Carb Cycling: How to Build Your Carb Cycling Diet

By guardian-elite
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Carb Cycling Meal Plan

A carb cycling diet is a weekly meal plan that “cycles” between low carb days sandwiched around higher carb days. Depending on the day in the carb cycling plan, you’re either consuming a very low amount of carbohydrates or consuming a higher amount of carbohydrates.

In the absence of carbs on the lower carb days, you will be eating more protein to make up for those calories not be consumed from carbs.

In general, the bulk of your energy you get through food to perform activities will come from the carbs you eat.

The downside is that consuming carbohydrates as a larger portion of your diet will make it harder to burn fat, since your body is using the excess carbohydrates for its energy.

Carb cycling can super-charge your diet, especially if you are already on a higher protein diet, and of course, already in a daily calorie deficit.

Where carb cycling can help is that there are several days where the carbs are kept to a bare minimum, allowing your body to use fat instead of carbs as its source of energy.

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As you cycle into a higher—or back to normal—carb day you can “re-feed” your body and keep your metabolism in check. This can also help to avoid the dreaded “weight loss plateau”.

Avoid the Weight Loss Plateau With a Carb Cycling Plan

As we mentioned above, during the course of a normal diet, it’s common to hit a weight loss plateau. This happens when we are making our body continually adapt to lower and lower daily calories with which to perform its daily functions.Our bodies are pretty good at adapting and becoming more efficient. Also, as a function of survival, our body will regulate our metabolism to make sure of this. Our body doesn’t know the difference between involuntary starving or lack of food and a diet.Eventually, you’re left with two options: eat less or exercise more to burn more calories.One of the carb cycling benefits is it’s a good way to avoid the weight loss plateau. By cycling between eating more and less, we can keep our metabolism from slowing down to the point where weight, or fat, is no longer being lost at current calorie intake.

Are Carbs Good or Bad?

You might be asking yourself, I thought all carbs were bad for you? Right? No, not at all. Carbohydrates are neither good or bad for you when broken down to its simplest form. However, there are two different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. We want to be eating the complex carbs when carb cycling.

What are some complex carbohydrates?

Here is a list:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Wheat bread
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Squash

Simple carbs are usually going to include more sugar, but not all entirely bad:

  • Whole fruit
  • Dairy products
  • Honey

Popular No-Carb Diets

There have been many low-carb diets over the years. Some are very popular. However, carb cycling is not a diet unto itself. It’s only a way to enhance the weight loss diet you are already on. Here are some popular low carb diets if you are interested in that:

  • Ketogenic Diet
  • Low Carb, High Fat
  • Paleo Diet
  • Atkins Diet
  • Low Carb Mediterranean Diet

Lower Insulin Level

Reducing carbs and lower insulin levels go hand in hand. When you’re trying to lose weight, this is a good thing too.

In fact, studies are being done right now that are showing many advantages to lowering insulin levels not only in losing fat, but protecting against diabetes and high blood pressure, to name a few.

Best Low Carb Foods

  • Eggs
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Cheese
  • Greek yogurt

Best Higher Carb Foods

  • Oats
  • Bananas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Apples
  • Grapefruit
  • Brown rice
  • Milk
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Squash

Are Cheat Days Allowed With Carb Cycling Schedule?

We are no fan of “cheat days” here at Guardian-Elite Fitness. We instead prefer cheat meals. The carb cycling meal plans do leave some room for a cheat meal on the seventh day of the meal plan. You can decide for yourself whether you want to use this cheat meal or not, depending on your own weight loss goals.

Carb Cycling Macros: How to Track Carbs?

Before starting any carb cycling plan, diet or weight loss regimen, you need to have some way to track what you’re eating, how many calories are being consumed and what the proportion of macronutrients are for a particular diet plan.

Here are some resources to read first, if you need help figuring out what exactly is a macronutrient and how they should be calculated and personalized for your particular meal plan.

Related: What Are Macronutrients, and How to Start Counting Macros for Weight Loss?

Related: 7 Steps to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle This Year

You will need to be using a calorie and macro tracking app or other software in order to conveniently track your daily intake. Our favorite is the MyFitnessPal app, which makes it easy.

Carb Cycling For Weight Loss

Depending on what your specific goals are for fat loss or muscle gain, you’d want to structure your low and high carb days around these goals.

Our sample meal plans focus on the person wanting to use carb cycling to lose fat in their diet.

Structure Your Carb Cycling Meal Plan Around Your Workouts

If your workouts consist of lifting heavy weights, or doing some high intensity interval training a few days a week, it’s definitely a good idea to align higher carb days with more intense or heavier workouts.You will need the additional energy the carbohydrates give you to be able to perform the workout at a high level. Otherwise, you could watch as you crash and burn halfway through the workout.If you are following a push-pull weight training schedule, it would be a good idea to schedule a higher carb day for the same day you will be training legs. Your legs contain some of the largest muscles in your body and you need a lot of energy to complete a leg day workout.The same could be said for a push day, when you plan on hitting the bench press hard and upping the weight. Better to be at full strength those days and save the lower carb days for the lighter weight training push and pull days during your week.

Carb Cycling Diet: High Carb Days

Here are our carb cycling chart o follow for higher carb intake days:

You can alternate between 2 or 3 of these high carb days depending on your goals

Example:

Monday–Low Carb

Tuesday–High Carb

Wednesday–High Carb

Thursday–Low Carb

Friday–Low Carb

Saturday–Low or High Carb Day

Carb Cycling Diet: Low Carb Days

Here is the carb cycling chart to follow for low carb intake days:

Carb Cycling Diet: No Carb Days

No carb days are actually a misnomer. You will be eating some carbs if you opt for a no carb day, but you should be limited to 50 grams or less.

Other macronutrients should be as follows:

Protein at 1.5 grams per pound body weight

Fat at 0.6-0.7 grams per pound body weight.

Carb Cycling Results

Carb cycling is a happy medium between a low carb or no carb diet, and still being able to enjoy your precious carbs in your every day life. If you have trouble staying dedicated to a set diet at all times, or just simple love carbs, implementing a carb cycling meal plan could be a good way around this.

Tips for sucess:

Make sure you are in a calorie deficit on every day of the meal plan.

Just because you are on a high carb day, should not mean the daily calories get blown out of the water. You will never successfully lose weight by taking in more calories than you burn.

Track your calories daily

It’s very difficult to know how many calories you are eating and how many of each macro if you’re not actively tracking what you eat. If you try and guess, you will not be successful.

Know your total daily energy expenditure

Knowing what your TDEE is the baseline for setting a daily calorie goal, calculating macros and making sure you lose the fat.