Carb Cycling: Stupid New Diet Craze or Does Cycling Your Carbs Work?

carb cycling pasta on fork
Written by Carl Lombard

Do you want to eat anything your heart desires and still be shredded?

Sorry. That ain’t happening. Well, not quite… But, with a little discipline and a willingness to restrict your daily eating window you can still eat pizza, sip the occasional beer and have the physique of a Greek sculpture.

Our mysterious secret? Carb Cycling.

What Is Carb Cycling?

We’re aware that the market is full of new diet crazes, but this is different. Well-established (but less satisfying) diet plans like Keto operate on a similar principle. When the body depletes its energy from carbs it enters a caloric deficit. The result of this deficit is weight loss, and when done correctly, fat loss. 

See with carb cycling our aim is maintain the same quantity of protein and fat (ensuring maintenance of muscle mass), encourage the body to burn body fat as fuel during our low-carb days and allow our glycogen levels to be replenished on our high-carb days. 

One positive side to this glycogen replenishment is the delicious food we get to munch on – donuts, pizza, pasta etc. Amazingly, these foods can be part of a structured diet that will help you reduce body fat and maintain size. 

Now, obviously we’re being a bit exaggeratory with our talk of donuts and pizza, but the truth is you can still eat some of that within reason while carb cycling. Just keep in mind that you will still get quicker results by keeping a clean diet even when hitting your high-carb days.

How To Carb Cycle

There’s no single plan for carb cycling. Instead there are a variety of templates you can follow depending on your activity levels, body type and desired results. 

Lots of athletes, lifters and bodybuilders can maintain their conditioning while still indulging in the occasional “cheat day”. At its core carb cycling is a more structured version of this, allowing for limited consumption of carbs at specific times (Source)

  • Low-carb day  0.25g – 0.5g carb per pound of bodyweight
  • Moderate-carb day 0.5g-1g carb per pound of body weight
  • High-carb day 2g-4g carb per pound of bodyweight

Protein intake should never deviate from 1g-1.5g per pound of body weight and your intake of fat should be about 0.5g per pound of bodyweight.

One of the most popular cycles is to go low-carb for five consecutive days then high-carb for two. 

Another popular cycle is three days low carb followed by one day high carb repeated indefinitely. 

Others find choosing three days of the week for low-carb, three days moderate-carb and one day high-carb works best. 

Everybody’s different. The idea here is to find a model that works with your life and stick to it. 

Does It Work?

Short answer – yes. 

Long answer – absolutely yes.

If you’ve plateaued after years of exercise, diet and nutrition this might be just what you need to get you back in the winning column. 

Allowing your body to burn stored fat for energy will inevitably lead to a leaner more defined physique and may benefit the hormonal and cardiovascular systems. Multiple studies have shown that short-term caloric restriction can increase the body’s efficiency at using body fat for energy.

Carb cycling also affects the body’s primary anabolic hormone – insulin. Insulin regulates how the body uses glucose and deliberately spiking it before exercise can lead to increased energy and greater gains.

Carb cycling is considered superior to diets like Keto because the body never truly depletes its glycogen store but still has ample time to burn body fat. (Not to mention the added bonus of getting to indulge in the occasional slice)

One of the drawbacks of restricted eating plans like Keto is that the body reacts to a deficit of calories and nutrients by decreasing your metabolic rate. This will allow you to exist on fewer calories, but will also make it extremely difficult to lose fat. We can’t out-diet the human brain. If the body thinks it’s close to starvation, it will hold onto stored fat as a potential energy source. 

Carb cycling works by avoiding this very situation and preventing the dreaded “plateau” so common in those practising the Keto diet. 

Carb Cycling for Women

The increased presence of ketones in the body are known to have a beneficial effect on GABA  – the neurotransmitter which regulates anxiety levels. However, long term Keto dieting amongst women with already low body fat and/or a stressful career can cause hormonal imbalance issues.  Carb cycling mitigates this risk by never allowing the body to enter a truly depleted state and maintaining healthy leptin levels. (source)


Like we mentioned the idea here is to find a plan that works for you. Life will throw the occasional wedding, party or feast at you. With carb cycling you can plan around these events and make sure they fall on a day when you’re scheduled to load up on those delicious foods you’ve been avoiding for days. 

Truth is – they’ll taste even better if you’ve waited.

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Carl Lombard

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