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Carb Cycling

Carb Cycling

Carb Cycling: Dietary Strategy to Keep You In Balance

Carb cycling is a dietary approach where you alternate between high-carb, moderate-carb, and low/no-carb days throughout the week, with a consistently high protein intake and an inversely proportional fat intake to your carbohydrate intake.1

Who can benefit from carb cycling?

This dietary strategy claims to aid individuals in achieving very lean body compositions without the muscular catabolism commonly associated with standard calorie-restricted diets.

Carb Cycling has been adopted by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts as a method to fine-tune body composition, with the idea that varying carbohydrate intake can manipulate the body's fuel utilization in favour of fat burning while sparing muscle tissue.1

How to do carb cycling properly?

There are numerous ways to structure a carb cycling diet.

Some protocols suggest a 4:1:1 ratio of low-carb days to high-carb days to no-carb days, while others may propose a 3:1 arrangement, or a pattern of three low-carb days followed by one high-carb day.1

Nutrition recommendations for someone interested in carb cycling must account for the total energy expenditure (TDEE) and desired outcomes, like fat loss or maintenance of a low body fat percentage. Your protein intake should consistently be high, around 1 gram per pound of body weight. High-carb days may comprise up to 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight, whereas low-carb days will significantly slash carb intake. Fats fill in the remaining caloric needs, lower on high-carb days and higher on low/no-carb days.1

Are there any downsides to carb cycling?

It’s crucial to note that while carb cycling can be effective in a calorie deficit for fat loss, it is not superior to a well-structured traditional diet that also ensures a calorie deficit.

Additionally, carb cycling requires careful planning and adherence to see results, especially when striving for very low body fat levels.1, 2

Adherents must ensure their total weekly caloric intake aligns with their goals, and those seeking to build muscle should focus on consuming enough carbs to support their training performance and recovery.3

Let’s sum it up

In summary, carb cycling can be an effective nutritional strategy for those aiming to achieve or maintain a very lean body, as it may facilitate easier diet adherence and a more enjoyable eating pattern. However, it's important to recognize that success with carb cycling requires a well-thought-out plan that includes careful monitoring of calories and macronutrients, as well as a focus on overall diet quality and workout performance.


  • 1) Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger  
    The Advanced Guide to Shattering Plateaus, Hitting PRS and Getting Shredded
    Book | 2014 | Michael Matthews

  • 2) The Ultimate Nutrition Bible  
    Easily Create the Perfect Diet that Fits Your Lifestyle, Goals, and Genetics
    Book | 2023 | Matt Gallant, Wade T. Lightheart

  •  Endure  
    Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance
    Book | 2021 | Alex Hutchinson

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