What Is Carb Cycling For Weight Loss

Weight loss is something that is desired by many people in today’s society. Nobody likes to live with unmanageable body weight. If you have a high body weight, it could lead to obesity continuing down a road that only leads to further health complications. Thus, many people are trying out various weight loss methods such as carb cycling.

So, what is carb cycling? This is a method to lose weight quickly without losing any of the muscle mass gained during bulking periods.

This article will explain further the concept of carb cycling, how it works, and ways to implement it into your diet effectively for maximum results.

Keep reading for deeper insight.

What Is Carb Cycling?

Carbohydrate cycling is a common practice when it comes to diets, but often misunderstood in terms of its purpose and effects on weight loss.

A common misconception about carbohydrate cycling is that you can eat whatever you want some days because “it’s just one day.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth; if anything, these off days are even more important than your designated low-carb days because this will be when your body replenishes glycogen stores the most.

It is also important to note the impact these off days will have on your diet. They can be used to clean up your diet and help you lose body fat faster by eating things that might normally hinder weight loss such as donuts or cake.

Carbohydrate cycling is a method of varying carbohydrate intake depending on the day.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Carb cycling is not really complicated in its working. It is simply the concept of eating low-carb for most days of the week, then having high-carb days or cheat meals.

Eating a low carbohydrate diet would be something like consuming only 20g carbs per day. This is not recommended for extended periods, but can help you get into Ketosis faster if that is what you desire to do.

This type of daily carbohydrate intake will allow your body to burn fat more easily because carbohydrates are not readily available for energy use on this kind of low-carb diet.

When carb cycling, however, you keep your exercise regimen the same and on high-carb days you actually increase either your workout intensity or volume moderately so that your muscles are stimulated more than they were before.

The increased stimulation leads to a much higher rate of glycogen synthesis in your muscles. This is because the body has a limited storage capacity for glycogen and constantly replenishes this supply as needed throughout a normal day, especially if you are engaging in cardio activity or weight training regularly.

On high-carb days, your body will be able to store more glycogen than usual because each gram of carbohydrate holds approximately 2g water alongside it as well as pull that extra water into your muscle cells.

This happens when insulin levels increase after consumption of carbohydrates which also helps amino acids and creatine get pulled into muscle tissue more easily too. On low-carb days, you might find yourself losing up to 5lbs during the first week, simply by dropping excess water weight that is not fat.

Much of the results you will see when carb cycling come not just from carbohydrate cycling itself, but also because it gives your body a break from low-carb.

As mentioned previously this gives your body time to recover. You can also engage in cardio or weight training on these high-carb days to stimulate muscle growth and recovery further for increased gains in lean muscle tissue, which helps with weight loss.

How Does Carb Cycling Aid In Weight Loss?

When talking about how carb cycling aids in weight loss the answer lies in the use of carbohydrates throughout each week that are both cycled up and cycled down in order to store glycogen within your muscles. This way you get all the benefits of a low-carb diet, but also get the high carb days to replenish glycogen stores in your muscles.

However, there is more to it than all that. Carbohydrate cycling allows you to have enough carbs on the high-carb days so that you can reduce cortisol levels from dropping too low throughout the week when being in a state of ketosis. 

When this happens, your body will begin storing fat and burning muscle tissue instead of fat for energy, which is obviously contradictory to weight loss goals if not counterproductive. 

You don’t want any weeks with too many or too few carbs because either way you won’t be going about weight loss in the healthiest way possible.

How Fast Does Carb Cycling Help You Lose Weight?

Here is where things can get a little confusing if you are not conducting your own research. Many people believe that you have to do “low carb” for an extended period of time, but this isn’t necessarily true. Having low-carb days is fine and there is nothing wrong with them per se; the length of time you need to keep them up is what poses problems over time.

The truth is carb cycling helps with weight loss because it keeps your body guessing and stimulates muscle tissue growth and recovery as opposed to losing only fat during every week, which wouldn’t be healthy at all.

You also do not want weeks where you never change anything or vary carbohydrate intakefully as mentioned previously when carbohydrates are cycled up on some weeks and carb-depleted on others you will be able to maintain muscle tissue while losing fat.

Carb cycling for weight loss works so well because of the combination of these two factors while also working around insulin resistance and ketosis, which is all controlled by carbohydrate intake throughout your diet.

If we were to only focus on one factor such as low-carb days or high-carb days then there would be no balance, not to mention that it wouldn’t keep us guessing like we want if we’re trying to lose weight.

This is where carbohydrate cycling becomes extremely useful because having a few high-carb days allows your body more time in insulin sensitivity (where glucose and nutrients are absorbed into the cells) and even getting the occasional break from low-carb, which will help you keep muscle tissue while also dropping fat.

There is no way to lose weight fast by any means unless your calorie intake is extremely low; this goes for both losing fat and water weight too. Losing more than 1lb per week is considered very fast weight loss and it just is not safe or healthy to do that over an extended period.

So if you want to lose weight quickly then don’t be surprised when you fall ill due to malnutrition because the only thing your body will be getting at that point are minerals, vitamins, electrolytes…and whatever else you can find in whatever kind of supplement diet pill comes next once you’ve become sickly.

It is also important to note that there is no such thing as a magic weight loss pill even though they’re advertised as such. The only way you can lose weight effectively without having to do low-carb for extended periods of time is through carbohydrate cycling and moderation on your calorie intake and food choices each day and dieting week by week.

Carb Cycling Tips

  • Make sure the high-carb days occur after workout days because this will help with muscle recovery and glycogen replenishment faster than on regular, non-workout days. This may lead to fat gain if you eat extremely excess calories over your calorie needs that day, but at least you will be less likely to lose muscle tissue.
  • Also make sure the low-carb days occur on non-workout days because you need to give your body more than just protein when in low-carb state, even though the purpose is to lose fat. If you are working out then this isn’t necessary because you’ll be stimulating muscle tissue growth when in a low-carb/ketosis state which will build up glycogen stores for energy if needed during training or high intensity exercise.
  • Don’t go overboard with cheat foods either because it won’t be beneficial, nor healthy for weight loss goals and it’s not worth the risk of putting weight back on after weeks of losing it plus becoming ill due to malnutrition.
  • You must consume adequate protein intake to ensure that your body has enough building blocks to maintain/build muscle mass while you are losing weight.
  • The amount of carb cycling you do should be dependent on how much weight you need to lose and what other goals you have in the gym (those looking to tone up may want slightly more carbs on training days, while those wanting pure strength/muscular hypertrophy may want slightly less carbs on training days).
  • Carb cycling is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card” to eat whatever you want some days. If anything, these off days are even more important than your designated low-carb days because this will be when your body replenishes glycogen stores the most; it’s essentially an opportunity for you to nourish yourself nutritionally while also allowing some added flexibility in terms of hunger and cravings.
  • Depending on the number of calories that you are eating each day, do not worry about hitting exact numbers of carbs/fats/proteins each day. When losing weight, consistency is key. You can and should adjust your caloric intake and macronutrient breakdowns every 2-3 days for optimum results.

High Carbohydrate Foods: Baked beans, Coconut Water, Sweet Potatoes, Watermelon, Brown Rice, Wheat Pasta, Oatmeal, Carrots, Fruit Cocktail, Oranges, Grapefruit, Raisins, Bananas, Milk Cherries, Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Melon, Grapes, Pear, Pineapple, Apples, Apricot, Pl, Banana, Quince, Rose, Hip Jam, Raisin Bread, Strawberries, Raspberries, etc.

Moderate Carbohydrate Foods: Acorn, Squash, Buckwheat, Couscous, Green Banana, Flour, Grapefruit Juice, Bulgur, Millet, Sweet Potatoes, Yam, Barley, Orzo, Skim, Milk, Butternut, Corn, Oat Bran, Spaghetti, Whole Meal Fruit Punch, Tofu Popcorn, Yellow Sweet Potato, High fructose, Corn syrup, Tapioca, Pearl, Peaches, Pears Rhubarb etc.

Foods Low in Carbohydrate: Coconut Flour, Avocado Oil, Aspic Broth, Bass (Sea), Lettuce, Cauliflower, Celery, Bamboo, Shoots, Cucumber, Chickweed, Cheese, Codfish, Eggplant, Lettuce, Pork, Sardines Common Snook Leeks Scallops Dungeness Crab Milk White Cheddar Sherbet Duck Oysters Spinach Eggs Oranges Wild Turkey, Ostrich, Tuna Steak etc.

Carb Cycling Meal Plan

Here is what one week of low-carb days and high-carb days can look like:

Monday – Low Carb Day

  • Breakfast:  Poached Eggs with Spinach & Cream Cheese Snack: Celery Sticks stuffed with 2 TBSP whipped cream cheese
  • Lunch: Grilled Chicken Breast, Roast Beef, or Tuna Steak with steamed broccoli
  • Dinner: Pork Loin with sauteed zucchini & mushrooms

Tuesday – Low Carb Day

  • Breakfast:  2 eggs scrambled in 1 TBSP butter, served with 4 oz. grapefruit juice Snack: Cream Cheese Stuffed Celery
  • Lunch: Grilled Chicken Breast, Roast Beef, or Tuna Steak with a salad of mixed greens & balsamic dressing
  • Dinner: Hamburger stuffed portabella mushrooms (premade frozen at Trader Joe’s)

Wednesday – Low Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Butter Scrambled Eggs Snack: Celery Sticks stuffed with cream cheese
  • Lunch: Deli Turkey Breast wrapped around Muenster cheese and lettuce leaves on bed of Boston Bibb lettuce with 1 TBSP ranch dressing
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breast wrapped around swiss cheese and pesto sauce

Thursday – Low Carb Day

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled in 1 TBSP butter, served with 4 oz. grapefruit juice Snack: Zucchini Chips
  • Lunch: Deli Roast Beef on a bed of lettuce leaves topped with 1TBSP mayonnaise & 1/2 slice bacon, wrapped in Boston Bibb lettuce leaves
  • Dinner: Grilled Chicken Breast or Pork Tenderloin stuffed with sundried tomatoes and feta cheese

Friday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Strawberry Banana Shake Snack: Nuts
  • Lunch: Spicy Shrimp Scampi over a small baguette sliced into 8 pieces & baked for 20 minutes at 350 degrees
  • Dinner: 1/2 pound pasta shells with chicken and pesto sauce, topped with 2 oz. parmesan cheese

Saturday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Omelet with vegetables Snack: Celery Sticks stuffed with 3 TBSP cream cheese
  • Lunch: Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Slice of bread, American cheese, mayo)
  • Dinner: Beef Tacos made with ground beef seasoned with low sodium taco seasoning packet and topped with 1 oz. shredded cheddar & tomato

Tuesday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Cream Cheese Pancakes Snack: Celery Sticks filled with peanut butter
  • Lunch: Hamburger on a bed of lettuce leaves topped with mustard & pickle chips wrapped in Boston Bibb lettuce leaves
  • Dinner: Lean Pork Roast with steamed broccoli

Wednesday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Bacon & Egg Salad Snack: Hard boiled eggs
  • Lunch: Hamburger on a bed of lettuce leaves topped with mustard & pickle chips wrapped in Boston Bibb lettuce leaves
  • Dinner: Salmon Steaks with garlic butter

Thursday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Deviled Eggs Snack: Nuts
  • Lunch: Lean Pork Roast, baked potato stuffed with cheddar cheese & green onions, & green beans sauteed in 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Dinner: Burger on a bed of mixed greens topped with tomato slices

Friday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast: Fried Eggs, bacon or sausage Snack: Almonds
  • Lunch: Hamburgers on a bed of mixed greens topped with tomato slices
  • Dinner: Filet Mignon, small baked potato with 2 TBSP sour cream and green beans sauteed in 1 tsp. olive oil

Saturday – High Carb Day

  • Breakfast:  Oatmeal with dried fruit Snack: Mixed Nuts
  • Lunch:  Lean Pork Roast, green beans sauteed in 1 TBSP olive oil
  • Dinner: Grilled Chicken Breast or Salmon Steak with asparagus and baked potato smothered in cheddar cheese and sour cream

A simple 3-day cycle might look like this:

  • Low Carb Day – 50 grams of carbs or less, or 15% of calories from carbs
  • Medium Carb Day – 100 grams of carbs or 35% of calories from carbs
  • High Carb Day – 150 grams or more, or 55% of calories from carbs 

Although carb cycling comes with many benefits for weight loss, it is not for everyone. However, it works wonders for many people who want to lose weight without sacrificing their muscular gains. This is especially true if the dieter wants to build lean muscles while also burning off excess body fat.

Carb cycling is great if you want to change things up every week rather than doing the same thing week in and week out. It also works great for people who do not want to take any supplements or else have to spend a ton of money on them because carbohydrate cycling is natural, safe, effective, and it is free.

The most obvious being that carbohydrate intake is changed based on the day. This variation helps keep your body guessing which leads to increased fat burning capabilities and higher metabolic rates.

The Bottom Line

Carb cycling can be a very effective means to lose weight quickly without losing any muscle mass, but the most important thing is that you follow the diet consistently and always get proper rest and recovery (this includes sleep).

You also want to make sure that you are pushing yourself in the gym each day so that you do not lose lean muscle throughout the process of losing weight. If done correctly, carbohydrate cycling will help aid in your goals of building a beach body.

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