What is Carb Cycling?

The skinny on carbs.

Carbs are everywhere. We hear about them being bad, we hear about them causing all of our problems. But do they really?

The truth is, they are not inherently bad. In America we tend to eat more of the processed, junk carbs than anywhere else in the world – and on average we do eat too much of them.

However, carbs are important for fueling out intense workouts and giving us the energy we need. Think of carbs as your gasoline for your car. If you are following a super low carb diet, your body cannot perform optimally and can eventually burn out. You need them as fuel to power through workouts with the right level of intensity.

Who could try carb cycling?

If you have been very consistent (including weekends) with your food intake and have been making solid progress for some time. Or if you are you are numbers person and you have your macros and calories in the right ballpark and have been doing well with counting and tracking, you may want to add a little bit of an advanced technique to your eating known as carb cycling.

Essentially, on your high activity days (workout days) you need more carbs.

***High activity days meaning tough workouts, around 60 minutes, at a hard intensity***

On your less active days, you don’t need as many carbs. This also means less calories on these days.

***This would be rest days, recovery days, or light workout days***

Carb cycling works very well for anyone looking to lose fat, and minimize muscle loss – or even gain muscle and minimize fat gain (all dependent on your calorie levels).

It also helps to control your insulin sensitivity, which is great for your internal health – especially if you have some weight to lose.

So how many carbs do I eat on workout days?

This is variable based on goals, body fat levels, gender, and even ethnicity (yes, genetics plays a role in how your body handles carbs). If you know your calorie level, then start around 40% of your calories from carbs.

For myself this would be 310 grams of carbs. Remember, this is an intense workout day. Lifting heavy, minimal rest, over 30 sets of strength training for over an hour.

No clue where to start? Email me.

Carb Cycling on Non-Lifting Days

Remove 50-75% of your starchy carbs on non-lifting days.

I recommend removing your starchy carbs from whatever meal(s) is easiest for you.

Example: I workout at 11AM on Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays

 Normally I have 50 grams at breakfast with my eggs. Cut those.

 My lunches usually contain a sandwich with fruit or rice on my lifting days. By turning this into a huge salad with tons of veggies, protein, and a little healthy fat, I am cutting out another 80 grams of carbs. 

 This equals 130 grams of carbs, so I will usually eat about half the amount I would normally have at dinner to get my total intake as low as possible.

So this would mean that I cut out 155-232 grams of carbs (and also 620-930 calories).

On a low carb day, I will also get a higher percentage of calories from fat – BUT will not eat more grams.

This will still keep me in a 500-800ish caloric deficit for the day, which is right where I want to be when on maintenance.

So why not go low carb all the time?

Because you NEED the carbs for fuel, and to keep your metabolism running and healthy.

Yes, I know there are people who go full low carb all the time and run on ketones, but that isn’t most people.

Realize, me needing 310 grams per day is not just a random number, and I have literally worked up to it.

If you are a small female, looking to lose 10 pounds of fat, your HIGH carb days might only be 125-150 grams of carbs per day, and your low carb days might be 30-40 grams (pretty much your veggies and a piece of fruit).

So be consistent with your food for a while, and then if you want, give carb cycling a try!

Key takeaways:

  1. Before trying carb cycling, make sure you have been good with your tracking and following plan.
  2. Cut back your carbs from starchy foods on non-workout days.
  3. This definitely applies to weekends, especially if you have big plans for the night!