5 Awesome Benefits of Carb Cycling

Your “How To” Guide to Burn Fat & Enjoy Carbs

Low carb diets are all the rage. But, let’s face it, eliminating carbs isn’t easy for those of us in the real world.

Most of us need an alternative to the keto craze. Something more practical than extreme no-carb diets.

Fortunately, there is a better solution. Carb cycling is a flexible way to lose fat, build lean muscle, and enjoy carbs!

Carb Cycling Chart

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling is simply alternating your daily carbohydrate intake. Usually, a “cycle” includes low, medium, and high carb days.

Low carb days promote fat burning. While medium carb days give you the energy to train. Lastly, high carb days boost your metabolism and let you indulge a little.

Why Use Carb Cycling?

First, it’s important to understand why low carb diets are so popular. It’s not because carbs are bad. And avoiding carbs doesn’t magically burn fat.

Instead, eliminating carbs usually means you eat fewer calories, which helps you lose weight. Another way low carb diets work is by lowering a hormone called insulin.

carb cycling affect on insulin

Related: Harness the Power of Insulin To Transform Your Body

However, the downside is that continuous low carb (low calorie) diets mess with hunger hormones and crash your metabolism. This causes muscle loss as well as overwhelming cravings.

But it doesn’ have to be that way. Carb cycling balances your hormones with a natural rhythm of highs and lows. Making it easier to sustain your diet and burn more fat in the long run.

5 Carb Cycling Benefits

1. Burn Fat More Efficiently

It’s no secret that eating fewer carbs is effective for fat loss. Basically, your body uses fat for energy when carbs aren’t available. So low carb days tap into this fat burning power.

However, as I mentioned earlier, your metabolism slows down with consistent low carb/calorie dieting. In order to sustain fat loss, it’s imperative to support your metabolism.

2. Boost Metabolism

Sometimes it’s necessary to break the prolonged calorie deficit with a high carb day. Also called a refeed day.

Like stoking a fire, a high carb day feeds your metabolism. As a result, you maintain your lean muscle and burn more calories.

carb cycling refeed day

Related: How a Refeed Day Helps You Lose More Weight

3. Build Lean Muscle Faster

Some keto proponents argue that carbs aren’t necessary for muscle building. While that’s technically true, there’s no denying that carbs make the process go faster.

In fact, studies show that eating carbs before and after your workout increases muscle gain1. This is due to the fact that carbs trigger the recovery process.

Also, if you’ve ever tried to do sprints or weight training without carbs, you know your performance suffers. That’s because your body is designed to burn carbs for anaerobic (muscle building) workouts.

Related: 7 Reasons Why “When” You Eat Matters

4. Increase Metabolic Flexibility

Just as a hybrid car runs on gas or electricity, your body can run on carbs or fat. By continually alternating energy sources, you get better at burning both carbs and fat for fuel.

In this way, carb cycling promotes metabolic flexibility. And that makes you an ultra-efficient machine no matter what you put in your tank.

5. Enjoy Carbs Guilt Free!

Low carb diets leave little room for deviation, which can feel suffocating. Not to mention the inevitable keto cravings that come from banning all the good foods in life.

On the other hand, carb cycling breaks up the monotony of restrictive dieting. Allowing you to be flexible for social events while enjoying moderate indulgences without the guilt. It’s all part of the plan!

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.

For example, you can increase the number of low carb days to burn more fat. Or you can add another high carb day to boost metabolism and keep cravings at bay.

In general, though, it’s best to coordinate your carb cycle with your workout schedule.

carb cycling plan

Low Carb Days

Usually, low carb days coincide with lower activity. Like days you don’t workout.

On a low carb day, you should get less than 20% of your calories from carbs.

As an example, let’s say you’re on a 2,000 calorie diet. And you want to find out how many grams of carbs to eat.


 First, to find calories: 2,000 x 0.2 = 400 calories from carbs.

Now, to find grams: 400 ÷ 4* = 100 grams of carbs (maximum).

*there are 4 calories in each gram of carbohydrate

Keep in mind the grams of carbs you eat on low days depends on your personal calorie target. But generally, a low day is 25-150 grams of carbs.

Calculator: Find Your Carb Cycling Macros

Medium Carb Days

On the other hand, you burn more calories and carbs when you workout. Especially with resistance training and other high-intensity exercises.

Therefore, you should get roughly 40% of your calories from carbs on medium days.

Continuing the example:

2,000 x 0.4 = 800 calories from carbs

800 ÷ 4 = 200 grams of carbs

Again, your personal target depends on your body and workouts. So try the carb cycling calculator to find your ideal target.

Also, it’s beneficial to eat most of your carbs around your workout. Think of it as energy supply and demand.

High Carb Days

During a prolonged calorie restricted diet, it’s absolutely necessary to include a periodic high carb day. Even if it feels counterintuitive.

On a high carb day, you should bump up your calories. And get about 50% of your calories from carbs.

Continuing the example:

2,400* x 0.5 = 1,200 calories from carbs

1,200 ÷ 4 = 300 grams of carbs

*notice we bumped up calories

It’s important to remember the purpose of a high carb day is to increase carbs and calories above your energy expenditure. Which has been shown to increase hormones like leptin, that stimulate your metabolism2.

Related: How Leptin Helps You Lose Weight

However, you shouldn’t go overboard on your high carb days. Since doing that can stall your progress. So it’s important to make the distinction between a high carb day and a “cheat” day.

High Carb Day vs. Cheat Day

A cheat day is when you overindulge in junk foods that aren’t part of your diet. Whereas a refeed day is a strategic high calorie day with mostly healthy foods.

Find Your Carb Cycling Macros

Now you have a good idea of how to find your carbs for low, medium, and high days. But what about fat and protein?

To find all your carb cycling macros, try my easy carb cycling calculator!

carb cycling calculator

Get a Carb Cycling Meal Plan

At this point, you may be overwhelmed. But that’s okay because I have a plan that does everything for you.

With a Custom Meal Plan you get nutrition targets that fit your personal carb cycle schedule. As well as a daily menu with recipes formulated to fit your macros. So you don’t have to count or track anything!

carb cycling meal plan
  • Carb cycle based on your actual schedule
  • Daily menu for high, medium, and low days
  • Recipes formulated to fit your macros – no calorie counting!
  • A healthy grocery list right on your phone

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