Carb Cycling

  • So I've been trying to get into carb cycling but I am not entirely sure about the process and how to split up all of my macros based around how many carbs I'll be having each day. Does anyone have tips or suggestions on how to effectively (and correctly) carb cycle?

  • REP

    I found this information on Carb Cycling:

    High/Low, High/Low…
    In simple terms, carb cycling involves alternating between periods of high-carb consumption and low-to-moderate carb intake. How does this protect your muscles from being scavenged by the body for energy? The high-carbohydrate days raise the body's insulin levels, fill glycogen stores, keep the metabolism burning efficiently and stave off muscle catabolism. The low-carb days are the "fat-burning days." They keep insulin levels low, which allows for maximum fat burning while retaining muscle. Both ends of the carb spectrum are essential. Staying constantly low carb slows your metabolism and blunts your fat-burning efforts, whereas staying on a high-carb diet all the time can increase bodyfat over the long run. Therefore, adding high-carb days to your low-carb diet helps you gain muscle and stay lean. If your goal is to get competition lean while retaining, and even gaining, muscle mass, consider spiking your low-carb diet with a day or two of high-carb intake per week. If you're aiming to gain muscle without increasing adipose tissue, you can up the number of high-carb days to as many as four per week.
    Customizing Carbs
    ↓ If you have a slower basal metabolic rate, go with one or two high-carb days per week.
    ↑ If you're naturally a fat-burning machine, then load up on (healthy) carbs for as many as four days per week.
    ↓ If you're "bulky," with a bodyfat percentage over 15, stay near the lower end of the carb scale.
    ↑ If you're already on the lean side, be a little more generous with your carb intake.
    Practically Speaking
    Every body is different, but there are general guidelines for mapping out a carb-cycling plan. Here, we've provided a macronutrient breakdown for both men and women on a carb-cycling diet. (Note that the breakdown for women differs pretty dramatically from the men's figures, because women have less metabolically active tissue than men, and therefore require fewer calories.) Here are some basic rules of carb cycling.
    To maintain optimal blood-sugar levels, as well as to keep your metabolism and amino acid turnover primed, divide your daily totals among five to seven meals per day (spaced about two-and-a-half to three hours apart).
    When considering how to count the macros in your foods, the grams of protein are those derived from protein foods that you consume, such as chicken; the fat grams are those found only in fat foods, such as peanut butter or olive oil; and the carbs are what you consume in carbohydrate foods. In other words, you don't have to worry about counting the grams of carbs and protein in a tablespoon of peanut butter — just the fat. If you're having a cup of rice, no need to count the protein or fats. The incidental macros will typically add up to at least a couple hundred calories per day, depending on your overall macronutrient count. (You can choose foods from each macro category in the sidebar "Food Choices.")
    Try Cycling
    Now that you know the basics of carb cycling, check out the sample "Carb-Cycling Meal Plans" sidebar. Adjust it to your own bodyweight (calculators required) and try it for yourself. One of the beauties of cycling carbohydrates is that you can do it anytime, for as long as you'd like. There's no negative feedback loop, no severe states of depletion that have you reeling. In fact, the whole design of the process is to leave you feeling strong and energized as you melt off muscle-obscuring tissue.
    After you've given our carb-cycling program a try for eight weeks or so, drop by the Nutrition, Diet and Supplement forum at to share your experience with FLEX's online community, then go outside and enjoy the stares your newly sculpted physique garners.
    "I cycle my carbs to bring my bodyfat level to where I would like it to be. Lower-carb days allow me to burn more bodyfat and glycogen at an efficient rate."
    — Melvin Anthony Jr.
    "I like to cycle my carbs precontest, according to my energy needs. Because my bodyfat is very low, I tend to rotate higher-carb days around raining weaker bodyparts to ensure their fullness."
    — Phil Heath
    "Carb cycling works, because it keeps your body guessing and it helps you stay insulin sensitive. I do about four different changes, from 200-1,000 grams of carbs. Sometimes I may go down to almost none — just fibrous carbs (less than 50 grams or so). I start at the beginning of my prep and go for two- or three-week cycles up until contest time."
    — Toney Freeman
    "I've been cycling for over eight years. It keeps my metabolism racing throughout my prep, which allows for better fat burning. It also allows me to eat more carbs on heavy-duty training days, like legs and back, which require more glycogen replenishing afterward to prevent muscle loss."
    — Derik Famsworth
    "I deplete carbs one week before a show for three or four days (very low carbs: 50-80 grams a day), then carb up for two days before the show (very high carbs: up to 1,000 grams a day). This works because after being empty and flat from depleting, the muscles are then crazy full from carbing up and your skin gets 'thinner.'"
    — Dennis Wolf
    ↑ High-carb Days
    Carbohydrates 2-3 g per pound of bodyweight
    Protein 1-1.25 g per pound of bodyweight
    Fat 0.2-0.35 g per pound of bodyweight
    ↓ Low- to Moderate-carb Days
    Carbohydrates 0.5-1.5 g per pound of bodyweight
    Protein 1.25-1.5 g per pound of bodyweight
    Fat 0.35-0.75 g per pound of bodyweight
    ↑ High-carb Days
    Carbohydrates 0.9-1 g per pound of bodyweight
    Protein 0.75 g per pound of bodyweight
    Fat 0.2-0.3 g per pound of bodyweight
    ↓ Low- to Moderate-carb Days
    Carbohydrates 0.2-0.5 g per pound of bodyweight
    Protein 0.9-1 g per pound of bodyweight
    Fat 0.3-0.5 g per pound of bodyweight
    Food Choices
    Red meat (lean cuts)
    Low-fat cottage cheese
    Low-fat Greek yogurt
    Protein powder
    Nut butter
    Whole-grain bread
    Sweet potatoes

    Perine, Shawn, and Shelby Starnes. "Riding The Carb Cycle." Flex 28.3 (2010): 246-250. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

  • @NickFindley thank you so much! that information is great

  • Carb Cycling really has no true benefit over a basic caloric deficit. It is just another way to set it up and direct your macros.

    instead of eating say 200 Pro, 200 Carb, 50 Fat (For Example)
    you could do 3 low days of 200 Pro, 100 Carb, 60 Fat
    2 Moderate Days of 200 Protein, 150 Carbs, 55g Fat
    2 High Days of 200 Protein, 250g Carbs, 50g Fat

    Just a different way to allot macros but at the end of the 7 day week get the same total net amount of calories. Just find a way what suits you easiest to get into a weekly caloric deficit or surplus to aid your goal. Some find it easier to eat the same macros daily, some find it better to deviate them. How you want to allot them is personal preference.

    Some good articles:

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