What’s carb cycling? does it work for you?

Carb cycling is a relatively new dietary approach. In theory, this diet focus on maximizing the benefits carbohydrates provide, but play with the mechanisms behind carbohydrate manipulation is the best deal for you?

I mean, this is getting popular between the cyclist and all sports. Nevertheless, the research on carb cycling for endurance performance is kind of new. So, before you want to try it, it’s better to consider some of the aspects of it, and then decide how you will apply a new diet to your routine.

Before starting to go deep on carb cycling, I like to do here a one on one with each of you.

I don’t know you, either your weight, height or physical condition, but to succeed with this or any diet, you gotta understand that 90% of your game depends on your workout and your habits after have done the diet.

And why do I said that? Simple, carb cycling can indeed make it easier to build muscle while staying lean. And still, you can go back to your old body condition if you aren’t persistent about your training and good habits.

Now, let’s start with the Carb Cycling.

What it’s carb cycling and How it works?

Carb cycling means staggering the number of carbohydrates you eat, so that involves planned increases and decreases in carbohydrate intake throughout the week (some days you eat more carbs, others you eat less),  for the consequence, in calories too. 

A simple way to see how it works is this: 

Some experts say that “when your body receives limited carbs, the fat becomes the main source of energy. That helps to achieve body fat losses and reboot the carb assimilation and muscle build when the carbs are reintroduced”. Simple, on a high-intensity workout day where you know you will need more energy than usual, you consume more quantity of carbs to provide all the energy. But, on those days when your cycling session or workout is not that heavy, you eat fewer carbs making your body switch to burn your fat and get the energy.

An example, a five days carb cycling program. A person might eat around 60 to 120 grams of carbohydrates for three days in a roll (low-carb days). Then for the other two days will consume 150 to 300 grams (high-carb days). And they got to be more physically active on the high carb days.

By the way, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration of united states) recommends that someone on a 2,000 calorie diet should consume about 300 of carbohydrates daily.

who is carb cycling right for?

Technically this diet it’s good for everyone. This kind of strategy should be for a specific time (up to two months) to achieve a physical goal, and then you can keep your regular nutrition. Endurance athletes like cyclist and active people on low carbs diet are great for carb cycling.

Actually, if you are a pro or semi-pro on sports, lowering your carb intake before you go into your main training season can help your body later when it needs to absorb more carbs to prepare for a competition and to reach your best level. In case you feel stressful or present any sign like extreme fatigue or something kind of, you should consult an expert to see another strategy that works for you.

By the way, if you have a history of disordered eating, this option is not the best for you.

How many carbs should I eat while carb cycling? 

To explain that we can go really deep, but to make it simple here are three kinds of days for this diet:

  • High-carb days: eating 2 to 2.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight. They’re usually only one day of the week (your highest calorie day), on average people consume from 200 to 350 grams of carbs.
  • Moderate carb days: about 0.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight or 20% of calories from carbs. They’re usually your second-highest calorie days, on average people consume from 60 to 150 grams of carbs.
  • Low carb days : typically call for less than 50 grams of carbohydrate or less than 10% of calories from carbs. On these days you may feel less energy than usual.

With this, you can make your own weekly plan depending on your training sessions.

What are some of the benefits? 

  • This could improve adherence and long-term success for some people that may enjoy the flexibility of carb cycling.
  • Potential fat-loss and muscle building. Since metabolism is accelerated by the variation of daily diets and there are days when you burn more fat while in others you build more muscle.
  • This diet allows your program your week plan depending on different facts like: your intensity of training and rest days, body composition goals, or even competitions.

Can Carb Cycling Help You Lose Weight?

Absolutely yes, I don’t want to go around to answer this kind of question. If a carb cycling diet is alongside a calorie deficit (eat less than what you consume), for logic, you will likely lose weight.  Another good explanation is: Low-carb diet = low insulin levels = burn more fat = stay lean.

Short and simple.

Carb Cycling for Muscle Growth and Sports Performance

Simple like the last answer, yes. If you’re eating enough food and you know what you’re doing on your workout, you can build muscle, and with this kind of diet, you can do it lean. 

It’s less suitable for building muscle than traditional dieting. Because of its restrictions on carbohydrate intake (essential for build muscle). However, some research suggests carbs are not needed in high quantity to build muscle if the protein and fat ingested is sufficient.

Recommended carbs

Here you have a list with the carbs that are easy to digest and I use often:

  • Veggies/tubers: Sweet and White Potatoes, Plantain.
  • Legumes: Lentils, Chickpeas, Black Beans.
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, Wheat, Oatmeal, Rice (low portion)


I recommend if you want to start this, DO IT SLOWLY, don’t overpush yourself.

Look at this, when I want to build muscle and look the leanest possible I take 3 days of high-carbs, 2 days of moderate-carbs and 2 days of low-carbs. Now, if I’m looking to be the sharpest and clean possible (maybe for a competition or something kind of) I would go with 3 days of low-carbs 3 days of moderate and only one day of high-carbs.

This way is the easiest for me, but everyone it’s different, some people have way more self-control and can go further than me. From my perspective, it all depends on how you can apply a strategy that fits your goals and you can follow and improve over time. So, just do it! but slowly and keep some of those changes, not only on a strict short diet but also in your normal habits.

3 tips that may help you a lot:

  • Base your diet on calorie needs and activity levels, the much you eat the highest your workout should be. To play with the calories don’t over complicate, change the regular size of your carbs with a smaller bowl, add more veggies to your dish and it will be good.
  • Learn about your food choices as a lifestyle, rather than just a challenge to improve your body. Focusing on the quality of your entire diet instead of just carbs, and understand that some kind of carbs like lentils, plantains, and wheat, are good on your diet.
  • For last, Listen to your body! Its cues are pretty good at guiding you toward a balance, and if you want to keep improving, you will need to learn how to evaluate yourself.
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