What Is Carb Cycling? Beginners Guide To Carb Cycling For Weight Loss

Carb cycling. This is a term you may option have heard bodybuilders and other professional athletes use. But, it’s actually been gaining popularity in recent years as it has helped numerous people on their weight loss and management journeys. 

For those of you who don’t quite know what we’re talking about, keep reading. In this blog, we answer all the questions you need to know as a carb cycling beginner. 

What Is Carb Cycling?

There’s no clear-cut definition for the term ‘carb cycling,’ however, it’s basically a cyclical eating pattern where you vary the amount of carbs you consume. This, of course, will vary based on each individual, but the idea is that, on some days of the week, you will eat more carbs, while on other days, you won’t. On the days you consume fewer carbs, you will often eat more healthy fats (such as avocados or eggs). 

A carb cycle will often correspond to an individual's training schedule. When you do more intense physical activity, such as a heavy weight lifting session or long run, you will consume more carbs as this will fuel your body with the energy it needs. 

On the others days, you will have fewer carbs, and due to this, your body will make use of fat reserves in your body as a source of fuel. This is why it has become increasingly popular as a weight loss or management tool. 

How Does Carb Cycling Work?

During carb cycling, there will be some days when you consume more or fewer carbs. The idea behind this is that, on the days when you consume fewer carbs, your body will have to resort to using the fat stores in your body as a fuel source. 

Carb Cycling Benefits

There is no general agreement regarding the benefits of carb cycling. However, various studies that have looked at its benefits and effectiveness have found that it assists in weight loss and it can result in improved insulin sensitivity, which means it may help with type 2 diabetes. 

How Long Should You Do Carb Cycling?

Currently, there isn’t sufficient scientific data to back up the effectiveness or benefits cited with carb cycling, nor is there data related to the long-term impact of carb cycling on the body. Due to this, it’s recommended that you only try carb cycling for short periods of time - a few weeks or months. 

How To Do Carb Cycling

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ carb cycling plan. Each person’s carb cycling program will need to be personalised due to differences in age, sex, body weight, and exercise. Luckily, there are general ballparks you can use to work from. 

Generally, 60 per cent of a person's calorie intake can be attributed to carbohydrates on a high-carb day. This would be the day that you do your most intense workouts. Then, on your low-carb days, you would want to swap out some carbohydrates for healthy fats. 

Carb Cycling Meal Tips

When you’re doing carb cycling, you generally want to opt for whole grains instead of refined grains or highly processed carbs that contain added sugars. High-fibre fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, are must-haves during your carb cycling. Lastly, you should swap full-cream dairy products (e.g. cheese and yoghurt) out for low-fat options. 

Final Thoughts On Carb Cycling For Beginners

Carb cycling isn’t a new trend. It’s been used by bodybuilders and other professional athletes for some time now. However, recent research has indicated that carb cycling can be highly beneficial for those looking to lose or maintain their weight. 

On certain days of your carb cycle, you will consume higher amounts of (good) carbohydrates. On these days, you will also perform your most intense physical activity. After this, you will have a series of low-carb days, where the carbohydrates in your diet are replaced by healthy fats. During your low-carb days, your body will have to use fat from your body as a fuel source, which in turn, leads to weight loss. 

While carb cycling has been shown to benefit many people, it’s important to do it with caution as there is insufficient research to show what the long-term effects of this eating regime may be.