Is Carb-Cycling Right For You?

  • Possible Pat
  • June 25, 2018

There are several approaches to losing weight. Some of them work, and some of them don’t, and if you’ve been struggling to lose weight or keep the weight off, then this is something you already know. The most prominent part of losing weight is forming the right habits so that your weight loss is sustainable.

At the beginning of my weight loss journey, I didn’t necessarily subscribe to any particular weight loss strategy because I was still learning and I didn’t know the different methods that could have helped me. As I have gotten further into my journey, lost the weight and even won my first bodybuilding competition, my ideas of dieting have changed and become more clear. One of the methods I use to lose weight and keep the weight off is carb-cycling.

Everyone is different and what works for one person, may not be ideal for another so I want to break down carb-cycling so you can decide if it is right for you.

What is Carb-Cycling?

Carb-cycling is the act of altering the intake of carbs as part of your nutritional habits, with high, moderate, low and even no carb days. The purpose of alternating your carb intake is to maintain a high metabolism and get out of or avoid hitting a plateau, primarily when used in conjunction with a workout regimen. Carb-cycling is an excellent approach to nutrition, especially if you are trying to lose weight, it is an aggressive nutrition strategy.

Your body uses carbs as its first source of fuel, turning the carbs into glucose and insulin for your body to burn. Consuming carbs, especially on high-carb days, is useful if you are going to be completing an intense workout. Having more carbs allows your body to push itself further because it has the energy to burn. Typically, those on a carb-cycle schedule their intense workout days on their high-carb days, while syncing a low-intensity workout or rest day with a low or no carb day.

This type of diet is prevalent among athletes and bodybuilders because it helps to burn fat while also preserving and building muscle. Carb-cycling is also a preferred strategy to follow if you find it difficult to maintain a keto diet or find yourself hitting a weight loss plateau. For many who have lost weight, carb-cycling is a great way to keep the weight off for good.

Benefits of the Carb-Cycling

  • Encourages Weight Loss – On a carb-cycle, you will enter into days where you are in a “carb-deficit,” meaning that your body does not have an adequate amount of carbs to use for energy. Your body then turns to the stored fat in your body and begins to burn that for energy instead.
  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity – Carb-cycling has been shown to improve symptoms of insulin resistance, especially in those who are prediabetic or have Type II diabetes. This is because it reduces the amount of food you eat overall and removes “empty calories” from your diet. Plus, cutting carbs on your low-carb days helps to regulate your insulin levels.
  • Preserves and Builds Muscle – Your muscles use carbs for energy, and when you consume carbs before a workout, you can fuel them to work harder and push further. This helps maintain muscle tissue and allows you to work harder to build more muscle.
  • Prevents Hunger and Fatigue – The body uses carbs as a primary source of energy, and because you are consuming carbs on a carb-cycle, especially on high-carb days, you are less likely to feel tired and hungry.

Who is Carb-Cycling Right For?  

Carb-cycling is used by both people who want to lose weight and people who want to build muscle. This diet is ideal because it can help you do both at once, especially if you have a workout routine established.

Carb-cycling can be beneficial because it can be adjusted according to a person’s activity level, so if you are someone who is not active, you will consume fewer carbs on the carb-cycle. Although this is often seen as a more complicated way of eating, it is more adjustable and customizable for a person’s specific needs.

This may even be beneficial if you find yourself feeling hungry or tired while on other diets, as the carbs you consume will give you additional energy compared to a no-carb diet. This diet is also especially useful if you are an active person.

What Foods are Can You Eat When Carb-Cycling?

The foods you eat a carb-cycle can fluctuate from day to day. Here are the foods you are going to want to focus on when you are eating according to carb-cycling:

High-Carb Days:

Low-Carb Days:

What Foods Should You Avoid When Carb-Cycling?

When you are carb-cycling, you want to focus on eating whole foods, eliminating all processed food from your diet. You may also want to eliminate dairy and pay attention to the types of vegetables you are consuming, so you can make sure that you are not eating starchy vegetables with a lot of carbs on your low-carb days.

Many people who carb-cycle also eliminate bread and gluten from their diet, but this depends on what works for the individual.

Macro Ratio for Carb-Cycling

Your macro ratio will heavily depend on whether you are on a high-carb or low-carb day, and because carb-cycling can explicitly be modified to a person’s needs, these numbers can change, depending on goals, weight, and activity level.

Generally, an individual will fluctuate the number of calories that they consume between high and low-carb days, with low-carb days being 400 – 600 calories lower than a high-carb day. On a high-carb day, an individual will generally consume about 200 – 300 grams of carbs, while on a low-carb day they will only consume 75 – 150 grams. If you are doing a no-carb day, you will want to remove as many carbs as possible from your diet that day.

Here is how macros break down on a carb-cycle:

  • Protein – You should consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, regardless of it being a high or low-carb day.
  • Carbs – On a low-carb day your carbs should make up 20% of your calories, while on a high-carb day carbs can take up to 50% of your calories for the day.
  • Healthy Fats – Your remaining calories for the day should come from healthy fats.

exercise while carb cycling

Exercising While Carb-Cycling

Carb-cycling and exercise go together really well, which is why this strategy is popular among athletes and bodybuilders. Because you are consuming carbs, your body will have adequate fuel to power through your workouts and give you better results, whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle.

Just like you want to cycle your carbs throughout the week and change the macros you are eating, you will want to change the types of exercises and workouts you do throughout the week. Focus on keeping your high-intensity workouts on your high-carb days and your lower-intensity workouts on your low-carb days, this way you are not only providing your body with the adequate energy for your workouts, but you are burning through the carbs you’ve consumed.

Should You Try Carb-Cycling?

If you’ve had difficulty sticking to a low-carb diet and find that it is unsustainable for you, then carb-cycling may be the way to go. You may also want to try it if you are active and what to build muscle or have hit a plateau in your weight loss.

Before starting any nutrition program, you always want to check with your doctor to make sure that this plan will be beneficial to you and there are no underlying causes of your weight gain. The more you know about your physical health, the better position you will be in to do something it and choose a dieting strategy that will work for you.

And because carb-cycling is a more advanced method of nutrition, you may want to consider getting on a Custom Meal Plan so that a nutritionist can help you find a cycle of carbs that work for you so you will see the greatest results.

Carb-cycling isn’t the only successful way to diet, and if you don’t think this is right for you, learn more about keto by clicking here. 

About Possible Pat

Hi, I'm Pasquale Brocco and I've lost A LOT of weight. When I started my journey to lose weight, I weighed 605 pounds. After visiting the doctor, I realized I had to make a change. I started with a simple plan and within 60 days, I lost 100 lbs. So far, I've lost over 307 pounds. Now, I'm sharing a simple message with you, "Anything is possible." If you can put on the weight, you can lose the weight.

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