What Is Carb Cycling

What Is Carb Cycling
Healthcare professionals during a meeting at the hospital - High angle view

Many readers are interested in the following topic: How carb cycling works and how to do it. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

American Council on Exercise: “Carb Cycling.”

Carb Cycling

Carb cycling is a very strict diet used by serious athletes and bodybuilders who want to drop body fat, get more muscle mass, or store more carbs for long-haul exercise like a marathon. It’s becoming more popular with people who want to kick-start weight loss, even though a lot of the weight you may lose would come from water.

Your body needs carbs to work the way it should. Carbs, proteins, and fats are how it gets its energy, measured in calories. But 1 gram of carbs or proteins has only 4 calories, while 1 gram of fats has 9 calories. Experts generally recommend that you get 50% to 55% of your daily calories from carbs, 10% to 15% from proteins, and less than 30% from fats.

Some carbs are healthier than others. They’re found naturally in dairy products and in plant-based foods like beans, grains, fruits, and vegetables. They’re also added to processed foods, as sugars or starches.

When you digest carbs, they break down into glucose, which your body uses for fuel. Once you stop relying on carbs to fuel your body, you might feel fewer carb cravings and have more energy.

Carb cycling involves going back and forth between high-carb days and low-carb days. There may even be “no-carb” days.

You would usually have a high-carb day when you plan on exercising hard. On those days, your body needs more fuel, so you might eat 2 to 2.5 grams of carbs for every pound of your body weight.

You eat fewer carbs on days when you’re less active. On low-carb days, you might eat .5 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight. You may include a “no-carb” day, when you have fewer than 30 grams of carbs for the entire day.

Another option is to follow a plan where you spend 3 days eating a low amount of carbs: about 100-125 grams each day. Then, you spend 2 days eating a high amount of carbs (175-275 grams) on days you are more active.

How Carb Cycling Works

When you eat food that has carbohydrates and your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas makes more of a hormone called insulin that takes glucose into cells. There, the glucose is either converted into energy, stored for later, or turned into fat.

As cells take in blood sugar, your pancreas signals the cells to release stored glucose, called glucagon. This back-and-forth makes sure your body has the right amount of sugar.

But when you eat a carb-heavy diet, your body can make too much insulin. That can lead to weight gain and a higher chance of things like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Taking short breaks to cycle carbs can give your body a chance to burn fat instead of carbs and muscle tissues. But it’s important to remember that if you aren’t doing plenty of exercise or intense training while carb cycling, high-carb days might make you gain weight.

There isn’t a lot of research on the long-term effects of carb cycling, but it’s generally safe to do for a short time. Make sure your overall diet is healthy so you can keep blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels under control.

How to Do Carb Cycling

Your carb cycling plan will depend on several things, including your overall health and your exercise goals. Here’s a sample week:

  • Day 1 (high-intensity workout): 175-275 grams of carbs
  • Day 2 (light-intensity workout): 100-125 grams of carbs
  • Day 3 (high-intensity): 175-275 grams of carbs
  • Day 4 (light-intensity): 100-125 grams of carbs
  • Day 5 (high-intensity): 175-275 grams of carbs

Is Carb Cycling Safe?

When you cut back on carbs for a few days, you might have:

This is called “carb flu,” and it usually doesn’t last long. Drinking water and electrolytes can help.

Because it is extreme, carb cycling isn’t right for everyone. You shouldn’t try it if you are:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Underweight
  • Managing a current or previous eating disorder

Don’t try it if you have adrenal issues, either.

When in doubt, check with your doctor before you start.

Carb Cycling Meal Tips

Here are some tips to help you pick the carbs that are best to eat:

  • Choose high-fiber fruits and vegetables.
  • Opt for low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.
  • Stock up on legumes, including beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Eat lots of whole grains.
  • Limit refined grains, added sugars, and highly processed foods.

Show Sources

Cleveland Clinic: “What to Eat if You’re Carb Cycling.”

American Council on Exercise: “Carb Cycling.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “What is the Ketogenic Diet?”

Mayo Clinic: “Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet.”

Harvard School of Public Health: “Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.”

Merck Manual Consumer Version: “Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats.”

How carb cycling works and how to do it

Carb cycling is a diet where people consume more or fewer carbs over alternate days.

Carb cycling may have several benefits, such as helping people lose weight, increasing their athletic performance, and managing symptoms of chronic conditions.

This article will discuss what carb cycling is, how to do it, and some of the diet’s benefits.

Carb cycling can include dishes like quinoa salad

Carbohydrates are an important source of calories and energy for most people.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple carbs contain one or two sugar molecules, while complex carbs have three or more.

Complex carbs include starches, such as cereals, legumes, and potatoes.

Carb cycling is a dietary plan where people alternate their carb intake daily, weekly, or monthly.

For example, some people may have a high carb and low fat diet some days and consume a diet low in carbs and high in fat on other days.

Carb cycling is a diet that people can modify to suit their needs. However, it may involve more planning than others.

There is some evidence that carb cycling may help with weight loss, health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 study suggests that intermittent energy and carbohydrate restriction may improve insulin sensitivity and weight.

The participants, whose energy and carbohydrate restriction was intermittent at 2 days per week, were split into two groups. Researchers allowed one group to consume protein and fat as desired but restricted their overall carbohydrates and energy.

The group who were allowed to consume protein and fat as desired saw a similar number of participants experience 5% or greater weight loss.

The study also found that participants continued to have a reduction in insulin resistance, body fat reduction, and a decrease in the hormone leptin at the end of 4 months of following the diet.

This study suggests that there may be benefits to following a carb cycling diet.

Carb cycling aims to help people with their weight and fitness goals by alternating between low and high carb days.

A diet low in carbs can offer a variety of benefits.

People who follow a low carb diet tend to consume more proteins and fats that can make them feel full for longer. This also limits hypoglycemia, which in turn reduces hunger and calorie intake.

Diets high in nutrient-dense carb sources, such as vegetables and fruit, also have their benefits. Consuming meals high in fiber-rich carbs that include vegetables and fruits may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Additionally, there is evidence that high carb diets increase insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes.

Eating fiber-rich carbohydrates may also lower cholesterol. This, in turn, may decrease the risk of heart disease.

The theory behind carb cycling is that people benefit from both high and low carb diets by alternating between these diets on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

There is some evidence that low carb diets help with weight loss and may speed up metabolism.

Healthy high carb diets may also be beneficial because they reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and intestinal cancer.

While there are benefits to both nutritious high and low carb diets, there are few scientific research papers available on carb cycling.

Anecdotally, carb cycling may be able to help people lose weight. However, there is currently no scientific research that suggests carb cycling is more or less effective for weight loss than other diets.

If people consume enough calories for their body weight, if they are a moderate weight, or have a slight calorie deficit if they have a high BMI, carb cycling may help them lose weight or maintain a moderate weight.

Research suggests there is no significant difference in weight loss between diets that restrict one form of macronutrient, such as protein or carbs, over another.

A 2018 study suggests diets that allow people to tailor food consumption and the type of food to their individual needs and preferences tend to experience better diet adherence and weight loss.

Carb cycling does not restrict a person’s consumption of types of food as much as some other diets. Some people may find this approach more suitable for their needs and therefore may find this diet helps them with weight loss.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offer a free body weight planner, which may help people plan how many calories they consume in their carb cycling diet.

There is some evidence that low carb diets, such as carb cycling, may be beneficial for muscle gain and sports performance.

A 2017 study suggests that competitive bodybuilders who utilize carbohydrate refeeds, which are periods of times where they consume more carbs, do so because they believe it enhances fat loss.

Participants in the study stated that carbohydrate refeed days increased glycogen stores. They also noticed that these days aided their training performance and helped them mentally recover from their exercise regimes.

However, researchers need to conduct more studies to investigate the safety and effectiveness of carb cycling within the sports fitness community.

There is currently no scientific research on the health benefits of carb cycling.

It is important to consume the correct number of calories for a person’s daily requirements regardless of their diet.

It is also vital to consume enough macronutrients and micronutrients. Without sufficient quantities of these nutrients, an individual puts themselves at risk of developing undernutrition .

There are many variations to carb cycling, with people practicing programs on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

The amount of carbs that individuals eat per day will depend on whether they are consuming a high, moderate, or low carb meal. Examples of daily carbohydrate loads include :

  • Very low carbohydrates: Under 10% of a person’s daily calories will come from carbs.
  • Low carbohydrates: Under 26% of a person’s daily calories will come from carbs.
  • Moderate carbohydrates: Between 26–44% of a person’s daily calories will come from carbs.
  • High carbohydrate: 45% or more of a person’s daily calories will come from carbs.

An example of a weekly carb cycling diet, based on a person who needs 2,000 calories a day, is below.

Day Carb intake Fat intake Amount of carbs
Monday High carb Low fat 225 g
Tuesday Moderate carb Moderate fat 130 g
Wednesday Low carb High fat 75 g
Thursday High carb Low fat 225 g
Friday High carb Low fat 225 g
Saturday Low carb High fat 75 g
Sunday Low carb High fat 75 g

Each gram (g) of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.