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Carb Cycling for Weight Loss and Fat Burning

Updated on October 27, 2012

Carb Cycling for Weight Loss

If you've ever tried to lose weight then you know that low calorie diets can only get you so far. Eventually, your body will grow accustomed to the lower level of calories and your metabolism will slow down accordingly. That's when you reach a weight loss plateau and it can seem as if no matter what you do, the weight won't come off. This is a great time to try a carb cycling plan for weight loss. Carb cycling plans have been used by body builders and fitness models for some time now but haven't caught on very quickly among the general public. It's a shame because carb cycling for weight loss works extremely well! When you follow this type of plan, you'll essentially trick your body into burning fat, enabling you to reach your weight loss goals. Give it a try for fast weight loss. | Source

What is Carb Cycling?

Carb cycling is very easy to understand and implement. You will simply be varying the amount of carbohydrates you consume during any given day to encourage your body to burn fat. There are many versions of carb cycling plans but they all have one thing in common - several days of low carb eating followed by one or two days of high carb eating.

Some plans conveniently fit into your lifestyle by advocating low carbs during the week and high carbs on weekends, which is great for social events you may have planned. Other plans go with only three days of low carb eating followed by one day of high carbs. A plan like this might be preferred if you have trouble sticking to low carbs for five full days. Knowing that the high carb day is coming up in only three days can be just what you need to stay with it.

Carb cycling diets are still lower in calories though. The basic rules of fat loss still apply. That is, you need to operate on a calorie deficit to lose weight. What ends up happening is that on your low carb days, you'll likely find yourself satisfied completely on fewer calories. This is due to the higher fat content of your meals on these days as well as less blood sugar fluctuations. On your high carb days, your calories can go slightly higher while still maintaining a calorie deficit.

How Carb Cycling Works

Carb cycling for weight loss is effective for two main reasons. First, it allows your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates and second, it prevents your body from adapting thereby keeping your metabolism humming.

So, how does carb cycling really work? Well, carbohydrates are your bodies preferred fuel source. When you deprive your body of carbs for a period of time, your body needs to find some alternative source of fuel, which is your body fat. Obviously, this is a good thing. This is the theory behind low carb diet plans like Atkins. The problem with those plans though is that they're extremely difficult to follow long term and they allow your body to adapt. Which leads me to my next point.

When you give your body enough carbs to refuel on your high carb days, you prevent it from adapting to the low carb situation and stalling your metabolism. Finally, as an added bonus, the high carb days will give you the energy to work out, which is absolutely essential for weight loss.

How to Set Up a Carb Cycling Plan for Weight Loss

To set up a carb cycling weight loss plan, you'll need to get out the calculator and do a little math. Don't worry, it's not difficult! Use the guidelines in the article above titled, "Step by Step Guide for How to Lose Body Fat" to determine how many calories you burn each day. This is your starting point. Let's say the number is 2000. If you want to lose weight though you need to be in a calorie deficit. A deficit of 500 calories per day will result in a loss of 1 pound of fat per week so let's go with that. This leaves you with a 1500 calorie per day diet.

Now you need to figure out your macronutrient ratios for your low carb and high carb days. The three macronutrients are, of course, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

Let's start with the protein. If you're working out, you should maintain a level of protein to support muscle maintenance. Some suggest going with 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. Let's say you weigh 150 pounds, and have 30% body fat. That means that your lean body weight is 70% of 150 or 105. That means you should eat 105 grams of protein each day. At 4 calories per gram for protein, those 105 grams are 420 calories. Each day, whether it's a high carb or low carb day, this fictional person should eat 105 grams or 420 calories of protein.

Now on to the carbs. On high carb days, you should aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. That would be 150 to 225 grams of carbs or 600 - 900 calories per day. On low carb days you should be eating about 30 - 50 grams of carbs. Don't go lower than this. This isn't a ketogenic diet. This would be equivalent to 120 - 200 calories from carbs on the low carb days. On your high carb days, eat healthy carbs more than sugary sweets. It's better to go with fruit and whole grains but you can splurge a little and have a drink, pasta, or ice cream. Just be sure to stay within your calorie limits.

Finally, on to the fats. Your fat intake will be whatever is left over to be equivalent to 1500 calories per day. So for example, if on your low carb days you're eating 420 calories from protein, and 200 calories from carbs, you should eat 880 calories from fat. Now, don't worry, if you eat healthy fats, you'll be fine. See the article above, "Why Eating Fat Can Help Burn Fat," for more information. And on your high carb days you'll eat 180 calories from fat.

So that's it. If you follow this plan, you'll be sure to lose body fat in no time.


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    • profile image

      Jesse Morgan 

      3 years ago

      I just saw this discussion about the Carb Cycling diet. I published a book on Amazon that explains the diet in simple terms and includes a mix of 40 low and high carb recipes that use healthy ingredients and are simple to repair. The printed version of the book includes a 26 week journal which can also be downloaded for free from my site. You can get more information at The book is available in Amazon:

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this info on carbs, I hope it will help me lose some weight.

    • MissJamieD profile image


      5 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      This is very interesting information, especially since I love my carbs! Great job, thanks for sharing:)

    • SD Dickens profile imageAUTHOR

      SD Dickens 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for the comments Nancy and bruzzbuzz. Let me know how it works for you.

    • bruzzbuzz profile image


      7 years ago from Texas , USA

      I had never heard of carb cycling before but it looks like it might work. Thanks for the advice. I am going to give it a try.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 

      7 years ago from USA

      Great advice. I'm going to put it to good use and give it a try! Voted up and useful!


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