Is Carb Cycling Healthy? How to Start

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We’ve all heard of the many benefits that a low carbohydrate or ketogenic diet provides. Research shows that banning our carbs can help balance blood sugar, control insulin levels and promote weight loss – but is it healthy and sustainable in the long run?

What is carb cycling?

Basically, carb cycling offers the best of a low carb lifestyle that includes tasty things from time to time – carbs!

When carb cycling, the amount of protein and fat must remain the same, but the amount of carbohydrates (such as bread, pasta, potatoes, fruit, etc.) fluctuates over time.

Many people want to limit carbs in this way when they want to lose weight while keeping lean muscles safe.

In general, the timing of carbohydrate fluctuations is based on exercise and activity levels – which means more carbs on more active days. This is usually done to provide many of the benefits of carbohydrates (yes, carbs also have benefits!) Without causing blood sugar imbalances or weight gain.

Benefits of a Carb Cycling Diet (High Carbs vs. Low Carbs)

New research emerges every second. One second is a high carb, low fat ideal diet. The next high fat, low carb diet is the only healthy way to live. Impossible to continue!

The error here explains the benefits of each option.

Benefits of a carbohydrate-rich diet

Although they are often whispered, our bodies need carbs:

Keep in mind, the source of carbohydrates matters! Processed, simple carbohydrates cause more inflammation in the body by blocking the health benefits. Read this post to learn more about the difference between simple and complex carbs.

Benefits of a low carb diet

On the flip side, let’s consider the benefits of a low carb diet:

  • Decreasing insulin levels by avoiding fat storage
  • Balances blood sugar and prevents blood sugar roller coasters
  • Controls appetite
  • Speed ​​of weight loss
  • If your blood sugar is balanced, it can help balance sex hormones
  • Improves mental clarity
  • Reduces oxidative stress

Sounds great!

The balance is striking

So, if both high carb and low carb diets have benefits, how can we get better from both worlds? You guessed it, carb cycling! Changing the carbohydrate load throughout the week allows the body to eat this (gluten free) cake and in fact it can be eaten.

Carb cycling is so easy to fit into any busy lifestyle. It provides the necessary flexibility when planning a meal. This makes it easier to strengthen muscle strength and improve energy levels. This does not mean that there should be more foods that eliminate a whole food group, making it impossible to survive in the long run.

Long-term carb diet risks

You may be wondering – why is it so easy to lose weight on a low carb or ketogenic diet? Weight loss on a low carb diet is so quick and easy because it boils down to body chemistry. A low carbohydrate diet causes a decrease in insulin production. Sodium follows insulin. When insulin is reduced, sodium levels fall, causing our bodies to release large amounts of water. So, lose weight fast (even carb flu!).

Eventually, the dehydration will stop and the weight will rise until the fat starts to break down but very quickly.

In the long run, a low carb diet can take a toll on the body in other ways.

First, studies show that intermittent low-carb diets, especially in heat deficits, cause multiple hormone levels related to metabolism and reproduction. For example, active T3, a thyroid hormone that plays a key role in energy production, fat burning, and muscle gain, will decrease over time when not enough cellular energy is available. ۔

Also, a low carb diet can affect our leptin, a hormone that helps the brain control appetite. A decrease in leptin means a decrease in hormone production signaling – for us mothers and not mothers.

How to cycle carbs

If you believe carbs have a place in your life, it’s time to make a plan. Like most health things, this plan will not be the same for everyone! Carbohydrate intake varies depending on a person’s genetics, lifestyle, and activity level.

First, I recommend that you track your nutrient intake for a few weeks using the login app or journal. This will give you a basis for your average caloric intake and percentage of daily carbohydrate consumption.

From there, you’ll be planning your goals.

Carb cycling plan for weight loss

If weight loss and improving overall health is the primary goal, follow these micronutrient percentages. The percentage is based on the amount of daily heat:

Low carb days

  • Protein: 45%
  • Carbs: 20%
  • Fat: 35%

High carb day

  • Protein: 30%
  • Carbs: 60%
  • Fat: 10%

Feel free to change the percentage a bit if needed. For example, on high carb days you want to get 40% of your calories from protein, 50% from carbs, and 10% from fat. However, experts do not recommend a transfer of more than 5-10% between each.

This is what I have done with my weight loss plan, based on my genetic testing and high protein ratio based on individual health factors.

Carb cycling plan to increase muscle mass and strength

If your goals are to increase muscle mass and gain strength, a high carb day calorie increase is recommended.

Here is an example:

Low carb days

  • Protein: 45%
  • Carbs: 20%
  • Fat: 35%

High carb day

  • Protein: 35%
  • Carbs: 65%
  • Fat: 10%

As always, consult your doctor for the best plan for you, especially if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or menopausal.

How to make a carb cycling diet

There are numerous ways to fit carb cycling into our lifestyle – especially as a busy mom!

Here are some examples of carb cycling methods:

Weekly carb cycling plan

Option 1: Three more carb days, then two less carb days

  • Monday: Carb Day
  • Tuesday: Carb Day
  • Wednesday: Carb Day
  • Thursday: Lower Carb Day
  • Friday: Carb Lower Day
  • Saturday: Carb Day
  • Sunday: Carb Day

Option 2: Two high carb days, three moderate carb days, four low carb days

  • Monday: Carb Day
  • Tuesday: Carb Day
  • Wednesday: Moderate carb day
  • Thursday: Mid-Carb Day
  • Friday: Carb Lower Day
  • Saturday: Lower Carb Day
  • Sunday: Lower Carb Day

Option 3: One high carb day, one low carb day, one high carb day, two low carb days

  • Monday: Carb Day
  • Tuesday: Lower Carb Day
  • Wednesday: Carb Day
  • Thursday: Lower Carb Day
  • Friday: Carb Lower Day
  • Saturday: Carb Day
  • Sunday: Lower Carb Day

Long term carb cycling plan

Option 1:

  • Day 1-11: Low carb day (30-60 grams)
  • Day 12-14: High Carb Day (150-400 grams)

Option 2:

  • Week 1-4: Low carb day (30-60 grams)
  • Week 5: High carb day (150-400 grams)

Sounds like High Carb Day?

A good high-carb diet consists of a fairly equal amount of protein and complex carbs (if not a little more carbs) and a good fat diet is mainly after exercise.

Breakfast: eggs, berries, gluten-free oatmeal, sweet potato hash

Lunch: Ground turkey cooked in coconut oil with brown rice, hummus and starchy vegetables

Dinner: Spaghetti squash pasta with chicken and olive oil

Other sources of healthy carbs:

  • Sweet potatoes and other root vegetables
  • squash
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Beans (beans)
  • Chicken (hummus)
  • جو
  • Fruits and plants
  • Vegetables

Sounds like a low carb day?

In low carb diets, focus on healthy fats and protein intake. Here is an example of a low carb day meal plan.

Breakfast: Coconut flour pancakes: Top with butter or almond butter spread! Delicious! Serve with a tasty protein shake.

Lunch: Chicken salad wrapped in lettuce with red onion, celery, mayo

Dinner: grass-fed beef burger topped with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee-cooked gacamol and broccoli

Bottom line: keep it simple and mix it up!

Experience what feels best for your body (and work with your doctor!) When I do carb cycling make sure to have a health journal to keep track of the results.

As always, what matters most is following the healthiest diet for you as an individual and focusing on the whole source of food. I also believe that it is more important to have a variety in your diet than to eat the “perfect” diet permanently throughout your life.

All food groups can be included in your healthy diet (low carb, high carb, carb cycling, etc.) as long as it is actually eaten.

The article was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Walker, an internal medicine specialist. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk to your doctor or work with a doctor at Study MD.

How are you? Have you tried a carb cycling diet?


  1. Ahima, RS (2008). Reviewing the role of leptin in obesity and weight loss. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 118 (7), 2380–2383.
  2. Hofmkler, Ori. Maximum muscle and minimum fat: the secret science behind physical transformation. Berkeley, Calif .: North Atlantic Box, 2008. Print
  3. Johnston, Carol S., Sherry L. Jeon, Pamela de Swan, Andrea White, Heather Hutchins, and Barry Sears. The catechin low carbohydrate diet has no metabolic benefits compared to the nantekgenic low carbohydrate diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83.5 (2006): 1055-1061.
  4. Westland ET Low carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 86, Issue 2, August 1, 2007, pages 276–284.
  5. Brands, MW, and Manhani, M.W. M. (2012). The sodium-retaining effect of insulin in diabetes. American Journal of Physiology. Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 303 (11), R1101 – R1109.

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