What To Eat On A Carb Cycling Diet

Carb Cycling And Carbs

Carb Cycling Diet For Fat Loss?

There are two important facts here: estrogen slightly increases, and progesterone decreases insulin sensitivity.

Estrogen and progesterone are elevated at different points in the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels tend to be the most dominant in the first and second weeks of the cycle . Progesterone levels are at their highest in the third and fourth week of the cycle.

The consequences of this are that:

  • The female body is naturally more insulin-sensitive in the follicular phase when estrogen levels are highest and progesterone levels are at their lowest. This means it tolerates carbohydrates in these two weeks better than the rest of the time.
  • The female body is naturally slightly less insulin sensitive when progesterone levels are higher in the luteal phase . This means it does not tolerate carbohydrate as well in these weeks.

How To Do Carb Cycling

There are many variations to carb cycling, including daily alterations or longer periods of high and low-carb cycles.

Here is a sample week where you regulate your carb intake on a daily basis:

Even more so than a regular diet, carb cycling can take a lot of fine tuning and adjustment along the way.

Experiment with the amount of high-carb days per week, as well as the amount of carbs per day. Find the best approach for your lifestyle, exercise routine and goals.

If you prefer a low-carb diet, you can add carb cycling occasionally in the form of a refeed. Here are some sample low-carb plans with occasional high-carb blocks:

As the table suggests, you can either refeed every couple of weeks or do long periods, such as a 4 week low-carb phase, with a 1 week refeed.

You will also notice the amount of carbs per day can drastically vary this depends on activity level, muscle mass and carbohydrate tolerance.

An athlete who trains 3 hours a day or a 250 lb bodybuilder may need the upper limit , whereas a normal individual may only need to refeed on 150-200g.

Finally, these examples are suggestions only. There is no proven formula or ratio for carb cycling and you should tailor and experiment with it yourself.

Bottom Line:

There are several options for carb cycling, ranging from daily changes to monthly refeeds. Experiment to figure out what works best for you and your goals.

How To Carb Load

Simply put, carb loading is shifting your diet towards carbohydrates for 48 hours before your event, leaving the fats and proteins off of your plate. Ideally, you dont overdo it with tons of fiber that can create gastrointestinal stress, but some fiber is good to keep things moving through the body.

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Final Carb Cycling Tips

Fiber matters. Prioritizing high-fiber carbs on low-carb days is a solid way to go. “With any lower-carb eating approach, getting adequate fiber is a concern, as whole-grain carbohydrates are a rich source of this important nutrient,” says Clark. “Fiber supports satiety, cholesterol control, and your microbiome, among other things!”

Quality matters. High-carb days shouldn’t be filled with pizza and french fries. “Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain bread/pasta are healthier choices than more refined options such as sugar, cakes, cookies, and soft drinks,” says Clark.

When in doubt, consult an expert.“The amount of carbohydrates required on high- vs. low-carb days varies greatly depending on calorie needs, the type and amount of activity you do, and your goal,” says Clark. If you want personalized recommendations, check in with a registered dietitian. That way, you can ensure you’re getting the fuel your body needs to achieve the best possible results.

Who Should Try Carb Cycling

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There are two main groups of people that carb cycling can be helpful for, according to Clark: endurance athletes and active people on low-carb diets.

For those who focus on endurance sports such as running, cycling, and swimming, “preliminary evidence suggests that varying carbohydrate throughout the year-specifically lowering carbs during high volume, pre-season training-may be helpful for increasing muscle glycogen stores and performance when carbs are reintroduced,” explains Clark. Basically, lowering your carb intake before you go into your main training season , may help your body to better utilize carbs when you reintroduce them right before you need to hit your peak performance level.

For those more interested in weight control or fat loss, carb cycling can also make sense. “For some individuals, consuming a lower-carb diet can be helpful for weight maintenance and optimal health,” says Clark. That’s probably why keto continues to be so popular. “That said, research indicates that carbohydrates are the predominant fuel for working muscles during high-intensity exercise, and consuming carbs before and after a tough sweat session is critical to get the most out of it.” It’s generally accepted that a low carb intake will reduce power output during high-intensity exercise, so carb cycling could help if you’re eating a low-carb diet but want to complete a HIIT or weightlifting workout, for example.

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Carb Cycling May Help Keep Your Metabolism Humming During Fat Loss

When you eat lesssay, to lose fatyour body responds in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Your basal metabolic rate drops
  • You expend less energy when you exercise
  • Your daily activity outside of workouts tends to decrease naturally .

So as you lose weight, you have to continue reducing how much you eat in order to keep seeing results.

Example: Lets say you start a 2,000 calorie a day diet and lose weight steadily for a while. Over time, you might find that stops working. So you might have to cut back to 1,800 calories to kickstart weight loss again.

This is called metabolic adaptation, and you can no doubt see why its a problem.

The more your metabolism adapts, the more you have to restrict your food intake.

As a result, the harder its going to be to achieve your goaland maintain your weight loss down the road.

But carb cycling proponents say the approach can prevent metabolic adaptation.

The rationale: Regularly mixing in high-carb, high-calorie days jumpstarts your metabolism and keeps it from adapting.

Again, theres no strong evidence to support this claim, but it also hasnt been refuted.

The Beet: Is Carb Cycling Good For Athletes And Can It Help You Build Muscle

KB: “Carb Cycling is something that has been used by a lot of athletes and they normally follow a modified version: 45%-50% carbs on moderation days and 20-25% carbs on low days.”For example, an athlete engaging in carbohydrate cycling may be going through a cutting phase with the goal of fat loss. Therefore, this individual may lower his or her carbohydrate intake for a couple of weeks before reintroducing carbs back during a muscle building phase.

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Why Focus Only On Carbs And Not Protein Or Fat

First and foremost, varying your carbohydrate intake may have a positive impact on many important hormones .

Fluctuating your fat and protein intake, on the other hand, wont affect hormones for the better.

Theres also this:

Not-so-great stuff can happen when you dont get enough protein or fat.

For example, if your fat intake stays too low, your menstrual cycle might halt. And if your protein intake stays too low, you can lose muscle and experience mood swings.

Youre probably not interested in any of that, lets just keep this conversation about carbs.

How Many Carbs Do I Consume For Carb Loading

WHAT I EAT IN A DAY | Carb Cycling and Low Carb Day

Carb loading is defined as 5-12g of carbs per 1kg of body weight. We dont think 5 is enough based on the studies weve come across and have settled that 6-9g per 1kg of body weight 2 days out, and then 8-10g per 1kg of body weight the day before is best.


If you dont want to count carbs, shift your diet towards carbs and eat a little extra. We promise you that the extra based on how your feel wont be extra. Most athletes underestimate how many carbs they should consume.

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Carb Cycling For Weight Loss: 7

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Carbs get a bad rap, especially when it comes to weight loss. But did you know, carbs are an essential source of energy for your bodys cells? If you want to lose weight, but cant imagine eliminating carbs from your diet, you may be interested in carb cycling. Carb cycling is used to optimize carb intake, by cycling the carbs you eat on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Its great because it tailors carb intake to the individual depending on your goals and needs. If youre interested in carb cycling for weight loss, check out our 7-day carb cycling meal plan!

Adjust Your Daily Carb Intake Accordingly

Having a weekly plan is important to schedule a high-carb intake for days when you need more energy. This ensures the extra calories are used up and that you dont frustrate your weight loss efforts.

Use this for guidance:

  • Eat fewer carbs on rest days or on days you are restricting calorie intake for weight loss.
  • Eat more carbs on heavy training days, strength training days, and any time you need or use the extra calories.

You should also decide the types of carbs youre eating based on your weekly activities. Generally, whole/complex carb sources are preferred as they are less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar. However, simple carbs are acceptable after a workout.

Use this for guidance:

  • Eat more simple carbs before and after a workout session for quick fuel and optimal recovery.
  • Eat more starchy and high fiber carbs throughout the day to promote fullness and better blood sugar control.

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What Foods Should I Use For Carb Loading

What are the best carbs for cycling? All of them. Just kidding. When choosing my carbs for cycling, I like a variety, which mainly include rice, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and some bread and pasta.

I made a video that we will post that shows exactly what I ate for 100 mile gravel race where I burned 5,500 calories. I flatted and had to TT a bunch to try to reach the lead group again, but either way, I would have burned about 4,500 calories that day.

Youll want to know what the best carb loading foods are for your body, so test them out on your next long ride

Good carb loading foods include fruit, oatmeal, rice, breads, sweet potatoes, more rice, a burrito. I hit over 1,000g of carbs the day before the race.

While I used to be huge on cereal, Ive really tried to keep my best carb loading foods to be those that are natural, like fruits and other natural sugars, like honey or maple syrup.

While processed foods are easy to use for carb loading food, they arent the best carb loading foods in terms of quality. Make sure your digestive system can handle all the fiber before you go overboard and only use fruit as your carb loading food, or if you eat too much processed foods, you may find yourself bound up and unable to really excrete it all before the race starts.

The Beet: Which Carbs Should I Avoid And Which Ones Should I Eat

21 best Carb Cycling Meal Plan images on Pinterest

KB: “On high carb days, focus on consuming quality complex carbs like oatmeal, quinoa, and beans. On low carb days eat non-starchy vegetables and avoid simple carbs like white rice, baked goods, cookies, store-bought products that drive up blood sugars. Simple short-chain carbs make you feel hungry quicker than if you eat complex carbs, because they’re full of dietary fiber and break down more slowly. More people should eat this way anyways.”

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What Is The Carb Cycling Diet

The carb cycling diet varies your carb intake, allowing you to lose weight without giving up your favourite carb-rich foods. You vary your carb consumption between high and low intakes on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, you would eat a low-carb diet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and a high-carb diet on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or, you can cycle three low carb days followed by 2 high carb days. Low carb days help with fat loss, while high carb days help muscle growth and performance.

Low Intensity Cycling Or Training Rides For More Than 2 Hours

We dont eat much more for these rides since the intensity is low and you can burn off your breakfast and use the fuel that you consume on the ride. If it is a zone 2 endurance ride, eat your normal breakfast and just lean towards carbs. Stay on top of the fuel during the ride, getting 60-90g of carbs per hour. Most gels and drink mixes are just carbs, whereas you need to be careful when it comes to the bars that you eat. Some are very high fat, and this is not what you want to be fueling with on long rides, since fat cannot be used for energy as efficiently as carbohydrates.

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Get Your Head In The Game

It’s common to hear “everything in moderation,” even with dieting. The idea is that if you’re too strict, you’ll feel deprived and won’t stick with the diet.

But with carb cycling, as with any diet, if you have aggressive fat-loss and muscle-growth goals, such as for a bodybuilding competition, moderation can get in the way of success.

Terms like “refeed,” “cheat meal,” and “cheat day” almost always come up . These ideas can be used to your advantage, but it’s best to wait until you’re pretty close to achieving your desired body-fat percentage before even thinking about them.

Simply put, you must make some sacrifices and give up all unhealthy eating habits if you want to succeed in losing fat or winning a contest! Flip the switch in your mind to eat “clean” and don’t even think about giving up.

There can be no half measures. Getting your carb counts right is important, but a huge part of diet success is getting in the proper mindset and staying completely focused on achieving your goals. How much weight you lose carb cycling is a matter of how strictly you follow the program and how much you can avoid junk carbs and excess fat.

If you screw around and cheat once, you will likely repeat this cheating again and again. But remain steadfast on your mission to get lean, and you most definitely will.

Put all the pieces together and you’ll be rewarded with better health and a lean, muscular body.


Low Carb Diet For Cycling

Carb Cycling | Day 3 – Healthy High Carb Meal Prep

The Amount of Work You Can Do

If youre on a low carbohydrate diet and cycling, good luck going hard. Sometimes even tempo rides, up to 90% FTP, can feel extremely hard if youre low on carbs.

Forget doing longer threshold efforts, and your ability to do enough work to allow for adaptations to occur is way too low.

If you want to ride hard, or even medium hard, you need carbs!

Now, that said, when we get to carb periodization, you can see how you can manipulate your carb intake schedule so that you arent always eating carbs. We do NOT follow this protocol as of 2020 we are always eating carbohydrates, but sometimes a few less.

This study was brought to my attention from this blog by Sigma Nutrition which is largely based on this study.

Main takeaway: if you train with low carbohydrates to increase your ability to use free fatty acids, your ability to use carbohydrate decreases!

Therefore, training low all of the time, and then trying to focus on carbohydrates on race day for hard efforts is a major mistake!!!


But, we dont have to overdo the intake, and I was definitely guilty of that.

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What Does The Science Say About Carb Cycling

Unfortunately, not much. There aren’t many controlled studies directly investigating carb cycling. The thinking behind carb cycling comes from other weight-loss approacheslike calorie restriction and the ketogenic dietcombined with the science around fueling workouts and burning fat.

Carb cycling tries to match the body’s need for glucose. If you’ve got a longer, more intense workout or race, you need more carbs beforehand . If it’s a rest day, not so much. The rationale behind carb cycling is that you don’t need as many carbohydrates on the days you aren’t racing or doing an intense workout, so you can cut back on carbs on these days while keeping protein and fat about the same or eating a little more fat.

What Are The Best Carb Sources For Carb Cycling

While theres no such thing as a good or bad carbohydrate, its always a smart move to reach for minimally processed sources rich in fibre and other nutrients your body needs, Jones says. Fibre helps to slow digestionhelping you feel fuller for longerand helps maintain normal bowel function, bind to and excrete cholesterol and slowly release carbohydrates into the bloodstream for steady energy levels and better insulin responses, she says.

Food sources of carbohydrates that check those boxes, according to Jones and Vettel include vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and potatoes.

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Carb Cycling May Or May Not Work For You

No matter what happens during your carb cycling experiment, remember this: Its all okay.

You might learn that you just cant stick to a carb cycling regimen.

Or that you feel terrible when carb cycling.

Or maybe you feel great.

Or perhaps you learn that carb cycling is your favorite way of eating.

Or that its just not worth all the effort.

Or something else.

Its all good.

The key is to keep an open mind and go with the best available evidence: your own personal experience .

Collect your data and then reflect on how things are going. If you stick to the facts, you cant go wrong.

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