Download the free carb cycling calculator to get your personalized macros. And learn how to use carb cycling to burn fat and build muscle.
What is Carb Cycling?
Carb cycling is a diet strategy that helps you burn fat while preserving lean mass. It involves alternating between days of low carbs and high carbs.
The low days promote fat burning. While the high days provide an energy boost and rev up your metabolism.
Carb Cycling Benefits
Low carb diets are effective for weight loss. But oftentimes the lack of carbs leaves you feeling low on energy. Whereas, a single high carb day gives you an energy boost. So you won’t crash on your diet.
In addition, a periodic high carb, high calorie day increases a hormone that helps you lose weight. For more information about this hormone, check out the article below.
Related Article: Increase Leptin for Weight Loss
Finally, high carb days are beneficial from a mental standpoint. They serve as a much-needed break from restrictive low carb diets. And give you more flexibility and freedom with your food choices.
How to Use Carb Cycling
The cool thing is there’s no right or wrong way to use carb cycling. It all depends on your goals and how your body responds. And you can even include medium carb days in what’s called a zigzag diet.
But if you’re new to carb cycling it’s easiest to start with just low and high days. So let’s focus on that for now.
Low Carb Days
When introducing carb cycling, start with shorter low carb phases of 2-3 days. Then work up to 5-6 days as you progress. This gradually lowers your calories which leads to more sustainable fat loss.
While continuing with lower carbs for longer than 6 days is fine. I don’t recommend more than 10 low-calorie days in a row. Because high-calorie breaks keep your metabolism from slowing down in response to a prolonged calorie deficit.
The grams of carbs you eat on low days will vary depending on your body and goal. But generally, your carbs will be in the 50-200 grams per day range. Download the calculator to find your target.
High Carb Days
The high carb portion of the cycle is usually only 1 day. But you could do 2 or 3 days after a long low carb streak.
On your high carb day, target 200-300 grams higher than your low carb days. For example, you would target 300-400 grams of carbs on a high day if your target is 100 grams on a low day.
In addition, you can raise protein intake on your high carb day. Since protein synthesis is increased when insulin goes up. In other words, you build more lean muscle when you eat protein with carbs.
Conversely, you should lower fat intake on your high carb days. Because if you eat fat when insulin is high it’s more likely to be stored as body fat. That’s why you shouldn’t routinely binge on junk foods on your high carb days.
Cheat Day vs. Refeed Day
I don’t refer to high carb days as “cheat” days when used in a carb cycling plan. Because cheating implies you’re doing something wrong.
Instead, a high carb day is called a “refeed” day when it’s planned, strategic, and contains healthy carbs. In other words, you feed your muscles with good fuel!
An Easy Way to Get More Carbs
It’s not always easy to get the number of carbs you need on high carb days. For that reason, I use a carbohydrate supplement such as maltodextrin. Your body breaks it down fast so it’s perfect for mixing in with your post-workout protein shake.
My favorite is unflavored maltodextrin from NOW Sports. The only ingredient is maltodextrin so it’s pure and low cost. Click the link below to order on Amazon.
Carb Cycling Calculator
Below you’ll find a simple tool to help you calculate your carb cycling macros. All you do is enter your body weight and the number of low carb days you want per week. And the carb cycling calculator does the rest!
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