What Is Metabolic Cycling?
Carb cycling involves switching between high-carb days, low-carb days, and moderate-carb days throughout the week to encourage fat loss and muscle growth. The theory is that cycling your carbs helps you lose weight while avoiding the low mood associated with more restrictive low-carb diets.
But does it really work? Let’s dive into the benefits of carb cycling below, and how it can equal big results when it comes to fat loss.
How Does Carb Cycling Work?
Carb cycling is a strategic method to promote muscle growth and fat loss simultaneously, by influencing the hormones that affect body composition.
Let’s take a look at the top four factors that explain why carb cycling is so effective.
When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose.
Insulin is then secreted into the bloodstream and is responsible for carrying the glucose to the muscle cells for storage or into the liver to be used later as energy.
After a particularly carb-heavy meal, the excess glucose that isn’t needed in the liver or muscles is broken down and stored as fat instead.
This is why so many diets focus on moderating carbohydrate intake. If you only eat as much as you need, it prevents them from being converted to fat.
Carb cycling helps us manipulate insulin levels and use it to our advantage.
With carb cycling, low-carb and no-carb days are key in promoting insulin sensitivity and minimizing fat storage.
Meanwhile, high-carb days are used to refill carbohydrate stores, amplify exercise intensity, and encourage muscle growth.
This neurotransmitter serves an important role in mood stabilization, sleep, sexual desire, and appetite.
Carbohydrates can actually boost the production of serotonin, which is why consumption of high-carbohydrate foods is so common during times of stress of depression (1).
It also explains why low-carb diets are often unsuccessful; depriving yourself of carbohydrates can lead to a lot of undesirable consequences and it’s partly because serotonin production is affected.
By switching up carbohydrate intake, carb cycling can effectively keep serotonin levels steady and cut out the negative side effects that accompany a low-carb diet.
Also known as the “satiety hormone,” leptin has a major influence on regulating intake. As its nickname implies, it’s responsible for blocking hunger and controlling our appetite.
There are a few ways that leptin can be thrown off balance. During times of starvation, our body works hard to drive leptin back up by making us hungrier and causing us to eat more to “reset” leptin levels.
Conversely, eating too many calories and carbohydrates over a long period of time can cause leptin levels to skyrocket.
As a result, our body becomes resistant to leptin, which means that our brain doesn’t get the signal to stop eating when we feel full.
Both ends of the spectrum can inevitably lead to weight gain.
Carb cycling works by varying intake levels throughout the week to keep leptin in check. As leptin wanes during low- and no-carb days, high-carb days follow and boost it back up.
This stress hormone plays a big part in glucose production. When cortisol levels get high, they push your liver to start converting the proteins in muscle into glucose for energy.
Carbohydrate consumption is able to prevent the production of cortisol and thus prevent the breakdown of muscle.
Carb cycling helps promote muscle growth and avoid muscle catabolism by switching between high- and low-carb days, thus stopping the build-up of cortisol.
Burn Fat and Build Muscle
Can you really do both at the same time? With carb cycling, it’s possible.
On high carb days (which coincide with your strength training), you’ll increase your calorie intake to go anabolic. Those carbs will also be used primarily to refill your glycogen and build muscle instead of going to fat storage.
Even better, carb refeeds will keep your energy and strength high as you push heavy weights. Meanwhile, the low carb days will decrease your overall weekly calories enough to keep the fat gains at bay.
Carb cycling is a solid way to improve your insulin balance. Low carb days keep insulin low and improve sensitivity, while high carb days rev your metabolism back up and facilitate muscle growth and repair.
The more sensitive your insulin, the better your body is at processing the sugars in your bloodstream from carbs. When your insulin is working at its best, it takes those sugars and uses them as fuel or to refill muscle glycogen.
Carb cycling also has benefits with leptin, a hormone associated with satiety and metabolism — the more leptin you have, the faster your metabolism and vice versa. Leptin only gets triggered, however, if calorie and carb intake rises for 12-24 hours.
Combined, those high carb days will help keep your leptin elevated while low carb days keep insulin sensitivity high, creating a great balance for better results.
5 Carb Cycling Benefits
1. Helps Build and Preserve Lean Muscle Mass
Strength training and other forms of resistance exercise actually break down muscle tissue, only to make it grow back stronger.
The process of rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue takes a lot of energy, and once again your body requires some of its primary fuel source (carbs) to do this. This is known as the post-workout anabolic window.
Carbs help restore your energy and provide muscles with glucose for rebuilding or glycogen to be stored for future energy.
If you don’t consume enough carbohydrates following resistance training, it’s likely you’ll starve your muscles of the fuel they need to grow back bigger and stronger. For this reason, many people focused on building muscle choose to have higher carb days after tough workouts.
Simply restricting carbs and working out more can take a toll on your metabolism and even have the opposite effect of what you’d like — leaving you weaker and more fatigued.
Alternating days of higher vs. lower carb intake, especially when timed around workouts, is beneficial for cutting your body fat percentage down while not sacrificing your muscle mass.
And keep in mind you want to hold on to all the muscle mass you can, since this is what keeps your metabolic rate stoked, especially as we age.
2. Encourages Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance
When you enter into a “carb deficit,” meaning you take in less carbs than your body needs, you encourage weight loss because your body begins to burn stored fat for fuel.
Cutting carbs very low, and following plans like the ketogenic or Atkins diet can work well for some people to improve certain health conditions and help them reach a healthy weight.
However, for others, it’s difficult to sustain and actually can slow down the metabolism when followed long term, due to hormonal changes.
Carb cycling is one way to prevent weight regain and reduced motivation — plus it’s effective for both the short term and long term because it’s much easier to adhere too.
3. Encourages You to Eat More Plant Foods
Carbohydrates are the primary type of macronutrient found in most plant foods, although exactly how many carbs a plant food has depends on the specific type.
Whole foods that are higher in carbs, such as sweet potatoes and other root veggies, beans/legumes, and fruit, are often encouraged on higher carb days.
However, some of the healthiest foods in the world — such as leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies, artichokes, asparagus, sea veggies, herbs and spices, for example — are actually pretty low in carbohydrates and therefore suitable for both high-carb and low-carb days.
A bonus of eating these foods is that they contain plenty of dietary fiber and antioxidants. Fiber has many benefits, including helping make you feel full, while antioxidants fight free radical damage and slow the effects of aging.
Additionally, healthy carb cycling help improve protein uptake while also teaching you how to incorporate essential foods into your meals in ways you actually enjoy.
4. Helps You Stick with Healthy Eating Long Term
While it’s possible to lose weight following other diet plans, many find that carb cycling works faster and involves fewer feelings of deprivation.
Because things like grains, fruit and legumes are included at least one to three times per week while carb cycling (sometimes also along with a “cheat meal”), there’s more flexibility with a carb cycling diet compared to other dieting methods, which can encourage people to stick with it.
5. Helps Reduce Hormonal Fluctuations and Blood Sugar Swings
Many studies have shown that a low-carb diet is a natural diabetes treatment protocol and effective tool for patients with type 2 diabetes.
Because it can reduce overeating, especially of empty calories and junk foods, lower-carb diet approaches can also help lower risks for diabetes complications and related risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Why does cutting carbs on certain days improve blood sugar and hormone levels? Low-carbohydrate diets encourage improvements in dyslipidemia (triglycerides), diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as control of blood pressure, postprandial glycemia and insulin secretion.
How To Carb Cycle
Carb cycling is pretty straightforward.
It divides the week into three categories: no-carb days, low-carb days, and high-carb days. Alternate between all three to reap the maximum benefits.
On these days, you’ll load up on fibrous veggies with some lean proteins and healthy fats in the mix as well.
Starchy fruits, vegetables, and grains should be avoided to keep carbs low.
Aim for fewer than 25 grams of carbohydrates total, most of which should be from high-fiber vegetables. These days should line up with rest days or relatively light workout days.
Again, fibrous vegetables can be eaten freely, but starch servings should be limited.
Healthy fats should be the main energy source and lean protein should be included with each meal.
For these days, sticking to less than 75 grams of carbs is key.
You can an abundance of healthy carbohydrates on these days and the goal should be at least 250 grams over the course of the day.
High-carb days should align with the days when you do your hardest workouts.
I recommend eating your biggest meal post-workout, but grazing throughout the day on nuts, fruits, and other healthy carbohydrate sources is encouraged to reach your goal.
The 7-Step Carb Cycling Plan To Lose 50 Pounds Or More
Step 1. Skip The Exercise More Mentality
I hope I’m not starting off on the wrong foot, because you think I’m going to try to sell you a magic “no exercise” pill.
Eventually you’ll need to start an exercise program. Exercise, while it plays a significant role in FAT LOSS, plays a minor role in WEIGHT LOSS.
If you have over 50 pounds to lose, we need to get weight off first.
A recent study done by Current Biology took 322 adults from 5 different countries through a calorie reduction weight loss program. They split the groups between those that did exercise and those that did not.
Believe it or not, adding in exercise did not play ANY major role over calories burned or weight lost. And for those that saw changes, they were minor at best.
When you start exercising, the first thing you’ll begin doing is walking with a mix of metabolic bodyweight exercises.
Metabolic exercise makes sure you’re boosting the right fat-burning hormones and keeping your stress/fat-storing hormones low and out of the way!
Step 2. Focus On Food Quality Not Quantity
I always say, instead of suppressing your appetite, SATISFY your appetite. Too many people trying to lose weight are focusing on points, calories, and the scale.
This obviously isn’t working, because if it was, I wouldn’t have to write this article.
100% of the clients who needed to lose over 50 pounds and who weighed 200 pounds or more had hormonal problems that prevented them from losing weight or burning fat.
High cortisol, excess estrogen, low growth hormone, low thyroid, low testosterone, insulin resistance, and many others are likely making weight loss impossible.
The solution? Focus on NOURISHING your body with high quality foods, macronutrients, and hormone-healing meals.
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Counting calories is not only awful, it usually doesn’t work. And if it does, the weight always comes back. Most of the time, even more stubborn than ever before.
Step 3. Go BIG With Your Weight Loss Efforts
The bad news? Most people think it’s not healthy to lose weight quickly
The truth? It’s not the fact that you lose weight fast that is unhealthy, it’s HOW you go about it.
The great news? A ketogenic diet can help you lose weight quickly and in a healthy way.
According to the latest science, militant diets win out vs. standard diets. Those who lose the most weight in the first 2-4 weeks of dieting have the greatest weight loss results in the following year.
Therefore, losing weight fast will better impact you in both the short-term and the long-term. The most effective thing you can do is actually a cold turkey approach.
If you know anything about my philosophy on health and weight loss, you’ll know I HATE the short-term diets, so for me to say this is saying a lot about the importance of losing weight FAST.
Dropping weight fast will motivate you to keep going. Keep making better eating choices. Keep choosing the workout over the couch.
You NEED a win right away if you have a lot of weight to lose and I want to help you have a FAST weight loss win.
The 8-WEek Metabolism Makeover Helped Crystal and Debra Lose 7 Pounds In One Week And They Kept It Off…Learn How
Step 4. Balance Your Macronutrients
Now that you have decided to plan your meals (good idea!), it’s about time you learn how to balance your meals for a fat-burning metabolism. Most people they just to through some protein and vegetables together and that’s all you need to lose weight.
While you probably lose weight on a protein/veggie diet, you’ll end up slowing down your metabolism AND you won’t last very long eating a boring, un-enjoyable diet.
You NEED carbs and fat to lose fat and boost your metabolism.
The trick lies in knowing which carbs and fats to include in your daily eating and which ones to exclude (most of the time) from your eating.
The best strategy for meal-balancing or macro-balancing I teach in the 8-Week Metabolism Makeover, begins with simplicity. When you keep your meals simple, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Most of the time I suggest a balanced approach to your macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. However, if you’re starting from scratch I have my clients start with a Metabolic Cycling Diet, with a focus on more fat, medium protein, and low-carb.
This form of macro-balancing stabilizes insulin and leptin, the two most important hormones for fat loss. The other thing the ketogenic diet does is switches your body from burning sugar to fat.
Step 5. Limit Your Carbs, Be Picky With Your Protein, and Eat More Fat
It’s very likely you are dealing with insulin resistance when you’re overweight. I’m almost 99% sure you have insulin resistance and I know with 100% certainty, the only way to overcome this is to do a carb detox, THEN a carb-cycle approach.
Another fact with anyone overweight is they probably aren’t eating nearly enough high-quality protein. You are probably protein deficient without even knowing it.
You might even be confused as to which fats to avoid and which ones to eat. You might think nuts, flax oil, and olive oil are the best oils.
Well you’re in for a wake up call, because if you don’t manage your carbs, increase your protein, and change up your fats, weight loss is going to be difficult for you.
Don’t worry, I’m going to make things extremely easy for you, making your weight loss seem almost effortless.
The carb cycling diet involves cutting down on carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, white bread, etc., as a low-carb diet can aid a faster weight loss process.
The carb cycling diet promotes healthy fats like coconut oil, as coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which is extremely beneficial for health.
The carb cycling diet also includes protein-rich foods which can aid healthy lean muscle building (metabolically active tissue), to keep you looking fit and toned.
Step 6. Heal Your Digestive System, Detox Your Liver, and Boost Your Thyroid
Optimal digestion and assimilation of food and nutrients is vital for healthy weight loss. The hormones of the digestive tract are responsible for appetite control, food digestion, nutrient absorption, and toxin removal.
Your digestive system is strongly related to your nervous system, which influence your endocrine system (hormones). If you treat your stomach like a garbage disposal for low-quality foods, your hormones will repay you with weight gain.
Overconsumption of inflammatory foods can lead to leaky guy syndrome, IBS, chronic diarrhea, ulcerative colitis, and more food intolerances. An inflamed “gut” makes it nearly impossible to have a flat stomach or engage the muscles consisting of your “core.”
Optimal health and weight loss are not possible without a healthy liver. The liver is the major detoxification organ and also filters most hormones. It is responsible for 75% of T3 conversion (thyroid hormone) and provides energy in the form of glycogen. It also filters excess estrogen.
When the liver is overburdened by excess stress hormones, alcohol, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, HFCS/sugar, and an overall poor quality diet, the 2 phases of detoxification are inhibited.
The thyroid gland produces three hormones: Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3) and Calcitonin. T4 and T3 are what most people think of as “thyroid hormones.” These hormones play a significant role in your metabolism and in energy regulation in the body. Thyroid hormones act on almost every kind of cell in your body to increase cellular activity or metabolism. If there is too much or too little thyroid hormone, the metabolism of your entire body is impacted.
Because the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 control cellular metabolism throughout the body, when there is not enough of them for any reason, this metabolic function slows and becomes impaired.
Since the thyroid gland regulates metabolism, there is a strong correlation between thyroid disease and weight. Weight gain is more severe in people with hypothyroidism due to an excess accumulation of salt and water; weight loss is common in people who have hyperthyroidism.
Learn How The 8-Week Metabolism Makeover Eliminates Gut Inflammation, Detoxes Your Liver, and Resets Your Thyroid
Step 7. Drink These 3 Drinks Every Day
Lemon Water – Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning is another great way to stimulate weight loss. It’s also a great healthy habits to add to your “get healthy” journey of transformation.
This drink provides crucial nutrients for the body and is EASY to do. Just make sure to use a real lemon and not lemon juice from concentrate.
Simply squeeze 1/2 of a lemon into a cup of warm water in the morning.
Apple Cider Vinegar – Apple Cider Vinegar is one of the best liquids to heal your gut and protect your cells.
Drink this apple cider vinegar either in the morning or before beg for a healthy digestive and immune system.
- 8 oz. purified water
- 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. raw honey (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Metabolic Coffee/Green Tea/Yerba Mate – Coffee, green tea, and yerba mate have all been shown in multiple studies to be effective at stimulating your metabolism and certain fat-burning hormones.
Green Tea Infusion
- Prepare a cup of green tea.
- Add 1 Tbsp. stevia or raw honey
- Add a pinch of cayenne pepper
- Add a tablespoon of ground cinnamon.
The Yerba Mate and Honey Elixir
Yerba Mate has the “strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate” all in one beverage. Of the six commonly used stimulants in the world: coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa and guarana, yerba mate triumphs as the most balanced, delivering both energy and nutrition.
- 1 cup yerba mate (brewed)
- 1 tsp. stevia or raw honey
The Perfect Cup of Coffee
- 8 oz. of freshly brewed organic coffee
- 1 Tbsp. grass-fed butter or refined coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp. MCT oil
- pinch of cinnamon
Add all ingredients to a blender and enjoy!
Step 8. Start Your Weight Loss Journey The Right Way
If this article hit home for you, The 8-Week Metabolism Makeover really is the best place to start your weight loss journey.
My clients lose an average of 10-21 pounds in 21 days and absolutely love the program! But even better than the weight loss is the feedback we get from our clients about how the program has taught them how to change their eating habits and find a diet that truly works for them in the long-term.
I have over 4,000 clients in our private support group going through the Carb Cycling Diet together, and every day they are sharing experiences, results, motivation, and lots of recipes!
If you need to lose 50 pounds or more and ready to make a HUGE and PERMANENT change in your life, this is the ONLY place you should start. The program was designed in a way that it can be completed in multiple rounds if you have more weight to lose.
The strategies that I teach will help you make the necessary changes in your diet, fitness, and lifestyle and more importantly, help you maintain an enjoyable, sustainable, and flexible way of eating.
What Do People Who’ve Lost 50 Pounds Or More Know That You Don’t?
Does it feel like no matter what you do, weight loss is ALWAYS a struggle? Yet for others it comes easy. What do THEY know that you don’t?
What are THEY doing that you aren’t?
I’m sorry to say, it’s not the latest exercise craze, dietary supplements, magic pill, or extract that’s helping others lose weight.
It’s a sustainable program that is focused on your unique metabolism, hormones, and lifestyle. A program with YOU in mind.
When I launched The 8-Week Metabolism Makeover , I never thought over 3,000 people would have downloaded and used this plan. Much less have over 100 people lose over 20 pounds in 21 days.
The results keep coming in and I’m STILL shocked to see some of the transformations, but the messages NEVER get old.
If you’d like to become the next success story, then watch the free presentation and read the success stories, then share yours in 3ish weeks inside our private support group on Facebook, here’s some of the messages: