Posted: February 5, 2014 in Fitness, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

It’s about that time again…cutting season.  Spring is approaching (Dear God I hope so because I don’t think I can stand any more single digit temperatures or any more snow!).  Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I’m going to write a little post on my thoughts about carb-cycling for any of you that are interested…wink, wink (you know who you are! ;-))

Carb-cycling:  What is it?  Who is it for?  How do I implement it?

Carb-cycling at the basic level is rotating your carb intake each day to include low carb, moderate carb, and high carb days.  Just like any other meal plan, there are countless ways to do it.  You can have 5 low carb days and 2 high carb days or 2 low, 3 medium, and 2 high carb days…and so on…At this stage, I’m usually consuming 6 meals per day but you can use this with any meal frequency plan.  This type of “zig-zag” carbohydrate intake helps to fuel your system, aid in fat loss, and help preserve muscle.  I’m not going to get into the scientific aspect of it (you can google it and read all the details you want).  My purpose is to share my insight on when and how to use this approach (and how I’ve successfully used it in the past).

So, who is it for and how do I do it?  I personally think that carb-cycling is the most beneficial when used to break a plateau in a fat-loss program or for the final few weeks of contest dieting.  This is where I found the most benefit.  Anyone can use it at any time, but I like to “save” it when I need a little kick-start to my fat loss program.  As I’ve said before, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to fat loss.  I personally believe that one should follow a balanced program of adequate protein, carbs, and fat as long as it is working for you (even if it is slower than you like!).  If you think you have quite a bit of fat to lose, wait to add carb-cycling.  If you’re near your goal and need a jump-start, give it a go.

The dreaded plateau…yes, we’ve all been there.  You’re doing everything right:  not missing your workouts, nutrition is on point, you’re getting adequate rest, and using smart supplementation.  Instead of adding ridiculous amounts of cardio or dropping calories too low, here is where I’ll start to implement a carb-cycling approach.  I prefer the 2 low, 3 moderate, and 2 high carb days when starting out.  I will generally reserve the higher carb days for intense training days (legs or back) and try to keep my carb intake higher around my training times (before and after my workouts).  Again, this is IN GENERAL!  I have eaten carbs at different times (eeek…even before bed!) – you have to find what is going to fit your training schedule and lifestyle (i.e.  if you train later in the afternoon or at night, eating carbs late at night is completely fine IMHO).

Is there a specific time I should do this for?  Maybe…(helpful, aren’t I?  ;-))  Again, a general time frame of as little as 2-3 weeks, several months, or more.  It all depends on what your goals are.  You can’t really tell if something is working unless you do it for at least 2 weeks.  So, if you’ve hit a plateau and want to give it a try, aim to do it for at least 2 weeks to see if it is working.  If not, change the variables, switch out a higher carb day for an additional low or medium one.  Just don’t change too many variables at once.

In terms of how long to use it for, think “big picture”…is this a sustainable way of eating for you?  I’ll be honest, I HATE low carb days…I turn into a cranky idiot (now, where did I put those car keys….oh yeah, they’re in my hand….ahem…).  I also find that if I do too many low carb days for too long, I start to lose muscle.  So personally, if I’m cycling with 3 or more low carb days per week, I’ll maintain that for no longer than 4 weeks.  If I’m following a general plan according to training (high carbs on brutal training days, moderate carbs on less intense days, and lower carb on rest or cardio days) I can follow it longer-term.

There you have it…carb-cycling is just another tool that you can use on your journey to your ideal physique.  If you have any questions, please feel free to add them in the comments or hit me up on my FB page (!

  1. run100run says:

    Id love it If you would like to follow my running journey

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