Carb Cycling

So you like carbs…but carbs are bad…but they aren’t THAT bad, right?  I have been reading up on Carb Cycling and think that this is something that I can totally handle for at least a post-vacation slim down!

Carbs are important in keeping your metabolism up, however protein and vegetables keep your insulin low so that you can burn fat without losing muscle.  So basically you need all of it to keep a high metabolism and burn fat!

With carb cycling your week is divided into 3 different types of days: no carb, low carb, and high carb.

The classic carb cycling schedule alternates between high- and low-carb days, six times a week, saving the seventh day for reward meals.  So keep that in mind when planning dinners out, etc.  For me I would save a reward meal for the weekend just because that is when I tend to indulge a little more.

You also should modify how many carb days you do based on your goals.  If you want to lose weight then you should do 5 low-carb days with two high-carb days.  If you are trying to gain muscle/weight you want to up your high-carb days.  But you want to make sure that you don’t have high-carb days back to back.  You can adjust the schedule as you go and monitor your progress.  So if you have 2 carb days make sure you skip at least one night between them.

Some people even do no-carb days, but I recommend making sure that you do have those two high-carb days in the mix to keep jump starting your metabolism.  Day 1: No carb Day 2: Low carb Day 3: High carb Day 4: No carb Day 5: No carb Day 6: Low carb Day 7: High carb is another good schedule if you are looking to give this a try.  Its basically just working out what works best for you.

Also remember that a high-carb day does not mean binge eat and go to town on all of your favorite carbs.  You should still be mindful and try and not go overboard.  When we do two or more higher carb days in a row, fat storage momentum can build. That’s why no-carb days follow high-carb days — it minimizes the potential for fat storage and keeps your body insulin-sensitive.  Try to eat “clean” carbs, if you really want to splurge this is the day to do it… just keep it in check.  Also on high carb days it is important to remember that you still should eat protein on these days. 

With no carb or low carb days I always eat a lot of protein as well as high fiber veggies like leafy greens, broccoli, peppers, onion, and asparagus.  On these days really stay away from starchy carbs like potatoes and carrots.  *** the bottom of the post I have listed the numbers that you need to stay within when adding carbs.

Cycling carbs is more of a hormonal strategy than a caloric one. Varying carb intake influences several hormones that determine body composition.  This is one of the reasons that carb cycling is good for women because it helps balance insulin which is the fat-storing and muscle-building hormone.

Hormones and why you need to keep them balanced:

Insulin: When we consume carbs, insulin is released into the bloodstream to help the body metabolize it for fuel, or to muscle cells for storage. When these storage cells become full (like when we eat too many carbs) the spillover is what becomes fat.  When we get too much spillover (which is now fat) our body starts producing leptin which is the hunger hormone.

Leptin: is actually what helps tell our brain that we are satisfied, however with a high-carb, high-calorie diet, when the levels get too high your brain doesn’t listen to it anymore, so you never really feel satisfied. Yikes!

You want your body to not get too used to a certain level of Leptin or Insulin so that you hear the signals when they are high or low (ex. I’m hungry, now I’m full, etc.).  In carb cycling, when leptin begins to recede to the point of drastically increasing hunger and slowing the metabolism, a high-carb day is in place to help reset it. This way, we stay leptin-sensitive.

Serotonin: this is the feel good brain chemical.  Carbs boost serotonin, so if you don’t eat enough carbs you will crave them in the form of sugar and chocolate. Very low carb diets often fail because people become depressed and tired. Carb cycling helps to balance these levels so that you shouldn’t have those strong cravings for candy!

Cortisol: This hormone breaks down molecules to be used as fuel.  For this one you need to eat protein, because it doesn’t understand the difference and will consume muscle just as easily as fat. That’s why it’s important to eat the right things to continue to replenish muscle and decrease fat!

So how do I know how much carbs are good? Here are some basic formulas that will help you figure out how many carbs vs. protein you need.


High-carb day
2–3 grams of carbs (x your body weight)
1–1.25 grams of protein (x your body weight)
As little fat as possible

Low-carb day
0.5–1.5 grams of carbs (x your bodyweight)
1.25–1.5 grams of protein (x your bodyweight)
0.15–0.35 grams of fat (x your bodyweight)


High-carb day
About 1 gram of carbs (x your bodyweight)
0.75 grams of protein (x your bodyweight)
As little fat as possible

Low-carb day
0.2–0.5 grams of carbs (x your bodyweight)
About 1 gram of protein (x your bodyweight)
0.1–0.2 grams of fat (x your bodyweight)

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