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Food & Nutrition

Carb Cycling for Weight Loss + 7 Days Meal Plan

How to Carb Cycling to Lose Weight

Are you trying to lose weight, but are exhausted because you’re eating all protein or fat and no carbs for energy? Nearly 49% of adults have tried losing weight in the last 12 months, and while many fail, others find that carb cycling for weight loss is the key to their success.

Why would you cycle your carbs? What are the benefits of carb cycling? How do you even begin?

Let’s find out.

What Is Carb Cycling for Weight Loss?

The body uses carbohydrates as fuel. When your body needs energy, it relies on these carbs. However, when you have too many carbs, they get stored as fat. Carb cycling works to do a few things:

  • Offers carbs when your body needs it
  • Limit carbs when your body doesn’t need them

One of the key perks is that you can adjust your cycle to match your needs.

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

Versatility is crucial to sticking to any diet. Carb cycling for weight loss allows you to alternate days of high and low carb intake. Depending on your dietary and weight loss goals, you can cycle carbs:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly

It’s up to you.

How to Carb Cycling to Lose Weight

Carbs are beneficial on some days and not on others. For example, many professionals will load up on carbohydrates the night before a sporting match. The reason athletes eat so many carbs is that they need an immense amount of energy.

You may not be a professional athlete, but you may need more energy for:

  • Workout days
  • Cardio days
  • Playing sports

In fact, studies show that if you ingest carbs too late or after exercise, insulin and plasma glucose both improve, yet performance does not. When trying to lose weight and build muscle or strength, the additional energy from carbs can help you push through your workout to achieve impressive results.

But how does carb cycling work for weight loss?

It allows you the energy you need to complete workouts and live an active lifestyle. With that said, the key to any weight loss is to maintain a caloric deficit. For example, you can go keto or go on the carnivore diet. While all of these diets are different, they all demand that you have a caloric deficit to lose weight.

On the days when you need more carbs, you’ll reduce your intake of fat or protein to maintain a caloric deficit necessary to lose weight.

Additionally, you can make up for the increase in carbs on these days by performing calorie-burning activities, such as weight training or cardio.

But low-carb diets also help people lose weight!

Yes, it’s true that many people lose weight rapidly with a low-carb diet. Unfortunately, however, most people gain the weight right back. The main issue is that, in the long term, it’s very difficult to avoid carbs.

Your body prefers carbs for energy.

When you cycle your carbs, you can be prepared for days of high activity and not feel the fatigue that you do with other diets. Bodybuilders, sports athletes and endurance athletes all cycle carbs to maintain peak performance.

Benefits of Carb Cycling

You can lose weight on any diet when you have a calorie deficit. However, carb cycling offers you other benefits that you won’t find in other diets, such as:

  • Blood sugar. Carb cycling may have an impact on your insulin sensitivity. By cycling your carbohydrates, you’ll improve sensitivity, which has a direct impact on your blood sugar.
  • Burn more fat. Carbs, when eaten in excess, are stored as fat in the body. Since you have low-carb days, the body will use fat for energy, which improves metabolic rate and fat burning rates.
  • Reduce muscle breakdown. You refuel your muscles when you have high carb days, allowing more glycogen to enter them. Ultimately, a reduction in muscle breakdown occurs and overall muscle improvement exists. If you find other diets make you feel weak or drained, carb cycling provides you with the energy necessary to feel stronger.
  • Weight loss. Most people carb cycle to lose weight, and one study found that even a small commitment of cutting calories two days a week and eating regularly the rest of the week led to a weight loss of around one pound a month. If exercise or more moderate caloric intake was introduced, these individuals would likely lose weight faster.

If you opt to cycle your carbs, it’s crucial to understand that the process is complex. Ideally, you’ll only have two days with very high carbs per week and then mix moderate and low carb days in for the rest of the five days of the week.

However, we’re going to cover a simple plan that you can use to start cycling properly.

But before we do that, it’s crucial to know that not all carbs are created equal. Some carbs are better than others to consume, and creating a food list is a good starting point.

Carb Cycling Food List 

If you know anything about carbs, you know that simple carbs, such as sugar, are absorbed rapidly, and complex carbs, like sweet potatoes, are absorbed slowly. When cycling your carbs, consider using the food suggestions below as part of your food list:

Carbs You Can Vs. Can’t Eat on the Carb Cycling Meal Plan

Carbs You Should Eat

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Low-fat cheese or milk
  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Legumes

Carbs You Should Avoid

  • Processed foods
  • Added, non-natural sugars
  • Candy
  • Refined grains
  • Soft drinks
  • Syrups

Ideally, you’ll eat complex carbs to help slow the digestion of carbs and prevent storage. Simple carbs are only optimal when you’re trying to spike your glucose back up, such as immediately after intense weight training.

Carb Cycling Meal Plan for Weight Loss – 7 Days

Carb-Cycling-Meal-Plan-for-Weight-Loss-–-7-Days
Carb Cycling Meal Plan for Weight Loss 7-Days

Weight loss for you may be much different than for someone else due to age, weight, build, body fat and more. Creating a 7 day plan should be done based on your macros, or the breakdown of your:

  • Carbs
  • Fat
  • Protein

If you remain within your calories and macros, you’ll maintain a caloric deficit. Most people recommend maintaining your daily protein level and adjusting carbs for fats. For example, 1 gram of fat has 9 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates has 4 calories.

Based on these figures, 1 gram of fat equals 2.5 grams of carbs.

So, if you wanted to go from 30g of carbs to 100grams, you would need to reduce your fat intake by 70/2.5 = 28. Taking all of this into account, a 7-day plan may look something like this:

  1. Monday: 200g of carbs and weight training
  2. Tuesday: 100g of carbs and cardio training
  3. Wednesday: Rest, 30g of carbs
  4. Thursday: 200g of carbs and weight training
  5. Friday: 100g of carbs and cardio training
  6. Saturday: Rest, 30g of carbs
  7. Sunday: Rest, 30g of carbs

Carb Cycling for Weight Loss Results

How much weight will you lose by carb cycling? It depends on your level of activity and caloric deficit. If you have a deficit of 500 calories per day, you’ll lose one pound per week, four pounds a month and 52 pounds throughout the year.

However, many people that follow carb cycling diets share their results online, with people stating:

  • One person on Reddit lost 8 pounds in 3 months
  • Another person cycled greatly from 60 – 300grams of carbs, depending on the day, and lost over 12 pounds in a month
  • Another person lost 1 to 1.5 pounds a week using carb cycling

What really stands out in all of these accounts is that people were leaner and often cycled to reach their body goals. Some dieters wanted to lose weight for a wedding, while others cycled their carbs for bodybuilding competitions.

You can even cycle on a keto diet and see great results.

Carb Cycling Keto 

Keto is a common diet, and it’s one that many people follow. The idea is that you eat larger quantities of fat, low carbs and train your body to switch to fat for fuel. When you opt for this type of diet, your body sheds more fat.

However, if you want to cycle your carbs and follow the keto diet, you can with what’s known as the cyclical ketogenic diet.

What is this diet?

In essence, you’ll eat regular keto at least five days per week and then higher carbs for one or two days per week. These days are considered “refeeding” days, and they’re designed to restore glucose reserves.

Note: On these days, when you eat higher carbohydrates than usual, you’ll be out of ketosis, so you’ll burn less fat during these periods.

Related:

How to Start Keto Diet

8 Keto-Friendly Protein Bars to Fuel Yourself

Carb Cycling Planner 

Printable-meal-planner-template

Do you want to give carb cycling a try for yourself? Download our Printable Meal Planner Template to quickly and easily plan out your carbs.

Final Thoughts

Carb cycling for weight loss works, but you must be consistent to see results. If you mix cycling in with a rigorous exercise regimen, you’ll have the energy you need on your workout days to push your limits and can limit carb intake on your days off.