Carb cycling DOES work, the first question is why. Completely anecdotal but I personally have successfully used it to drop from 9% to 7% bodyfat without a loss of any muscle mass. The second question is if carb cycling works any better than any other nutritional plans at the came caloric deficit. Before we get started lets talk about carbs. All carbs are not created equal. There are good carbs like legumes, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains and then there are really bad carbs like enriched bleached flour and high fructose corn syrup. In carb cycling we vary the good carbs consumed in a three to four day cycle where the first day has about 35g net carbs, the second day has about 80g net carbs, and the third day has about 200g net carbs. In advanced versions of carb cycling, you can also vary the caloric levels. Here is an example of how the free carb cycling week meal plan that CustomMealPlanner produced for me (view my actual carb cycling meal plan):
Why Carb Cycling Works
Any nutritional plan that will allow you to maintain a caloric deficit consistently week after week will be successful in lowering your bodyfat. Here are some possible explanations why carb cycling works so well for fat loss:
- The simplest explanation is that carb cycling works simply because it requires very clean eating most of the week to obtain the low carb levels on the “no carb” and “low carb” days. Simple carbs are one of the biggest villains in making people fat so anything that restricts them will result in successful fat loss.
- Another explanation about why carb cycling works is that in essence, you get two “cheat days’ every week so the feelings of deprivation that can lead to binging are absent. As mentioned above, anything that lets you maintain a consistent caloric deficit week after week will be successful at fat loss and with two cheat days a week, you can keep carb cycling up for months and years without having a devastating binge.
- One explanation why carb-cycling might work better than low-carb diets is that with low-carb, even the smallest carb-treat can lead to binging whereas with carb-cycling, your system is accustomed to the carbs so the binge-urge is eliminated.
- Insulin control. Low/no carb days help keep the body sensitive to insulin and help fat burning. Personally, I dont believe this one.
- Leptin. Cycling carbs keeps the body from becoming leptin resistant so that hunger is controlled with fewer calories. Personally, I dont buy this one either.
- Serotonin. Cycling carbs keeps serotonin levels high so carb cravings are reduced. I do agree that restricting carbs can lower cravings but I doubt this is the reason.
Designing a carb cycling meal plan
The math for figuring out the daily nutrition in a carb cycling plan is really complicated and most people don’t have the time to figure it out or the money to hire a nutritionist to do it for them. As luck would have it, the best online carb cycling meal plan is not only the fastest and easiest to use but its also free! In under 90 seconds you can create a meal plan for the entire week AND make a shopping list! Of course, portion sizes perfectly tailored to your metabolic needs so that you will lose fat at the optimal rate. Here is how to do it in under 90 seconds with best meal planner in the world, CustomMealPlanner.Com:
1) [30 seconds] Set up free account. (no email confirmation required)
2) [30 seconds] Enter your metabolic data. (height, weight, age, etc)
3) [30 seconds] Click on link “Week Meal Plans” in menu bar and then click here:
Syncing carb cycling to your workout plan
Most people find that they can lift weights with 100% intensity even on the no carb days as long as the caloric deficit is not too extreme. Long cardio sessions on the other hand can be an issue. It is best to plan your long runs and bike ride to coincide with the high carb days and the weight workouts to coincide with the low carb or no carb days. If you are someone who refuses to do cardio then you can make your most intense weight workouts coincide with the high carb days.
Muscle gain expectations with carb cycling
If you are a newcomer to lifting with bodyfat over 15% then you will continue your rapid newbie muscle gains while cutting fat. If you are an advanced lifter nearing your genetic max then gaining muscle is not realistic during your cut but this carb cycling plan will keep you from losing muscle mass. For advanced lifters, it is recommended that you set your expected muscle gain rate to zero for the duration of the cut to obtain accurate bodyfat charts.
How long should I keep on the carb cycling meal plan?
People ask how long they need to stay on this carb-cycling diet, the answer is, until you reach your goal! Remember that to be successful you need to be consistent in sticking to the plan day after day, week after week, month after month. If you “do” carb cycling for 10 days then go out for pizza and beer then you are not doing carb cycling at all and you are wasting your time. The high carb days are your “cheat days” and they are there to prevent the need for this kind of binge so if you cant stick to this plan. “Blowing it” is not allowed, if you dont have the dicipline to maintain strict nutritional control then do not use carb-cycling! You either do carb cycling or you don’t.