, switch your thinking and begin to take a strategic look at your diet.

Your diet must be sustainable.

Your diet must be enjoyed.

Your diet must make sense and be used as a tool to get you where you want to be (whether that means just to maintain a certain weight for 20 years, to lose weight, to lose weight and maintain muscle, etc).

In the end, I knew my love for Mista’s pizza would never fade and I knew I didn’t want to ignore chances to have fun social outings at Mista’s because I feared gaining weight or back-tracking. I also didn’t want to sit in a yummy place and order plain chicken and be starving.

I wanted to enjoy.

And that enjoyment ended up being able to fit right into my lifestyle and actually be the perfect time once or twice a week, for me to refuel my muscle with organic whole grains, veggies and more.

If you have any questions, maybe working with me and my nutrition coaching is the way to go. Do not hesitate to sign up for #daretoeat programing.
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