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Carb Cycling

By: Tina Balode

No doubt, all of us have practised 'carb cycling' to some extent, without consciously putting a dietary label on it, as it may came quite naturally! For instance, there are those days when we indulge in plenty of carbs (think Christmas or Birthdays!) and other days, when we lose appetite and live almost on pure air - to burn off those excess calories! Likewise, the concept of 'carb cycling' is not an entirely new either - at least not in a fitness industry. It has been around quite a while - tried and tested, widely used by professional athletes and bodybuilders. Motive? The same old one - gain lean mass and reduce body fat.

Let me tell you, this article will not cover all points on how to do carb cycling. One reason - because there is no 'one correct way to do' it. Other - I would prefer this article remain as an introductory material only. Just a sample outline on how carb cycling works, touch concept of it. Something you may even consider for yourself, and maybe learn some things along the way - while knowing you're not an athlete and never plan to be one either! And you still have a time to decide whether you want to dig any deeper or not! Because I will come back to this topic again and explore it deeper, including the macros for a day and calories etc.

Why carb cycling could be for you?

Carb cycling can be useful for anyone who wants to speed up metabolism, and not crash it. Some of us who have been weeks and weeks on low carb/calorie diets know that it is just a matter of time when plateau will hit and weight loss will eventually stop for good.

Carb cycling prevents what a long term low carb/calorie diet does - slows down a metabolism. There is no denying that low carb/calorie diets are extremely effective when it comes to quick weight loss, but done in long term it may become detrimental to metabolic functions. As it can deplete glycogen (sugar body stores in liver and muscle), gradually raise stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol. But we know, stress hormones are really bad for a weight loss or mass gain, it simply hinders it!

How carb cycling works?

In effort to avoid weight loss plateau - carb cycling is a dietary plan where periods of low and high carb intake applied. Glycogen stores to be depleted on low carb days and fully replenished on high carb days. This way body has no time to slow down metabolism, mess up thyroid, hormones and become carb depleted in long term. Likewise this method helps to retain lean body mass and reduce overall body fat. Body needs adequate amount of carbohydrates for muscle to growth, and living on protein alone can be rather toxic.

Basically it works in two ways - high carbohydrate days helps body to refuel energy stores (in liver and muscle)and boosts overall physical performance. And who knows not - sugar makes us happy too?! But on low carbohydrate days/no carb days - body starts to burn stored glycogen and then turns to fat for more fuel. Additionally this regiment has a positive impact on insulin sensitivity too.

Is it a long term diet? And is it safe?

Although same experts argue that carb cycling is not recommendable as a long term diet, I cannot answer on this question, you rather speak with your professional you trust and make a decision then. Note - people who has a diabetes, or other blood sugar related health problems are not advised to follow it without professional's advice.

How to combine exercise regimen with carb cycling diet?

This will be just a random example, one way of doing it. You can 'mix and match' between high, moderate, low carb days as you find most effective for you. You can make your own schedule based on your personal needs and preference.

In this presented 'weekly-schedule of carb cycling', below - high carbs days are combined with most intense workouts - targeting larger muscle groups; while moderate, low carb days are paired with less challenging workout, and on no carb day - rest!

Day 1 High Carbs

-Weight Training (Legs), either target other larger muscles, or HIIT, or cycling, etc.

Day 2 Moderate Carbs

-Moderately intense Weight Training (Chest), or yoga, or Pilates etc.

Day 3 Low Carbs

-Weight training (Shoulders), or other moderate intensity activity/workout of your choice.

Day 4 High Carbs

- Weight Training, target larger muscles (Legs), or other high intensity workout/activity of your choice.

Day 5 Moderate Carbs

-Weight training (Back), or yoga, or moderate cardio etc.

Day 6 Low Carbs

Weigh training (Biceps and Triceps), or moderate cardio etc.

Day 7 Low carbs or No Carbs

- Rest

How to eat on carb cycling diet?

I will not go into detail as far as to discuss macro elements - protein, carbohydrates, and fats you consume on a particular day, but will outline general percentage in calories.

Low Carb Days

- Protein at every meal;

- Some fat during the day;

- Eat plenty of vegetables.

Approximate percent of calories:

35-40% carbs, protein 30-35% or more, and 25-30% healthy fats)

Moderate / High Carb Days

- Protein at every meal;

- Lower fat content for meals;

- Moderate carbs during the day.

Approximate percent of calories:

45 – 50% carbs, protein 30-35%, and 20 -25% healthy fats)

Some dieticians recommend keeping protein intake very stable during the carb cycling course. That is, exactly same the amount of protein, every single day. While others recommend to consume little more protein or fat during the low carb days, to compensate calories. But on no carb days - eat proteins and good fats only, accompanied with loads of green vegetables and salad. Although you may eat greens any time you choose.

Considering fruits contain more sugar - instead go for berries, they are just as great alternative! If you strive for a healthier version of this diet, cut out processed, sugary foods during the high carb days, it will help avoid huge insulin spikes and will give more lasting energy.This method of alternating high carb days with low/no carb days tricks body into thinking that food supply is still constant, it curbs metabolism without storing energy as fat.

On those high carb days it may seem that weight loss has suddenly stopped, or weight comes back on, fret not! High carbohydrate days have a tendency to increase body weight, but that is a water only, not fat! It will balance out itself in no time!

Image Credit:




BUT you can manipulate your energy sources- on the high carb days you can have lower fat (as protein stays the same), on moderate carb days you have moderate fat, but on low carb days high fat.

During the harder training days keep carbs intake just before training, maybe even during the training and after training.

Keep notes how your body reacts as this is not a simplistic system which will work for everyone the same, keep up the track on it...the way you train, your genetic makeup and your prior/current diet - all that will have an impact on how outcome will result.

NOTE - 3 days (Low carb days) a week keep your carbs 50 grams only- on these days will not be fruits or other high carb foods - just veggies. Do not go for more a week on low carb diet unless you want a metabolic slowdown.

Having a cheat days (high carb days) helps to reset declining metabolism and re-boost it, while adjusting those 'fat burning' hormones (T3, T4 Leptin) and replenish glycogen stores in muscle, and psychologically gives a satisfaction too

The idea is that body never goes into famine type of environment. Calorie restricted environments often brings body onto starvation mode which often slows down the metabolism. Lack of nutrients and carbs in long term does help to lose weight, but it also causes to lose the muscle

Carb cycling method also helps to regulate hunger hormone???

If one is on long term low calories diet, respectively cutting out on carbohydrates (simple) it will basically matter of time when hunger pals will set in.

Low carb diets can be quite taxing on the body, lack of carbohydrates puts body into fat metabolism

Carbs, simple carbs gives an instant energy to the body, spikes up insulin levels which are essential for anabolic??? Processes, especially talking body builders.

Emotional Part

If you stay on day with low carbs, it is easier to pull through as you know tomorrow you will be able to indulge. Make sure to get your 30 grams of carbs every day to keep the thyroid working.

For example, on my high-carb days, I aim to eat 45 – 50% carbs and 20-25% healthy fats. On my low - carbs days, I aim to eat 35-40% carbs and 25-30% healthy fats. My protein ALWAYS stays the same (around 30-35%.)


Expect to experience some water weight gain on your high-carb days. For every gram of carbohydrate you consume, you’ll store four grams of water (Source:

Don’t get alarmed over this! It’s a normal process and you aren’t gaining fat. On your low-carb days, you’ll notice that this gain will decrease. So my advice:



That's the general idea. Here are some specifics:


High day

Carbs: 2-3 grams per pound of body weight

Protein: 1-1.25 grams per pound of body weight

Fat: as little as possible

Low and moderate days

Carbs: 0.5-1.5 grams per pound of body weight

Protein: 1.25-1.5 grams per pound of body weight

Fat: 0.15-0.35 grams per pound of body weight


High Day

Carbs: 0.9-1.0 grams per pound of body weight

Protein: 0.75 grams per pound of body weight

Fat: as little as possible

Low and moderate days

Carbs: 0.2-0.5 grams per pound of body weight

Protein: 0.9-1.0 grams per pound of body weight

Fat: 0.1-0.2 grams per pound of body weight

Focus on What Matters

Calculation done on total body weight. Not lean mass!

How much to eat and how to eat

Use BCAA and L-Glutamine

HIGH Carb days

6-6.5 gr of carbs on kg bodyweight.

2-2.2 gr of protein on kg body weight

0.3- 0.4 gr of fat on kg bodyweight

MEDIUM Carb days

2.0 gr of carbs on kg bodyweight.

2.5-2.75 gr of protein on kg body weight

0.3- 0.4 gr of fat on kg bodyweight

LOW Carb days

1.0 gr of carbs on kg bodyweight.

3.0-3.5 gr of protein on kg body weight

0.5- 0.7 gr of fat on kg bodyweight


Weighing 75kg at this moment, my calculations are: High carb day: 6-6.5g carbs x 75kg = 450-487,5g

= 1800-1950 kcal 2-2.2g protein x 75kg = 150-165g = 600-660 kcal 0.3-0.4g fat x 75kg = 22,5-23g =

202,5-207 kcal TOTAL 2602,5 - 2817 kcal Medium carb day: 2g carbs x 75kg = 150g = 600 kcal 2.5-

2.75g protein x 75 = 187,5 - 206,25g = 750-825 kcal 0.3-0.4g fat x 75kg = 22,5-23g = 202,5-207 kcal

TOTAL 1552,5 - 1632 kcal Low carb day: 1g carbs x 75kg = 75g = 300 kcal 3-3.5g protein x 75kg = 225 - 262,5g = 900-1050 kcal 0.5 - 0.7g fat x 75kg = 37,5 - 52,5g = 337,5 - 472,5 kcal TOTAL 1537,5 - 1822,5 kcal ????

To know how to interpret the measurements and scale weight, watch:

I would MUCH rather suggest the following diet: and this system to manipulate it:

As continually discussed in our podcasts, it is important to establish BASELINES and self experiment to figure out how your body type individually responds to your carb intake. (As a general rule of thumb, you must design your diet and calorie intake based on your goal. For the purposes of this article it is assumed one is trying to lose 10 pounds of body fat and thus eating reduced calories overall.)

Your carbs should come from the following sources. If you are Endomorphic (naturally heavy) and possess a slower metabolism (usually more insulin sensitive) stick with Green Veggies as your primary carb sources except during or immediately post weight training.

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